This information is taken from a study done at The University of Nebraska, Lincoln by Aaron M. Hildreth, Stephen M. Vantassel, and Scott E. Hygnstrom. The complete study can be found at http://extension.unl.edu/publications.
Feral cats are domestic cats that have gone wild or the offspring of existing feral cats. They cause great losses of native birds, small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. They can also transmit diseases like rabies and toxoplasmosis, and carry ticks and fleas that could transmit other diseases.
Feral cats live throughout the United States in both rural and urban areas. They live any where they can find food, water, and suitable habitat. Feral cats can produce up to five litters per year, with two to ten kittens per litter. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that a pair of breeding cats and their offspring could produce over 400,000 cats in seven years.
There is an estimated 60 million feral cats in the U.S. alone. They are effective hunters and pose a serious threat to native wildlife, especially birds. Cats have been responsible for the extinction of at least 33 species of birds worldwide. Feral cats kill an estimated 480 million birds per year in th U.S.
Feral cats feeding on birds cost over $17 billion per year. A this cost is spread among bird watchers, hunters, and bird rearers. They will also kill free range chickens and other domestic birds. Even if well-fed they still prey on native species. A study in Sweden showed that well-fed house-based cats diet was 15 to 90 percent native prey.
Many people feel feral cats should not be managed. However, most scientist, wildlife managers, and public health officials believe their impact on wildlife and the risk of disease transmission, justifies their management.
The best management tool is proper pet ownership. Keep only as many cats as you can care for and keep them in the house. If you feel you must let them out have them neutered. If you have unwanted cats give them to animal control or the humane society, do not release unwanted cats in rural areas, vacant lots or alleys.
An addition way to address the problem is integrated pest management. This includes habitat modification, exclusion, frightening devices, repellents, trapping, shooting, and fertility control.
Habitat modification is reducing the availability of food, water, and shelter.
Exclusion is the use of fencing and netting to keep cats from habitat and food sources.
Frightening devices. The only two that have proven effective with cats are motion-activated sprinklers and dogs.
Repellents for cats include anise oil, methyl nonyl ketone, thymol, benzyldiethy, and methyl ammonium saccharide.
Trapping can be used to remove cats from a specific area. Feral cats should only be handled by trained individuals or professionals.
shooting is an efficient method to reduce populations fo cats in certain area. Shooting is normally not allowed within city limits.
Fertility control is Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Release. TNVR is a humane and nonlethal method to reduce populations of feral cats. However, studies have shown that more than 70% of a population of feral cats must be spayed or neutered before the population will decline. There may be some charges from vets for this service. In my area some vets will do this free of charge on a limited basis.
Feral cats are invasive and pose a threat to wildlife and public health. An integrated approach to control of feral cat populations is best.
Make sure you manage your pets and are not part of the problem.
There are several feeder types that are good for cardinals: window feeders, hoppers, tray feeders, squirrel proof feeders, tube feeders, and fly through feeders. You will need to tailor the feeders to your feeding environment.
These are great for getting close up views of the cardinals and work well if you are limited on space. Make sure to put them on a window that is difficult for cats and other predators to reach. With these it is easy to see when you need more seed and you should buy a widow feeder that is easy to clean and is large enough for cardinals.
Fly Through Feeders
Fly through feeders are probably the cardinal favorite type of feeder because they are easy to fly into and they offer some protection from predators. They also offer plenty of room so several birds can feed at once. You can offer several types of food at one time to the cardinals with a fly through feeder.
These come in two varieties: hanging and ground type. The hanging tray feeders come in different sizes so you can find one to fit almost any location. They also offer you the ability to feed different foods and many birds at one time. The ground tray feeders need to be located away from bushes and other areas where predators can hide. Keep the area around your ground feeder clean of hulls or discarded seed and move it occasionally.
Hopper feeders probably come in the most variety of styles, shapes, and sizes. You can use most foods in a hopper feeder. When choosing one make sure the perches or platform is large enough for the cardinals. With hopper feeders you can choose the capacity and monitor seed levels from a distance. This type of feeder offers more protection to the seed from the weather.
