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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

House Finch bills are disproportionately strong

Most of us see House Finches in our north Texas yards quite often. Did you know it's a strong bird!!  A Finch can apply about 100 pounds of pressure against a seed; astonishing for a bird that just weighs an ounce or two.

To help even more with seed cracking, the edges of its upper bill are grooved to hold onto a seed securely, and the edge of the lower bill is especially sharp.

While some birds take a single seed at a time from a feeder, and fly away to crack it open, a House Finch will open it right at the feeder.

NOW WE'RE ALL ON THE SAME PAGE.  It used to be that different parts of the country used different names for the very same bird. Today, the American Ornithological Union has the last word - it's the final authority for bird names in this country. So we can e-mail a friend in Vermont, or publish a magazine article read in Montana, and not get muddled up in regionalisms.

As a result, "tree mice" became White-breasted Nuthatches, a "scrapper" became a Ruby-throated Hummingbird and "carrion crow" (which is actually not a crow) became a Black Vulture - nationwide.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Giving Mourning Doves what they want

Mourning Dove
Many of us like hearing the mournful call of the native Mourning Dove; being lessened in some areas of north Texas by the influx of other birds.

Provide Mourning Doves a nesting site and they may repopulate and reappear the following years too!   Here's how:

Start with a 12-inch (dia.) disc of hardware cloth (like "chicken wire") that's cut straight to the center in one place. Pull the disc edges so it forms a shallow "dish". Tie it with wire so it doesn't lose its dish shape.

Fasten it across the fork of a tree limb in a somewhat hidden place. (They like some privacy!)  The spot needs to be shaded, and about 10 to 15 feet high.

   Again this year, I used the simple, mix-it-yourself fire ant "discourager" that I've used for years.  It's non-poisonous to pets, children, birds, etc., safe and inexpensive. (The  mixture is explained in my March 31 post.)  It costs me about a dime per application.

I poured it on the mound and the ants swarmed everywhere. Ten minutes later I checked and couldn't see a single ant moving around; even when I poked what was left of the mound repeatedly with a stick.