Wild Birds Unlimited – Omaha, NE

April 24, 2017

Going for Gold… Finches, that is

Filed under: Birds,Goldfinches — wbuomaha @ 3:16 pm
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Goldfinch on coneflower

     Often referred to as “wild canaries,” Goldfinches are actually in the finch family. American Goldfinches – those found in our area – and Lesser Goldfinches, are two types found in North America. The American Goldfinch is the state bird of Iowa.   The oldest banded American Goldfinch recaptured in the wild had lived eleven years and seven months.

In flight, Goldfinches have a distinct dipping pattern. They also have a unique flight call with four syllables that can be likened to “potato chip.”

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     Frequent visitors to feeders, Goldfinches prefer thistle (nyger) and sunflower seed. They will even feed on upside-down finch feeders. However, later in the summer, when much natural food is available, they often prefer to feed in the wild. Although attracted to sunflower heads, they often can be found on coneflowers or cosmos that have gone to seed.  Therefore, it is a good idea not to deadhead these species of flowers. Goldfinches will cling to them and sway with the plant in windy conditions and can hang acrobatically upside-down to reach the treasured seeds.

Goldfinch on nesting material

     One of the latest breeding songbirds, the Goldfinch waits until mid-to-late summer to nest. Thistle seeds and down are readily available for feeding young and nest-building. A Goldfinch weaves its nest of plant fibers so tightly that it will hold water, then lines it with thistledown.

Preferred nesting habitats are trees and shrubs, near open areas that support growth of thistle and other prairie plants, with a water source close by. Nests are built four to ten feet off the ground. Sometimes Goldfinches will nest in loose colonies.

They usually lay five blue or greenish-blue eggs. The eggs hatch in about twelve days. Babies fledge about twelve days after hatching.

Goldfinch in Wtr JC c

     These hardy little birds do not migrate, but they do molt the brightly colored feathers of summer. Winter plumage is much drabber, brownish-green in color, making Goldfinches less visible to predators.

molting Goldfinch

     Now that spring is here, male Goldfinches are molting into their bright yellow summer plumage. This, along with the black wings with the white stripe, black and white tail feathers, and black “cap” on top of the head give them a striking appearance that is hard to miss. Watch for Goldfinches at a feeder near you.

 

 

 

 

March 30, 2017

Birdfeeding: From Fruit to Nuts

Filed under: Bird Feeding,Birds — wbuomaha @ 12:10 pm
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BNP Recycled Oriole 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.

Robin on Ground Feeder

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

WBU Oriole Fdr (RGB, 72 DPI, 286x300)

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.

DownyWPonPnutWreathJRC_4c (2)

Peanuts, 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.

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

Titmouse on Pnt Fdr JRC c

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

woodlink_snowmanfeeder3

     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.

 wbu-seed-wreath-1-edited

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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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.

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)

 

February 25, 2016

Robins – A Sign of Spring

Filed under: Birds,Robin — wbuomaha @ 1:53 pm
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Robin Singing

After a long winter, sight of the first robin is frequently considered a welcome sign that spring is near.  It is widely believed that all robins fly south for the winter.  In actuality some may weather the cold months as far north as Canada, flocking together so they are concentrated in smaller areas and less widely seen.  While some may return from southern climates, others return from wooded areas just a few miles away as the flocks disband for the nesting season.

Males appear on the nesting grounds before females.  Their territories range from less than half an acre to an acre.  Unlike many other species, their territories may overlap.  The male defends the territory by singing and fighting.  During the nesting season, the robin’s song is often one of the earliest of the day, frequently beginning just before dawn.

During courtship, several males may pursue the same female, but once the pairing is established they are normally (but not always) monogamous.  Although robins nest in a wide variety of locations, including ledges of human structures, they typically do not use birdhouses. The nest is cup-shaped, built of twigs, grass, mud, and miscellaneous other materials.  It is typically lined with soft plant fibers or animal fur.

Egg numbers range from three to seven, but usually there are four. Color is the familiar light blue.  Both parents feed the young.  Nestlings normally remain in the nest for thirteen to sixteen days. In a single season, robins will raise two to three broods.