Squirrel proof feeders
If you have problems with squirrels you may need to buy a squirrel proof feeder or baffles for your feeders. There are a wide variety of this type of feeder to choose from, and it is always a challenge to outsmart the squirrels.
Cardinals will also come to tube feeders. This may be their least favorite feeder unless the perches are long enough or you have a seed tray attached, They do like the tube feeders that have the spiral around the feeder for them to perch on.
What to feed
The cardinals favorite feeder food is black oil sunflower seed. This is also loved by chickadees, finch, grosbecks, nuthatches, titmice, goldfinch, and native sparrows. They also like to eat safflower seed.
Remember to clean the feeders frequently. I usually empty them or brush them out each time I refill them and clean them with a water and bleach solution (9:1) every two months. Keep the area around your feeders cleaned, a compost pile is a great place for the hulls or cover them with mulch. If you live where it is difficult to keep the hulls cleaned up use shelled sunflower seed and chips.
If you just starting to feed cardinals a window feeder would be a great starting feeder. They are easy to fill and clean and you get close up views of the birds. For a second feeder probably a tray feeder because you can offer a wide variety of food and it is easy to watch the birds.
Enjoy feeding your cardinals and remember they need water as much as they need food so provide at least one garden bird bath for their needs.
Tray feeders are the most versatile of feeders; you can feed more birds more types of food at one time. Tray feeders also allow you a great view of the feeding birds. A tray feeder should be the centerpiece of your back yard feeders. I would recommend a high quality tray feeder as your first purchase, if you are just starting to feed birds. With the tray feeders the food is in plain view so it will attract birds, even migrants, to a new feeding station quickly.
Tray feeders are an investment, the price of a well-built one may seem high, but good construction and solid materials are worth the money because the feeder will last for years. I have had one of mine for over 14 years. When buying a wooden one make sure it is constructed with screws, glue and solid lumber. If you prefer a plastic one, which are easier to clean, make sure it is made of strong solid material. I like the recycled plastic ones, that you can purchase
Hanging Tray Feeder:
If you are going to have only one tray feeder a hanging tray feeder would be the best. They can be hung from a pole or a tree limb and are easy to move if you want to put them in another area of your yard. Don’t forget a dome or some type of squirrel guard.
Post Mount Feeder:
If you have an area where you can place a permanent tray feeder I would use a post mount feeder with a squirrel baffle. The post mounts are more stable, for attracting larger birds, and you can use a larger feeder.
Fly Through Feeder:
This type of feeder is usually post mounted because of its size. The advantages of the fly through are that the roof keeps the seed drier in wet weather and the birds feel more protected. You will see some birds here you won’t see at the open feeders. There are even squirrel resistant types of these feeders.
Ground Tray Feeders:
These are usually open feeders with short legs. I use these for ground feeding birds (dove, quail, grouse, native sparrows, juncos, towhees, ducks) and for offering specific foods, grit, or salt. I have one with cracked corn that I place behind some shrubs as far from my other feeders as possible. This is to distract the squirrels, grackles, and blackbirds.
One of the nice things about tray feeders is that you can offer such a wide variety of foods. A high quality mix of black oil sunflower, safflower, white millet, peanut parts, and canary seed is a good place to start for the hanging or post mount feeders. You can also try dried cherries, grapes, raisins, chopped suet or suet treats. Keep a check on what the birds in your area like the best and stop feeding what they don’t like or what attracts birds you don’t want to feed.
Tray feeders are the best way to attract lots of birds and a lot of different birds. They are also the best way to offer a greater variety of food. You will like how easy they are to use. I enjoy all the wild birds that tray feeders attract to my back yard and am sure you will also.
Yes, no, sometimes, not always, some do and some don’t.
As you can tell from that statement Blue Jay migration is somewhat of a mystery. Lets look at the different subspecies and their range map and see the reason for some of the answers.
