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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Will your new landscape harm birds?

If you're thinking about a landscape project in your yard, think about the birds.  The stuff you put in your yard, plant material or something else, should be compatible with your yard's full-time, avian residents.
"weed barrier"

"erosion control netting"
One item that has actually killed birds goes by several names, and has several general purposes. But I'll lump them all together for clarity's sake. The products, each slightly different in design, might go by the name of weed barrier, erosion control netting, landscape fabric or weed controller.

Birds often try to make nests from pieces of the fabric, and get trapped in it. They starve to death!  I'm not saying never to use it - just make sure it's installed properly, several inches beneath the surface, where it will never see daylight. If it's put on or near the surface, it inevitably will tear and shred, becoming a real eyesore and danger to birds.

What's commonly called "poison ivy" is not an ivy at all. All seven species are in the sumac family and are unrelated to ivies.

That's not a lot of comfort, however, when you itch like crazy. Of course, some people (I hate them, don't you!) aren't affected at all. Others have widely varying degrees of sensitivity.

You may come in contact with it unknowingly. So it's a good idea to aggressively wash your hands and arms (and other exposed parts of your body) with soap and water immediately after being outdoors.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Discouraging "pigeons" (or whatever you call them)

Rock Pigeon
The birds typically called "pigeons" prefer to eat off the ground. They are technically called Rock Pigeons (formerly "Rock Doves") and were introduced to North America, from Europe, in the 1600s. They are in the same family as doves but are a different species. Wherever they can perch on a feeder, they will. Knowing this, two modifications in your birdfeeding practices are recommended to discourage them.  
First, most birds have types of seed(s) they prefer. Rock Pigeons do! So refrain from putting cracked corn or white millet in feeders where pigeons can perch.  This will discourage White-winged Doves too.
White-winged Doves

Second, lay down a bunch of branches ("thorny" is good) beneath feeders, to discourage Rock Pigeons and doves from foraging for whatever falls from your feeder.

In general, birds' nesting behavior coincides with the high availabilty of food, so they can be sure of feeding newborns. I'm writing this now because gardening in north Texas may be very different from your customary gardening practices.  You should be planting native "birdscape" plants now (instead of waiting for the spring) so they can be "edible" when nesting birds are in the market.