Wild Birds Unlimited – Omaha, NE

September 26, 2017

Common Backyard Hawks

Filed under: Birds,Hawks,Uncategorized — wbuomaha @ 2:03 pm
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For some people, hawks are frequent backyard visitors. But for most of us, their presence is unusual and unexpected. Three hawks commonly seen in backyards are the Red-tailed Hawk, the Cooper’s Hawk, and the Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Redtailed Hawk Flying  c

     The Red-Tailed Hawk is about 19” from head to tail. While perched, the tips of its wings just about reach the tips of its tail. Plumage varies in a continuum from whitish to very dark, but you can tell adults by their rufous-red tails. Juveniles have a brownish tail with narrow white bands.

Coopers Hawk

     The Cooper’s Hawk is about 16½” from head to tail. Its tail reaches well below its wing tips when perched. The outer tail has alternating bands of light and dark gray, with  a  broad  white  band  at  the  tip.   The

Under-tail bands are dark gray and white. Wing feathers of adults are blue-gray, and the chest is white with rufous horizontal barring. Juveniles have more brownish plumage. Their chests are creamy white with vertical brown streaks.

Sharpshinned Hawk

     The Sharp-shinned Hawk appears to be almost a miniature version of the Cooper’s Hawk, with very similar adult and juvenile plumage. However, the Sharp-shinned Hawk is significantly smaller, only 11 inches from head to tail. Its legs appear skinnier than those of the Cooper’s Hawk. The white terminal band on the Sharp-shinned Hawk’s tail is narrower, if visible at all.

All three of these hawks prey on songbirds, with the larger two also consuming small mammals. If you have bird feeders and baths in your yard, it is a good idea to locate them near evergreen shrubs, bushes, or trees which will provide the smaller birds an easy escape when they are threatened by a hawk or other predator.

While hawks are present in your backyard, you will rarely see a songbird. Federal and state laws prohibit the harassment or harming of hawks, so any action that may endanger them is not an option. They are fascinating birds to watch, so enjoy them while they are with you. Usually, they will leave after a few days, and your usual songbirds will return.




October 26, 2016


Filed under: Uncategorized — wbuomaha @ 10:37 am



     Chickadees are easily identified by their namesake call, “Chick-a-dee-dee-dee.” They use this call in a variety of ways, including warning of predators. A report in Science indicated that Chickadees have a very sophisticated signaling system. A study at the University of Washington indicated that chickadees use a soft, high-pitched “seet” call to warn of flying predators such as hawks and owls.

However, they use a loud form of their “Chickadee-dee-dee” call to warn of a stationary predator and recruit other chickadees and other bird species to mob and harass the threat. The study indicated that chickadees assess the threat based on body size and species. The more dangerous the threat, the more “dees” are added to the end of the call, with a range of 10 to more than 20 in the event of a severe threat.

Because chickadees are so closely associated with the call that sounds like their name, people are often surprised to learn they make other calls as well. One that is particularly common is the two note (the second note lower than the first) “fee-bee” call.00003395

In our area, the Black-capped Chickadee (pictured) is a year-round resident. They are found in areas of open deciduous woods, forest edges or suburban areas with mature deciduous trees. They feed mostly on insects, seeds, and berries. They are easily attracted to birdfeeders. Sunflower, safflower, peanuts (out of the shell), and seed blends that have fruit in them are especially attractive to Chickadees. They also like suet, especially with a fruit and nut combination in it.

Chickadees have been found to need 20 times more food in winter than they do in summer. They can gain as much as 10% of their body weight each day and lose it all again during a cold winter night. Providing bird food and open water can substantially improve their ability to survive a cold winter.

Chickadee pairs are monogamous, and usually mate for life. They may join a flock in winter, but will break away in spring to find a nesting territory, which both male and female will defend. They are cavity-nesters and will seek a hole in a tree or a bird house as the place to build their nest and raise their young.

Chickadee on House

     The female builds the nest and often lines it with soft material such as animal hair. She usually lays 6-8 eggs and covers them with nesting material when she leaves the nest. The male often brings food to the female during incubation and to the young when they first hatch. Later, both parents will feed them. They normally have one brood per year.

Banding studies have shown that Black-capped Chickadees can live to be twelve years old, but their average life span is probably half of that.

These tiny birds are fun to watch at seed and suet feeders, but keep your eyes open, because they don’t stay long. Once they select the seed they want, they will carry it away to eat it.

