Wild Birds Unlimited – Omaha, NE

January 30, 2017

Fun Facts About Cardinals

Filed under: Birds,Cardinal — wbuomaha @ 11:55 am
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CardinalonFdrJRC_4c

     The Northern Cardinal is actually one of seven species in the world with the name Cardinal. The name was derived from the Cardinals (the rank above Bishop) of the Roman Catholic Church who wear red robes and hats. The Northern Cardinal is found in the United States. All of the other six Cardinal species are found in South America.
The size of the cardinal’s breeding territory varies with habitat quality and population density, but generally ranges from two to ten acres. During the breeding season, male cardinals may sing 200 or more songs per hour in the early morning hours. Both male and female cardinals can sing. Mated pairs will often sing duets together.

BNP_200 feeder KQ7S7558_4c

By herself, the female Northern Cardinal constructs the nest, incubates the eggs and broods the young. The male’s role is to provide her food and protect the nest. Although socially monogamous with its mate, the Northern Cardinal is not always faithful. DNA studies have shown that between 9-35% of nestlings has a biological parent different from the original mated pair that raises them. Both male and female Northern Cardinals help raise their nestlings.
Northern Cardinals have a very low nesting success rate with only 15-37% of their nests succeeding in fledging young. The impacts of predators and egg destruction by Brown-headed Cowbirds are the major causes of nest failure.
Young Northern Cardinals have charcoal bills rather than the orange-red of the adults. Bill color gradually changes three to four months after hatching.

molting Cardinal

The red color of the Cardinal’s feathers is the result of pigments called carotenoids. This pigment is obtained mostly from eating fruits and insects and is deposited in their feathers as they molt, resulting in the bright red color of their new plumage. In a study conducted during the fall molting period of the Northern Cardinal, over 75% of their diet consisted of fruits and insects. This is why you may witness a reduction of North Cardinals at your feeders in the fall. Seeds are a very poor source of carotenoids and are only occasionally eaten while they are molting.
Research has shown that male Northern Cardinals with brighter levels of red plumage provide better parental care for their young and successfully fledge a higher percent of them. This probably correlates to the fact that they also select and maintain breeding territories that have the greatest amount and diversity of food sources.

Cardinal on Cylinder

Because Cardinals are mainly ground feeders, deep snow may severely affect their ability to feed. Winter birdfeeding probably helps Cardinals in their northern range to survive deep snow conditions. The ability for cardinals to digest food varies with the temperature; studies have shown that digestion efficiency rates are 16% higher at 77º F than at 32º F. This suggests that cardinals must consume substantially more food during cold weather, especially when temperatures are below freezing. Northern Cardinals will visit feeders at any time of day but are typically the most numerous at dusk or dawn and are often the first and last birds at the feeders.
The oldest recaptured banded Northern Cardinal was still alive at 15 years and 9 months old.

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December 27, 2016

Birds are True Blue!

Filed under: Bird Feeding,Birds — wbuomaha @ 9:02 am
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It’s really hard to think of wild birds as being loyal friends. After all, they are truly one of the freest creatures on the planet, able to fly anywhere at anytime with nothing to bind them to any single location.

Wtr Dinner Bell 3 JRC c (RGB, 72 DPI, 230x300)

     But birds, like humans, are creatures of habit, and bird banding studies have shown that many of our winter birds, such as juncos and native sparrows, utilize the same wintering location year after year. With a potential lifespan of over 10 years, it is likely that the junco gleaning millet or sunflowers off the ground below one of your feeders has spent many previous winters as your loyal backyard guest. And recent research shows that is only half the story!

These birds are not only loyal to a specific location, but also to a single feeder! This is why it takes birds awhile to adjust to new feeders in your yard. These studies also showed that once birds were accustomed to a specific feeder in a given location, the only time they abandoned their favorite feeder was during periods of cold weather when the feeder was placed in a location too exposed to the wind. So you can help protect your birds from the elements by locating your feeders in a sheltered location out of the wind. The east or  southeast side of a house or near a row of trees, especially evergreens, is ideal.

