Wild Birds Unlimited – Omaha, NE

August 25, 2017

Squirrelly Over Squirrels

Filed under: Squirrel — wbuomaha @ 12:21 pm
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     Squirrels are surprising little rodents. They can jump 4-6 feet vertically, 8-10 feet horizontally, and they’re fearless about dropping from above on something that interests them. Your birdfeeder, maybe?

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     And squirrels love to eat. They can smell food from great distances. This assists them in finding adequate nourishment, as squirrels eat more than their body weight in food each week. With their two sharp incisors, these critters can easily gnaw through seeds and nuts, not to mention birdfeeders, deck rails, and plastic birdseed containers. Using their well-developed athletic ability, they can cling to objects with the toes of their back feet to hang upside down, allowing them to use their “hands” to stuff food in their mouths.  Their amusing antics can entertain and amaze.

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     If you want to keep these critters from devouring seed intended for the birds, here are a few solutions you can try:

  1. Squirrel-proof feeders. One type is the weight-activated class of feeders. They work on the same principle: that squirrels are much heavier than birds. The feeders are set to close off access to the birdseed when the squirrel gets onto them. With this type of feeder, be sure to locate it far enough away from anything that would allow the squirrel to access the seed without climbing onto the feeder. A second type of squirrel-proof feeder has a cage around it to prevent the bandits from accessing the food. These will also prevent larger birds from getting to the feeder.
  2. Dome baffles. In order to be successful, a dome baffle must be large enough to cover the feeder so the squirrel cannot access it from above. The dome-baffled feeder must be hung at least 6, but preferably 8 feet from a tree trunk, a fence or anything that would enable the squirrel to jump from it to the feeder (under the baffle.) The bottom of the feeder should be at least 5 feet above the ground.
  3. Pole or post baffles. These baffles prevent squirrels from climbing up a pole or post. A post/pole baffle can be very effective if the pole or post is not under a tree or anything else the squirrel could drop from, and if it is at least 6 to 10 feet away from a fence or deck rail or anything the critter could jump from to land above the baffle. The top of the baffle should be at least five feet above the ground.
  4. Safflower Seed. Although squirrels will eat most anything when they are hungry, they tend not to like safflower seed.

If you want to feed the squirrels, there are many varieties of feeders on the market designed especially for them. Some can be quite amusing and others make the critters work for their meal. However, you will want to place their food away from windowsills and doors so you don’t invite these demanding creatures to chew through your screens and gnaw on the wood.  It is often helpful to keep their food away from birdfeeding stations as well.

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August 1, 2017

In the Catbird’s Seat

Filed under: Birds,Catbird — wbuomaha @ 4:07 pm
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     If you have an area of thick, brushy undergrowth or a patch of dense shrubs, listen closely. If you hear a symphony of musical (and sometimes not so musical) sounds coming from the foliage, you may be hosting Gray Catbirds.  One of its many calls is a catlike mewing, which is responsible for its name.

The catbird’s gray color, with a dark ‘cap’ on its head and dark eyes, give it the perfect camouflage for darting in and out of in the shadowy growth it calls home.  Its undertail is a rich rusty brown, seldom seen unless you watch closely for it.

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     Catbirds eat mostly insects and berries. Only here in spring and summer, catbirds are migratory. They winter in the southern United States or the tropics, where fruit and insects are plentiful. Sometimes you can lure them to your birdfeeders with raisins or currents that have been soaked in water to plump them up. Or they will take mealworms placed in the vicinity of their thicket.

Water, especially moving water, is attractive to catbirds.  They often nest along  or near streams. If  brushy habitat is nearby, they will often visit backyard ponds or other moving water features.

Although both sexes help build the nest, construction is left mostly to the female over a period of five to six days. Breeding season is May through August, with a pair generally having two broods per year. The average clutch size is three to four eggs, incubated solely by the female. Both parents feed the nestlings a diet made up almost exclusively of insects.  The young are grown and  ready to migrate when fall rolls around.

Next time you pass the undergrowth at the edge of deciduous woods or a dense thicket of bushes, especially one filled with berries, watch and listen carefully. You may hear before you see the catbird, perched on a branch, looking back at you.

 

 

 

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