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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

North Texas hosts more birds in cool weather than warm

Forgive me if I misled you, with all my talk recently of hummingbirds leaving, fall migration and so on. You may have gotten the impression that north Texas is empty of birds until spring. Not so!  A look out your  window may be enlightening. Clearly, there are more birds in this area in the fall and winter than in the spring and summer.

Some birds (like Hummingbirds and Buntings)have left us, and gone to their winter homes in South and Central America. Many other birds (like Juncos, Kinglets, true Sparrows, Towhees, Sapsuckers and Goldfinches) will be arriving in north Texas as the leaves fall from the trees; to spend the winter. After all, this IS the South - and our comparatively mild winters agree with them.

Many other birds stay right around here in north Texas, including Cardinals, Mockingbirds, Chickadees, Robins and most woodpeckers.

Sadly, wild birds have a high mortality in cool weather. This is mainly from exposure to weather, coupled with a lack of fresh, energy-producing foods. To combat this, they seek out "roosts" for the night - places to get out of the wind and weather. This can be almost anything; an evergreen tree or even an unused birdhouse. Provide plenty of good food too. And leave your birdbath out so the birds can get clean (helps them stay warm).

North Texans have been doing a good job of providing these basics, so we continue to have more birds here in cool weather, than in spring and summer. 

(Incidentally, other birds that usually come here for the cool weather include Cedar Waxwings, Pine Siskins, Nuthatches, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Orange-crowned Warblers and Northern Flickers.)
 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

How birds check out an unfamiliar bird feeder

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Before landing on a feeder that's not totally familiar to them (like a new one), a bird will land on a nearby branch (within about 5 - 8 feet), and watch it for a while, taking a good look. Some things that tell birds to go elsewhere are if the feeder's empty (OBVIOUSLY), if it's exposed to aerial attack by another bird (like a hawk), if a cat is hanging around, or if there's no escape route within a foot or so (if a predator suddenly appears the bird must escape quickly into dense vegetation), or if there's a lot of noise and human activity.

If there's no nearby branch to land on, the feeder won't be thought of as "safe" until next season when the bird will go through the very same inspection process.


Owen Yost & Nancy Collins
PROPER BIRDWATCHING ATTIRE   Small birds are scared away by even the slightest hint of danger. So wearing certain clothing is a tactic to see more birds, not to look stylish. Many birds of prey (hawks for instance) have white stomachs and/or breasts. So a smaller bird quickly leaves the area when he sees anything that's moving and white. Maybe you could be a huge hawk!

Try wearing dark green, blue, black, brown or grey instead. (Of course if you're inside, looking through a window, color doesn't matter. But glare does.)