          200 feeder

Once you have them in a safe and sheltered location, be sure to keep your feeders filled with the high-energy, high-fat foods that provide your birds with the crucial nutrition they need to survive the coldest months of the year.  Sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, suet, suet nuggets, peanuts, and tree nuts are all good winter choices, depending on the species of birds that frequent your yard.

     Offering a source of open water, like a heated birdbath, in the area near your feeders will provide an added attraction for your birds. Birds need water for drinking and bathing, even in cold weather.

Goldfinch on heated birdbath

     By providing a constant source of food and water, along with nearby shelter, you will help your birds stay loyal and warm.

November 27, 2016

Decorate a Tree for the Birds

Filed under: Bird Feeding,Birds — wbuomaha @ 3:20 pm
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      As winter approaches, 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. 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.

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     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.

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, and 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.

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     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, out of 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.

If you would like to bake a special treat for the birds, even decorate a holiday tree for them, try this recipe:

Wild Bird Cookies

2 cups flour

2/3 cup Wild Birds Unlimited Simply suet

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

2/3 cup Wild Birds Unlimited Deluxe Seed Blend

You’ll need some extra Deluxe Seed Blend for topping, cookie cutters, elbow macaroni, and string.

     Stir together flour, sugar and baking powder. Cut in suet with pastry blender or fork until crumbly. Add water until well-blended. Add 2/3 cup of Deluxe Seed Blend. Knead until smooth. Wrap in waxed paper and place in plastic bag. Chill for one hour or overnight.

Roll out on lightly floured surface to 1/4” thickness. Use cookie cutters to cut desired shapes. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Press macaroni piece through top of cookie for easy hanging. Press more Deluxe Seed Blend over the top of each cookie.

Bake at 325 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until cookies harden. Remove from cookie sheet. Cool. Pull string through macaroni and hang outside for the birds.

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October 26, 2016

Chickadee-dee-dee-Delightful

Filed under: Uncategorized — wbuomaha @ 10:37 am

 

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     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

 

September 26, 2016

Owls – Creatures of the Night

Filed under: Birds,Nesting,Owl — wbuomaha @ 12:03 pm
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That owls are “wise” may be a myth, unless you define “wise” as being accomplished in night hunting. With their hooked bills and sharp talons, they are similar to other birds that hunt, such as hawks and eagles, but there are striking differences that make owls the perfect nocturnal predators.

While most birds have eyes at the sides of their heads, the owl’s eyes face forward. Their eyes have many receptors in the retina which give them excellent vision in low light as well as daylight.

An owl’s keen sense of hearing is another advantage at night. Because its ear opening is higher on one side of its head than the opening on the other side, an owl can judge the direction of sound both vertically and horizontally. The feathers around its face are thought to help funnel sound into the ear openings.

Another advantage owls have is their nearly silent movement.  The leading feather of each wing has a serrated edge and the rest of the flight feathers have soft edges, too.  This, along with the fluffy body feathers, greatly muffles the sound of owls’ flight as they swoop down on unsuspecting prey.

Although all owls are predators, not all are nocturnal. For example, Burrowing Owls routinely hunt during the day. The three most common species in our area, Great Horned, Barred and Screech, all hunt primarily at night. Choice of prey varies with the size of the owl. Large owls, like the Great Horned, will hunt animals as large as rabbits, skunks, or geese. Small owls, like the Screech, live mainly on insects, frogs, mice and other small prey.

As the owl feeds, the indigestible parts of its meal, like bones, fur, and feathers, are formed into pellets, which will later be coughed up.

    Screech owls nest in cavities, such as old woodpecker holes or natural hollows.  They will also use nesting boxes, which Kenn Kaufmann, the famous ornithologist, credits with helping  to slow the decline in numbers of Screech Owls in areas where the natural habitat has been destroyed.