There are four subspecies that are generally accepted, though some of the variations are subtle and hard to determine with a casual observation.
- The northern Blue Jay, the largest subspecies has fairly dull plumage. Blue is rather pale. Found in Canada and the northern USA.
- The coastal Blue Jay, mid-sized and vivid blue. They are found in the coastal USA from North Carolina to Texas, except south Florida.
- Interior Blue Jay, mid-sized, very dark blue on mantel contrasting cleanly with very white undersides. Found in inland USA and overlapping with northern Blue Jay in far northern part of range.
- Florida Blue Jay is the smallest of the subspecies, they are fairly dull with pale blue. They are found in southern Florida.
As you can see from the map the northern Blue Jays may have to do some type of migration due to weather and food supply. This may be a very short migration or the may be a much longer migrations as can be observed by the large flocks moving up and down the east coast.
Blue Jays migrate during the daytime in loose flocks of from five to many hundred birds. You will normally find them in mixed woodlands with oaks and beeches. They adapt well to human activity and are often found in parks and residential areas.
They feed both in trees and on the ground eating acorns, beech mast, weed seeds, grain, fruits and berries, small invertebrates, peanuts, bread, meat, and anything I put in my bird feeders. They seem to like the tray feeders best. They also make full use of my garden bird baths.
As we said their migration is not fully understood. Some birds winter in all parts of the Blue Jay’s range, and some birds may migrate one year and not the next. Some times whole families will migrate other times it may be only individuals. Young Blue Jays are more likely to migrate than older ones.
Here at my back yard in North Carolina I have Blue Jays all year. In winter it seems there are more than in summer, which may be because there is less natural food or it may be that some migrates have arrived.
This is another bird I get to enjoy in my yard all year. They are very active, acrobatic, and vocal. Their normal call is a chick-a-dee-dee-dee which is fast and high-pitched.
I often see them clinging to branches or leaves upside down looking for katydids, caterpillars, spiders, and ants. They also eat berries and seeds, their favorite at my bird feeders is black oil sunflower seed. They also cache seeds coming back within an hour to a few days to retrieve them.
The Carolina Chickadee is a small bird, 4 3/4 to 5 inches long and weighing about 1/3 of an ounce. They have a black cap and throat, white cheeks and belly, and a gray back. The flanks may be tinged gray/brown, the bill is short and black, legs gray, and eyes dark.
They live in multi layered forest, shrubs along the edge of fields, marshes and swamps. You will also find them in urban areas at parks, wooded areas, gardens, and bird feeders.
After mating they will build a nest in a cavity, an old woodpecker nest or a hole they excavate in soft wood. They will also use nesting tubes or bird houses. They don’t mind humans and often use chickadee houses in my back yard. It is recommended the nest boxes face north toward an open area. They need to be in the shade especially in the afternoon. They like the bird houses better if they are 8 to 14 feet off the ground.
They make a cup nest from grass, feathers, fur (especially rabbit), moss, and insect cocoons. Only the female incubate the eggs and the male brings her food. Pairs may remain mated over two or more nesting seasons. Both parents care for the young which may number from 5 to 9.
In fall and winter they often form feeding flocks with other birds, including Downy Woodpeckers, kinglets, nuthatch, and Tufted Titmouse. They usually come through my yard early morning and again mid afternoon. They enjoy window feeders, tube feeders, and my tray feeders. Black oil sunflower seed is one of their favorite foods.
Working in flocks makes it easier to find food and provides protection from predators, especially hawks. If the flock is only made up of chickadees there is a strict hierarchy as to who eats when and who keeps watch. Next time you have a flock at your feeder see if you can determine who’s dominate in the flock.
I get to enjoy the Carolina Chickadee all year and they often sit in a nearby tree or shrub and scold me when I am filling the feeders. I guess I’m too slow.
Remember your back yard birds need water as much as they need food so provide them with at least one garden bird bath.
Map from Wikipedia.