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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Should I call it a Cardinal, or something else?

Cardinal; juvenile
maybe they're Virginia Redbirds?

We all know what a Cardinal is...or do we?? The Texas Ornithological Society, and most birdwatchers, know it as a Northern Cardinal. But many people (understandably) call it a Redbird (forgetting about the females and juveniles). In Virginia it's a Virginia Redbird or Virginia Nightingale. A few birders call it a Cardinal Redbird. They're all right in a way! Many years ago John James Audubon even knew it as a Cardinal Grosbeak. The only universally-correct name is the cumbersome Latin name Cardinalis cardinalis, but that sounds snobbish.

                           How dangerous is a Coyote...really? According to Audubon Magazine, there has been only one reported coyote-related death in the U.S. That was over 30 years ago! Typically, Coyotes try hard to avoid people, but we're seeing more and more as we expand into their natural range, and Coyotes have less and less territory in which to hunt.

Those are the facts!  I'm not worried, but if I were a rabbit or housecat I would be.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Why are birds not visiting my yard right now?

It's absolutely normal. It's nothing you've done, or are not doing. In a week or two it'll be totally different.

Chickadee on sumac
Starting around the end of September and continuing right now, plants are setting seed in dozens and dozens of forms.  You see native grasses producing "plumes", acorns and pecans litter landscapes everywhere, and all our native flowers have "gone to seed". This cornucopia of fresh seed is more enticing to wild birds than anything you could buy in a store. It's as fresh as it can get! So this is where the birds are, not at feeders.

When we get a hard freeze in north Texas (and/or ice storm or snowfall) they'll flock to your feeders enthusiastically. It's important to be ready now, since wild birds will need seed instantly, and won't wait around a day or two - they'll just go to somebody else's feeder.

The leaves on the ground also attract birds, insectivores mainly. The dead leaves harbor millions of tiny bugs. Birds pick through them endlessly for food.

In ensuing years you might want to keep birds in your area by planting what I call "birdscape" plants in your yard.  These plants produce seed reliably and in abundance, and provide totally fresh food for birds throughout the fall. The plants are native to this part of Texas, so the very best time to plant them is now (of course you won't see any top-growth until spring, but the roots will be growing like crazy). I'd be glad to send you a list of these plants if you send me your e-mail address.

[Actually, the above is in response to a question I got recently from a friend.  I thought many of you might have the same worry}