Wild Birds Unlimited – Omaha, NE

July 29, 2015

Out with the Old, In with the New

Filed under: Bird Feeding,Birds,Molt — wbuomaha @ 9:44 am
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molting Cardinal Just as people make seasonal wardrobe changes, many birds are beginning a transformation of their own, losing and replacing their feathers in a process known as molting. Molting is when a bird replaces some (partial molt) or all (full molt) of its feathers. This complicated process requires a lot of energy and may take up to eight weeks to complete. Distinguishing birds that are molting from those that are not can be difficult. Though some birds may lose patches of feathers and appear “balding,” most birds’ feather loss and replacement are far less noticeable However, molting is so physically demanding for most ducks and geese that they can’t fly and will molt in seclusion to avoid predators.

For many birds, the color and brightness of their feathers play a very important role in their breeding success. The more brightly colored a bird is, the more likely it is to attract a mate. Bright, vibrant plumage signals that the bird, usually the male, can be a good provider and successfully obtain a sufficient amount of quality food.

Feathers are made of more than 90% protein, primarily keratins, so every molting bird needs extra proteins to grow strong feathers for proper flight and effective insulation. Though feathers are mostly protein, fats are essential for developing the best feather coloration. In many bird species, carotenoids (from fats) are used much like the pigment dyes that color clothing. Carotenoids provide red, orange and yellow to violet colors in feathers. Without fats and proteins, birds such as House Finches, Northern Cardinals, American Goldfinches would appear less bright.

molting Goldfinch Molting season varies by species and time of year. Right now many birds are beginning their main molt of the year; however, American Goldfinches are one of the last to molt. Due to their late nesting period, they won’t start their molt until late August.

By providing foods that are loaded with fats and proteins in your birdfeeders, you will help your colorful birds maintain their vibrancy. Peanuts are the best single source of protein and fat for your birds and attract woodpeckers, titmice, nuthatches, chickadees, jays and more. Mealworms are a good protein source. Suet is a high-fat food that also contributes protein if nuts and/or bugs are mixed into it. Birdfoods, such as niger/thistle, sunflower, and safflower all contain oils that help to meet the nutritional needs of molting birds that are not peanut eaters. These high-fat, high protein foods are good to feed throughout the winter, too. They provide energy to help birds survive the cold.

March 27, 2013

Birdfeeding: From Fruit to Nuts

Filed under: Bird Feeding,Birds — wbuomaha @ 5:30 pm
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Downy on peanut feeder
By increasing the variety of foods you offer, you can
increase the numbers and species of birds that visit your
backyard. A fruit feeder may attract many fruit-eating birds that might not come to traditional seed feeders.

Fruit may be offered in hanging or platform feeders, and there are specialty feeders specifically designed for the purpose of feeding fruit.

Grapes may be placed in a suet cage or on a platform feeder. They are particularly attractive to bluebirds, catbirds, cedar waxwings, house finches, mockingbirds, robins, rose-breasted grosbeaks, and scarlet tanagers.

Raisins can be offered on a platform feeder and are very attractive to bluebirds, catbirds, robins and cedar waxwings.

Orange halves, placed on a fruit feeder or spikes, are a delicacy enjoyed by Baltimore orioles, brown thrashers, catbirds, red-bellied woodpeckers, rose-breasted grosbeaks and scarlet tanagers.

Robin on apple

Apples, cut in half and offered on a fruit feeder or sliced and offered in a platform feeder, are favorites of robins, cardinals, house finches and red-bellied woodpeckers.

Attracting fruit-eating birds can take time and patience. And it is important to keep your fruit fresh and your feeders clean. If you have mature fruit trees, bushes or vines, or if you have seen fruit-eating birds in your yard or nearby, you will more readily attract fruit-eaters.

Peanuts and almonds and other tree nuts may be offered in hanging trays, platform feeders or specially designed peanut feeders. Shelled peanuts and tree nuts are attractive to many birds, including blue jays, titmice, chickadees, woodpeckers and nuthatches. Nuts are high in fat and protein, and quite nutritious for the birds that feast on them. Peanuts in the shell are a treat for blue jays, woodpeckers, and tufted titmice.

Nuts should always be unsalted, and if possible, peanuts should be roasted. You can roast them at 350-375 degrees for 10-20 minutes.

Your birdfeeding pleasure can be enhanced by offering a greater variety of choices to our feathered friends. Fruit and nuts will make wonderful additions to your backyard buffet.

December 24, 2011

Help Birds Keep Warm This Winter

Filed under: Birds — wbuomaha @ 9:32 am
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      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.

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