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Saturday, November 10, 2012

The bird we all love to hate; Starlings

Starling (winter)
Starling (most of the time)
Starlings are interesting birds, found here in north Texas and in all continental U.S. states. Curiously, they are not native birds (the full name is "European Starling "). They were first brought to New York in 1890-91 by a group that wanted to import ALL animals mentioned in Shakespeare's work.

Now that there are so many of them, they often flock together with other birds such as Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds, Crows and Cowbirds. A flock can encompass 100,000 birds.

An important thing to remember; they are extremely aggressive and often return, the following year, to nest in the same place. You should never allow one to use a birdhouse in your yard, since they will aggressively evict native birds and each other; even killing others' newborns and destroying eggs. A pair of Starlings can build a nest in 1 to 3 days.

After molting, Starlings often show spots (this happens in the winter). Most of the time, however, they are a glossy black. They live anywhere there's food and water except dense forests (this may be because there's too much competition).The jaw/beak, unlike most other living things, is stronger when opening than when closing. So it can pry open tiny cracks (like in tree bark or eggshells).

THE DANGER ZONE.      Many birds are killed by crashing into windows. There are situations, however, where it's OK to put a birdfeeder near a window. A feeder closer to a window than 2 feet (including on the window itself) is safe. This is where the bird is in "a landing pattern"  and is fully aware of the surroundings. A feeder farther away than 7 feet is OK too.

The "danger zone" of between 2 and 7 feet should be avoided. You may still have a few bird strikes on windows, however, when a bird just isn't paying attention. Like if it's being chased by a hawk, and is looking behind him.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Attracting birds to bare trees with Tree Goop

A tree without leaves looks gloomy and uninviting, but a simple trick can liven things up and attract birds. Modify the trick and you can even attract birds this fall and winter if you have NO trees in your yard.

Just mix up what I call tree goop" from peanut butter and bird seeds. I use cheap (often store brand) peanut butter - crunchy seems to work best. Into it I blend (with a sturdy utensil) a bunch of fresh birdseed containing black-oil sunflower seeds. The ratio is unimportant, except the more seed there is, the more it attracts birds.

Now, visit your bare trees and liberally spread a glop of the mixture on a patch of bark. (In north Texas most leafless trees are Post Oak and Cedar Elm). With the addition of some "tree goop", however, hungry birds should bring some life to your yard.

If you have no trees, try a section of log (pictured). It's simply a log about 3 to 5 inches in diameter.  Screw an I-hook into the top, spread some "tree goop" on it and hang it outside. That's all!

You could spend a lot of money buying some costly, pre-packaged mixtures where four or five companies take a percentage of the cost. If you choose to mix your own "tree goop", however, the results will be the same.