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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Woodpeckers are attracted by a challenge

If you've put up house for any of our local Woodpeckers, remember that they want a bit of a challenge so they can achieve a sense of accomplishment. It's part of their mating ritual.

Try adding a mild barrier to the entrance hole, such as putting a piece of cardboard, or thin piece of wood, with a 1" hole in it, over the real hole (which should be about 2" depending on species), so they can enlarge it themselves to the proper size.

Just make sure the real hole is somewhat obvious or the Woodpecker may ignore the birdhouse entirely.The smaller "dummy" hole also keeps Starlings from taking over.

Here in north Texas the most common Woodpecker species are the Downy, Hairy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers (shown here). Other species sometimes live here, but are not as common, or are only here in the winter.
Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

There's hardly any activity at seed feeders about now. That's totally normal.

This is breeding season. Birds of almost all species are primarily concerned with feeding their young right now; and the developing birds eat only insects (with just a few exceptions) until they "fledge" from the nest. Seeds are indigestible to their undeveloped digestive systems.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How caterpillars and butterflies defend themselves

Everyone knows that caterpillars become butterflies. And birds eat caterpillars and butterflies.  After all, they ARE insects!

They've developed a defense mechanism, however. Particularly the Monarch butterfly we see here in north Texas. When the larve of the Monarch eats some of its host plant, the butterfly-to-be also ingests a bit of the plants' toxin. The Monarchs are immune to it, but this makes eating the Monarch poisonous to any pedator, including birds.

The host plant is commonly called Butterfly Weed; technically any species of Aesclepias is an ideal host, which includes Milkweed. Consider putting some in your yard to attract Monarchs.

Look again!!

Maybe some folks don't know that climate change is real, but birds certainly do. Now its impact on birds has been proven. A 40-year study by the Audubon Society pinpoints the effects of climate change on various birds. In just 40 years, the centerpoint of the Purple Finches' range has moved 433 miles to the north.  Boreal Chickadee, 279 miles north.  Downy Woodpecker, 29 miles north. What's more, Audubon's findings are that it takes about 35 years for a bird species to adjust to a new locale.

In a way these birds are fortunate. They happen to have suitable habitat and food sources to the north, so they can move. Birds that don't (Meadowlarks for example) face starvation and extinction.