2 chickadees on snowman


March 29, 2016

Bluebird Basics

Filed under: Birds,Bluebird - Eastern,Uncategorized — wbuomaha @ 12:10 pm
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Bluebird flying

     Bluebirds enchant us with their lovely colors and sweet songs. This may explain why we associate bluebirds with happiness, love and spring. Poetry, prose, and lyrics extol the virtues of these warm weather visitors.

In our area, the Eastern Bluebird is the species we are most likely to see. The male has a bright, deep-blue back, which prompted Henry David Thoreau to note, “The bluebird carries the sky on his back.” In contrast, his breast is robin-red and his belly is white. The female’s upper parts are a dull blue-gray, with blue only on the wings and tail. Her breast is a lighter reddish brown continuing to the white belly. Both genders have black bills and legs. Often confused with blue jays, Eastern Bluebirds have different coloring and are much smaller.

Bluebirds tend to be country dwellers, preferring fields or other large open areas. Pastures, extensive lawns, cemeteries, golf courses, parks and other large areas with short vegetation provide the perfect habitat for them and their favorite food: insects.

Dinner Bell w Bluebirds c (2)

     Although insects are their primary diet, bluebirds often supplement the menu with raisins, nutmeats, sunflower chips, mealworms, and specially-prepared foods. They can be attracted to special feeders that have been designed to make it difficult for large birds to reach the food. For best results the feeder should be placed in a visible area that the birds frequent for food.

Nesting boxes specially designed for bluebirds can often attract mating pairs if located in their preferred habitat. They should be placed away from heavily-wooded areas to reduce the likelihood of use by wrens and chickadees. Mount the boxes five feet above the ground with holes facing  east or southeast, away from the prevailing winds and the heat of the day. Styles vary, but it is best to find one that has been approved by the North American Bluebird Society, as these carry the specifications for bluebirds to thrive. In our area, bluebirds usually raise two broods of between three and six young each summer, with the first brood having a larger number than the second.

BB Hse eastern c (2)

      Because of the extensive system of bluebird trails across the United States, and the regular monitoring of the nest boxes which comprise them, much is known about the lives of bluebirds.  If you would like to learn more, many books on the subject are available. The North American Bluebird Society has a very informative web site at http://www.nabluebirdsociety.org.

Bluebird babies c (2)


December 29, 2015

Help Birds Keep Warm This Winter

Filed under: Bird Feeding,Birds,Uncategorized — wbuomaha @ 10:23 am

In the cold of winter, there are many things you can do to help birds survive the season. Here are a few tips that are easy to implement.

Birds use a lot of extra energy to keep warm in cold weather. Therefore, they must consume more calories than they do in warmer months. You can help by feeding high-fat foods such as suet, peanuts and seed blends high in black oil sunflower content. This will provide the energy boost they need to survive.

    Unless raccoons frequent your yard, it is a good idea to fill your feeders in the evening to make sure food is available first thing in the morning for those early birds like cardinals and mourning doves. Most songbirds fill a special pouch in their esophagus with food to digest during the night. That is why you frequently see birds at your feeders as the sun sets.

It is not a good idea to feed bread to the birds in winter. Bread does not provide the proper nutrition or fat content necessary for birds to survive below-freezing temperatures.

     Water is important to birds in winter not only for drinking, but also for bathing. Most birds fluff out their feathers, creating air pockets between the feathers for insulation. Clean feathers are warmer feathers because they can trap air more efficiently. They are also more efficient for flying, so less energy is expended in flight. A heated birdbath that provides a source of open water will attract birds on even the coldest of days.

Some birds perch on one leg and draw the other up to their breast for warmth, alternating legs. Others seek the most sheltered areas they can find. Roosting boxes and nesting boxes give birds a dry place protected from the wind, to rest. Leaving these shelters out provides a haven from harsh winter conditions. Stands of tall grasses, brush piles, and evergreen trees offer birds a place to escape the wind and snow.

Making your yard bird-friendly in cold weather helps birds survive our harsh winters. And you will be rewarded with colorful visitors all season long.