     Barred Owls will nest in an old hollow tree or broken off section of a decaying tree.  They will also take over an old nest of a hawk, crow or squirrel.

Great Horned Owls usually take over the high old nests of hawks, eagles, crows, or herons.  Occasionally they will also usurp a new crow’s nest.

Because many owls are nocturnal, they are often difficult to spot, but they are easily identified by their calls. If you hear a call that sounds like a horse, but you know there are no horses around, chances are it is the whinny call of the Screech Owl.  These owls also make a distinctive trilling, tremelo call.

The sound of the Barred Owl mimics the pneumonic “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?”

And the Great Horned Owl, considered the “hoot owl”, makes a series of “hooo” sounds of varying lengths.

All three of these owls are year-round residents of our geographical area. Take a walk in the woods after dark, and you might just encounter one or more of these amazing creatures of the night.

 

 

 

August 26, 2016

FALL BIRDFEEDING TIPS

Filed under: Bird Feeding,Birds — wbuomaha @ 10:09 am
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200 feeder

Follow these tips for a fun and rewarding fall and winter birdfeeding experience.

Inventory your feeders.  In addition to hopper feeders and seed tubes, consider adding a peanut or suet feeder to your yard.  Suet and peanuts are high in fat, which provides energy and helps birds stay warm in winter.

Clean your feeders with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water.  Rinse thoroughly.

Put up a window feeder to bring birds even closer during fall and winter.

Once hummingbird migration has ended, take down your feeder, clean it, and store it.  A good rule of thumb is to take the feeder down two weeks after you’ve seen the last hummingbird.

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Offer water. Many migratory birds that will not eat seed will stop for water. As temperatures drop, it is important to provide an open source of fresh water.  Birds not only need water in winter to drink, they also need it  to keep their feathers clean.  Clean feathers maximize their insulating properties and make flight more efficient.  Protect all birdbaths made from porous materials by covering with plastic and/or storing out of the weather.  Use a nonporous birdbath for winter.

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     Watch for fall migrants.  Many species adapt to seasonal changes through migration.  Migration is the movement of a species from one location to another.  Age, sex, weather, breeding habits, and the availability of food, water, and shelter seem to be major influences in migratory behavior.  Migration is typically triggered by temperature, food availability, and/or photoperiod (the length of time from sunrise to sunset).  Many birds migrate to where the food supply is plentiful and the weather is not as severe.  Fall migration is a good time to look at your feeders or in your yard for birds that you might not normally see.  Keep your binoculars and a field guide handy for quick identification of the birds you see.

Assess your yard.  A diverse habitat encourages a variety of birds.  Plant bushes that will produce berries next year to attract fruit-eating birds.

Have children help you feed the birds.  Early involvement in birdfeeding can instill an appreciation for nature and grow into a life-long hobby.

ChickadeeBerries_4c

 

 
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July 29, 2016

Marvelous Monarchs

Filed under: Butterfly,Monarch — wbuomaha @ 8:38 am
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Web Monarch

On velvet wings of black and orange, a Monarch silently flutters by. Just looking at this delicate creature, it’s hard to imagine the amazing metamorphosis and the perilous annual migration which are necessary for preservation of the species.

Like other butterflies, the life cycle (or metamorphosis) of the Monarch involves four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Adult females usually lay single eggs on the bottom side of a milkweed leaf, near the top of the plant. In two to five weeks of egg-laying, Monarchs lay an average of 700 eggs. Eggs hatch about four days after they are laid.

The black, yellow, and white larva, or caterpillar, feeds on the milkweed plant. In addition to its six actual legs, the larva usually has five pairs of false legs, each with a tiny hook to hold the larva on the leaf. Although it has six pairs of eyes, its vision is poor. In two to three weeks, the caterpillar spins a silk pad, usually on the underside of the leaf. The larva then splits its exoskeleton and the pupa attaches to the pad.

