July News Notes:
• This has been a great early summer for backyard bird feeding.
• If the weather heats up, it may slow down birds from feeding.
• Fresh water in your backyard will mean more birds, especially moving water.
• Suet will continue to be in high demand by woodpeckers.
• Goldfinches and Cedar Waxwings will be nesting this month.
• Get a bird identification guide, it will may watching birds more enjoyable.
• Take binoculars and a field guide on your day trips and vacations.
• This year’s hatch of black birds will begin flocking up by months end.
• You may begin to see bald Cardinals, Blue Jays, and blackbirds.
• Be thinking of hummingbirds by the end of the month.
• Caged bird feeders are great for attracting woodpeckers & smaller birds, not grackles.
Cedar Waxwings and American Goldfinch nest later than most song birds. Their nests are constructed from the down of several plants that are just now maturing. The Waxwing uses other nesting materials as well, but the Goldfinch relies heavily on the stretchy down from specific plants and its nest is very tightly knit. The outer shell of the nest is built of bark, weeds, vines, and grass. The rim is reinforced with bark bound by spider webs and caterpillar silk, and the cup is lined with plant down from milkweed, thistle, or cattail. The nest is so tightly woven that it can hold water, and it is possible for nestlings to drown following a rainstorm if the parents do not cover the nest. On thing, since the Goldfinch feed their nestlings a strictly seed diet, is they are not troubled as much by the Cowbird.
This time of year you may see a few adult Blue Jays and Cardinals showing up with bald heads. The cause is a tiny feather mite that shears off the feather at the skin line. Both birds have dark skin and their heads will now appear black. They will have to endure this condition until August or so when the fall molt will correct the condition. We field many inquiries on this so now you will know what the answer is before it happens. There is no need to be concerned about these mites as they do not affect humans. You may also see more immature birds near the feeders as their parents introduce them to our offerings of black oil, and other seeds. Most are easy to recognize as they beg for food, have an awkward appearance, and just seem uncertain about using the bird bath. First year Cardinals are easy to detect by their grey beak that will not change to the adult orange until late summer, early fall.
If you have a bird bath be sure to keep it clean and supplied with fresh water daily. This is important to all birds. If the weather becomes dry this summer, and we certainly could use a break from the rains, it will be a welcome oasis for many wild creatures. This is a good spot to observe social behavior between birds of the same and different species. Keeping your bird bath in a shady area will help to reduce algae build-up. Sunlight is what promotes the growth of algae. Most plastic, resin, or ceramic bird baths can be easily clean with a bit of vinegar. For porous bird baths, such as concrete, a weak solution of Clorox and water will not only clean out the gunk, but kill the algae spores lodged in the concrete itself. Just make certain to give the bath a good rinsing after treatments.
If you travel around the country this summer be sure and have an identification guide with you. This is a hobby that can follow you wherever you go. It is great fun to see birds in other areas of our country and how they differ from those we watch around our homes. Many folks even take a birding guide along so they can make bird watching a part of their activities. A field guide will also help right in your own yard as new birds seem to appear at each new season. Wild Bird Habitat can also help you identify unusual birds you see if you care to stop by or E-Mail us.
We can’t foretell the weather but we do know that hot weather slows down the food consumption at our feeders while cold or damp conditions often enhance the birds’ intake of food. We mention this as many folks may think they have done something wrong when temperatures rise and they see birds feeding less often. It’s the weather. Speaking of the weather, our songbirds are a good barometer of impending storms. They seem to know when a low pressure center is approaching. Their feeding often becomes quite intense; especially in winter prior to large snowstorms when we witness what is called a feeding frenzy. During the summer you can predict the approach of a storm system by watching swallows and Chimney Swifts, birds that collect insects on the fly. When the barometer is rising we can expect fair weather and these birds will soar high in the sky collecting food. A drop in the barometer suggests an approaching storm system and these birds will feed at much lower altitudes where the pressure is less. Keep an eye on the birds and see if you can predict the weather. Good birding to you all.