Robins’ diets consist of earthworms, insects, spiders, caterpillars and many fruits and berries. Although they rarely visit seed feeders, you can entice them to fruit feeders with apples, cherries, grapes, raisins or berries.  Water sources such as birdbaths or shallow ponds attract them for drinking as well as enthusiastic splashy bathing.  They also like misty water and are frequently seen running around the yard during light rains. Manmade sources, including misters and lawn sprinklers that simulate light, misty rain, provide inviting substitutes.

Throughout the spring and summer, when you hear the cheerful song of early birds, listen and look carefully. Robins are probably welcoming the new day.

Robins w Htr & Bath c

January 23, 2016

Nebraska’s Sensational Spring Spectacle

Filed under: Birds,Migration,Sandhill Crane — wbuomaha @ 9:58 am
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Sandhill Cranes JRC c (RGB, 72 DPI, 300x200) For a few weeks each spring, one of the world’s most awesome wildlife spectacles occurs right here in Nebraska. Nearly half a million sandhill cranes descend upon the Platte River Valley to feed and rest before continuing their long northward migration to their breeding grounds in the northern United States, Canada and, for some, even Siberia. This is estimated to be approximately 80% of the world’s population of lesser sandhill cranes.

Typically, a few will arrive in mid-February, with more and more arriving, peaking in mid-March, then tapering off into April. The sights and sounds of cranes gathering along the Platte are unique and unforgettable.

Today, crane habitat is found primarily along an eighty-mile stretch of the central Platte River and the wetlands to the south. The birds’ migration paths funnel through this area, resulting in the congregation of the large numbers of cranes before they again spread out on their journey north. This was not always the case. Westward-traveling pioneers described the Platte as ‘a mile wide and a foot deep.’ Wet meadows and marshes, the ideal habitat for sandhill cranes, were found along much of the river. Cranes used many miles of the Platte for their migration stopover before the river was dammed for flood control and irrigation. Sediment collecting behind the dams, woody vegetation encroaching on the channel and reduced water flow have significantly decreased the area suitable for use by migrating cranes.

This spring, as they have for thousands of years before, the sandhill cranes will return to the Platte. They will share this migration oasis with endangered whooping cranes and many species of waterfowl, also migrating northward. People from all over the world will come to experience this spectacular event that occurs nowhere else on the planet – only in Nebraska.

December 29, 2015

Help Birds Keep Warm This Winter

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

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.

October 30, 2015

Talkin’ Turkey

Filed under: Birds,Turkey — wbuomaha @ 3:19 pm
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If Benjamin Franklin had his way, the Wild Turkey would be the national symbol of our country. Instead, the Wild Turkey has become the symbol of our Thanksgiving holiday.

In recent years, Wild Turkeys have become a common sight in rural settings and even some urban locales. Their preferred habitat is a combination of wooded areas, especially those with oak trees, and open clearings. Turkeys do not migrate, although they do tend to wander in the fall. They are strong flyers and commonly roost overnight in tall trees. However, they typically get around by walking or running.

Turkeys generally forage on the ground for food, scratching in the leaf and plant litter. The majority of the turkey’s diet consists of plant material. Acorns are a preferred food, but they also ingest leaves, seeds grains, berries and buds. Sometimes they scratch up roots and bulbs for food. They also frequently eat insects, spiders and snails, as well as the occasional frog, lizard, salamander or snake. Early morning and evening tend to be their most active feeding times.

At Thanksgiving, turkeys are often depicted with the appearance of the male in courtship even though breeding season occurs in the spring. The male gobbles to attract females, then puffs out his feathers, spreads his raised tail feathers, swells up his face wattles and struts around. He may rattle his wings and make humming sounds which heightens the effect. One male may mate with several females.

Nests are often located under a shrub, at the base of a tree or in tall grass. The female usually lays 10-15 eggs (but can be more or less) in a shallow depression on the ground, sparsely lined with leaves or grass. Eggs are white to buff with reddish-brown dots. Sometimes more than one female will lay eggs in the same nest. Only the females incubate the eggs and tend to the young. The incubation period ranges from 25-31 days.

The downy young leave the nest soon after hatching and feed themselves,
although the mother broods them at night for several weeks. They are not full grown for several months. Females and young of several family groups may range their territory in large flocks in search of food.

This Thanksgiving take a moment to be thankful that Wild Turkeys, whose numbers were seriously depleted at the beginning of the 20th century are making a strong comeback at the beginning of the 21st century.

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