The pupa, or chrysalis, dries to a jade green with a gold crown. It will transform into an adult in five to fifteen days, with the exterior becoming transparent about twenty-four hours before the butterfly emerges.

Adult Monarchs normally live two to six weeks in summer. However, migrating Monarchs undergo a chemical change that delays their maturity and allows them to live all winter – six to nine months. It is believed that a combination of temperature and hours of daily light trigger migration.

Scientists consider the Continental Divide too high for butterflies to fly over, so they divide migrating Monarchs into two groups, Eastern and Western. Western Monarchs migrate to southern California and Mexico, while Eastern Monarchs migrate to central Mexico, generally flying over land. Some may winter in the southern tip of Florida or along the southern Gulf Coast of Texas, but some entomologists don’t consider these to be truly migrating as they continue the normal life cycle.

Monarchs migrating to Mexico over winter in the Oyamel fir forests. Cool-but not freezing-temperatures cause the butterflies to hibernate. They hibernate, one on top of another, in large layer-like cluster. This provides the cold-blooded insects with some safety from freezing temperatures – those on the outside might die, but those on the inside are protected. As spring warms the Northern Hemisphere, the survivors begin their journey northward.

Next time a Monarch butterfly floats effortlessly by on a gentle breeze, enjoy its beauty an

June 29, 2016

Fun Facts About House Finches

Filed under: Birds,House Finch — wbuomaha @ 11:32 am
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House Finch 2

      The house finch has not always been found in the eastern United States. In 1940, they were illegally captured in California and imported to New York by pet dealers. Fearing prosecution, the dealers released their “Hollywood Finches” on Long Island in 1940. Since then the finches have spread to all corners of the East and have even rejoined their relatives in the West.

Populations of house finches found east of the Rockies are rarely found far from urban or suburban areas, but in its native western range they may also be found in a wide variety of open or semi-open habitats, including undisturbed deserts.

House finches differ from purple finches by the male purple finch’s purple side streaks (unlike the brown streaks in a house finch) and by the female’s conspicuous eye stripe (female house finches lack this feature).

Male house finches display a wide variety of plumage coloration ranging from gray to bright crimson. The coloration comes from carotenoid pigments found in some wild foods. The more pigment present in the foods eaten when they are molting new feathers, the redder the male. Female house finches prefer to mate with the reddest males they can find.

House finches are early nesters, beginning in March in most of the country. Both male and female house finches display a strong tendency to return to the same area to breed, often occupying the same nest site as the previous year. House finches rarely use bird houses; instead they seem to prefer locations such as coniferous trees, cactus plants, ledges, street lamps, ivy on buildings, and hanging planters. Typically they produce at least two broods each nesting season.

A water source can be a strong attractant for house finches. They can drink up to 40% of their body weight on a hot summer day. Also fond of nectar, they can become a nuisance at hummingbird feeders. If they do, offer them a dish of nectar for their own use.

House finches’ diets are the most vegetarian of any North American bird; approximately 97% of their diet is made up of vegetable matter including buds, seeds, and fruits. Strongly attracted to feeders, they prefer sunflower or safflower seeds. They will also eat at niger/thistle feeders.

Unlike most other seed eating birds, finches do not switch to an insect diet during the summer nesting season. They continue to eat mostly seeds, although they will prey on some insects when they are abundant.

The Eastern population of house finches has decreased by almost 50% in the last 10 years due to an eye disease known as avian conjunctivitis. Studies have shown that when the avian conjunctivitis enters a new area, it takes three years before the population of house finches stabilizes, at about half of the pre-disease level. It is theorized that transmission of avian conjunctivitis among house finches is dependent on high density populations.

Banding studies show that house finches may live to be over 11 years old in the wild.

 

 

May 30, 2016

Sparrows Can Be Sensational

Filed under: Birds,Sparrow — wbuomaha @ 11:27 am
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A sparrow is a sparrow is a sparrow. Right? Wrong!