March 27, 2015

Fascinating Hummingbirds

Filed under: Uncategorized — wbuomaha @ 2:32 pm

00000964 (2)     Hummingbirds are one of nature’s most fascinating bird species to observe and attract to our backyards.  Most of us know that the hummingbird is the world’s smallest bird.  But were you aware that hummingbirds are able to fly forward, backward, shift sideways and even stop in mid-air?  Small, yet quick, hummingbirds can reach speeds up to 60 miles per hour with their wings beating 78 times per second during regular flight and up to 200 times per second during a dive.  The hummingbird’s heart beats up to 1,270 times a minute.
With this speed in mind, it is not surprising that an average hummingbird consumes half its weight in nectar each day.  Providing nectar is a great way to attract these popular birds to your backyard.”
Often referred to as “nature’s jewels” due to their beautiful iridescent colors, hummingbirds feed on flower nectar and insects, but also love a solution of sugar and water.  To attract hummingbirds, place a feeder filled with a sugar-water solution in your yard.  The solution can be made by combining one part sugar and four parts water and should be mixed well so the sugar dissolves completely.  Note that you should boil the water if you are going to make extra solution to store; allow the mixture to cool before filling your feeder, and refrigerate any additional solution.  Also, never add honey, artificial sweeteners or food coloring to the mixture.
Hummingbirds do not have a sense of smell.  They rely on eyesight to locate their food.  The color red (and its variations) is a powerful attractant to hummingbirds as a visual cue that food is available.  But never add red food coloring to the nectar solution.  Instead,  put the solution in a red – colored feeder, or a feeder with some variation of red at the opening.  Hummingbirds are bold creatures,
so place the feeder near a window to enjoy the brilliance of nature’s jewels up close.

Hummingbird Mint
You can supplement your feeder by creating a hummingbird garden with a combination of annuals, perennials and vines such as Beebalm, Beard Tongue, Butterfly Bush, Cardinal Flower, Columbine, Coralbells, Delphinium, Penstemon and Trumpet vine — that will also help in attracting these delightful birds to your yard.  Hummingbirds are also attracted to water.  By placing a mister in your yard, you may see hummingbirds dart playfully through the water, often bathing or drinking.
Eighteen species of hummingbirds can be found in North America.  Eastern Nebraska and western Iowa are within the breeding range for only one – the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.  We are on the western edge of their range, and this is by far the most common species in our area.

February 24, 2014

Passion for Purple… Martins

Filed under: Birds,Purple Martins,Uncategorized — wbuomaha @ 12:33 pm
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     Long ago, native Americans hung up hollowed out gourds to attract nesting Purple Martins. Today, we erect apartments in the sky for the same purpose. And over time, these beautiful birds have developed a relationship with humans unlike that of any other backyard bird species.

     Purple Martins are the largest members of the swallow family. Adult males are a uniform purplish black and may appear all black in some light. In direct sunlight they appear an iridescent purple to dark blue.

     The adult female has similar coloring on her back and wings, but has a gray forehead and chest and a white belly. Purple Martins do not obtain their adult plumage until they are two years old.

     New Purple Martin landlords are most likely to attract subadults, birds in their first breeding season. One-year-old females look like adult females except their undertail covert feathers are all white; in adults, they are white with gray centers. The subadult male looks like a subadult female, but has a dark throat and patches of dark feathers on his chest and belly.

     Purple Martins like to nest in the open, so it is important to place the house at least 40 feet, but preferably farther away from the nearest tall tree. You will increase the likelihood of nesting in your house if it’s between 40 and 100 feet from your home. A house placed too far from human activity may go unused.


     It is advantageous to use a house specially designed for Purple Martins, with multiple compartments each having an entrance of 2 1/8 inches and adequate ventilation. The house should be mounted 15 – 25 feet above the ground. Because it is important to clean and maintain the house, mounting it on a telescoping pole or with a winch/rope and pulley system is a good idea for ease of access.

     In spring, scout Purple Martins usually return to our area between March 15 and April 1. Subadults return later. Throughout the summer, martins eat flying insects with a preference for larger prey such as dragonflies, wasps, mayflies, moths and butterflies that fly above 100 feet in the air. Contrary to popular belief, mosquitoes make up only a small portion of their diets.As fall approaches, the Purple Martins leave us for the winter warmth of South America, mainly Brazil, where insects are plentiful.

      Now is the time to begin planning to attract Purple Martins this spring. With the right conditions, you will be rewarded with a constant flurry of activity and song as you host these beautiful birds for their summer’s stay.


April 28, 2011

Welcome to the WBU Omaha Blog

Filed under: Uncategorized — wbuomaha @ 9:35 pm

     I’m new to blogging, so please bear with me. I will begin by posting my article of the month. Since it is migration season, I’ll pop on from time to time with interesting sitings. Beyond this, we’ll play it by ear.  Happy Birdwatching!

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