The sparrows you see at your backyard feeders may be American Tree Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, Song Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows or White-crowned Sparrows.

And the English House Sparrow? He’s no sparrow at all. House Sparrows actually belong to the weaver finch family. They are not a native North American bird.


Here are some facts that may help you distinguish the sparrows in your yard. A field guide can also be helpful. Most contain hundreds of bird images and comprehensive details to help you identify the birds in your backyard.

American Tree Sparrows typically summer in far northern forests and may winter in small flocks in our area. They tend to visit feeders mostly during migration. Many times they will scratch for millet underneath feeders. They have a large crop (or neck pouch) in which they can store up to 1,000 seeds.

Chipping Sparrows are shy at feeders when other birds are present. When these birds were studied in Arizona, researchers discovered they ate seed every few seconds. During the winter-long study, a Chipping Sparrow consumed 2 1/4 pounds of seed – 160 times its body weight!
Song Sparrow
Song Sparrows have a wide range, and when it’s cold they are hungry! These birds must eat 85 to 4,000 seeds an hour to maintain energy levels when the temperatures are freezing or below. They visit platform feeders in search of millet and sunflower seed pieces. They also like to have a nearby brush pile (to escape danger if necessary.)
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White-throated Sparrows are one of the most widespread sparrows at feeders. There are two types – one has white stripes on its crown and the other has tan stripes. These birds follow a well-defined hierarchy, which puts males ahead of females and older sparrows ahead of younger sparrows.

White-crowned Sparrows tend to visit feeders early and late in the day. They enjoy millet and also will eat sunflower chips and cracked corn. They will avoid conflicts when eating by facing the same direction as other birds. Some White-crowned Sparrows migrate; others do not. Those that migrate join larger winter flocks and establish communal territory. They usually return each winter to the same area.

To attract sparrows, place a blend containing millet and sunflower seeds in a ground feeder. Keep your binoculars and field guide handy so that you can readily identify the variety of sparrows that visit your yard.

April 26, 2016

Summer Sojourners

Filed under: Baltimore Oriole,Birds — wbuomaha @ 1:20 pm
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BNP Recycled Oriole Feeder
Baltimore Orioles bring brilliant color and cheerful songs to our summers. The male is black, with an orange breast, tail and shoulders and has white on the wings. The female is pale olive green to brownish above, with a dull yellow to yellowish-orange below and two white wing stripes.

Open woodlands, forest edges, and areas with tall shade trees are attractive to Baltimore Orioles. They tend to nest in cottonwood, maple, poplar, sycamore, birch or willow trees, 14- 60 feet above the ground.

Shaped like a pouch or bag, the nest is often attached at the tips of branches, hanging over an open space. Frequently they will be found near a water source such as a lake, river or stream.
Plant materials, strips of bark, grass, yarn, string and/or hair may be used to construct the pouch, which is lined with soft fibers such as dandelion or milkweed down.

The female lays 4-6 pale blue to grayish eggs, with irregular dark blotches. The incubation period is about 12-14 days, with the babies leaving the nest 12-13 days after hatching.

Being migratory birds, Baltimore Orioles usually arrive in our area between mid-April and mid-May. Many will stay through the summer, then migrate southward again in late July to September. They winter in Central America and the northern areas of South America, spending more months in these regions than in their summer breeding grounds.
WBU Oriole Fdr (RGB, 72 DPI, 286x300)
Insects, nectar and fruits make up most of an oriole’s diet. They will frequently come to oriole feeders with nectar in them, and they have been known to feed from hummingbird feeders. Although well known for eating oranges, they may also come to apple slices, cherries, raisins or bananas. Grape jelly is attractive to them as well. There are many different types of feeders available for offering nectar, fruit and/or jelly.

If you have orioles in your area and trees they like to nest in, there is a good chance you can attract them to your yard with feeders and water. The Baltimore Orioles will reward your efforts with their beauty and song.

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