Written by an area Landscape Architect and birdwatcher with over 30 years of experience with landscaping in north Texas: what works and what doesn't. Emphasis on attracting birds to north Texas yards, and reducing required yard maintenance. Tips, trivia and proven advice for a natural, low-cost approach for this unique and sensitive part of the country.
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Sunday, January 6, 2013
"The Goldfinches in my yard aren't bright yellow, like in magazines"
If you’re looking
for a yellow goldfinch, try looking
in New Jersey in the summer. The tiny birds are nowhere to be found in Texas at
this time of year; except in their dull, winter plumage.In north Texas, in the winter, goldfinches
are what I call ‘”dirty yellow” (see
picture).Bright yellow is what’s
called their ”breeding plumage”, but you see that only up north in warm
Goldfinches travel and feed often in flocks. So you may see
none on your feeder – then a minute later you may see several on it, and another
dozen nearby waiting a turn. Special Goldfinch feeders are sold with many small
holes [“ports”] for the small, imported seed called “nyger”. Nyger (often
incorrectly called “thistle”) is their favorite food. A close, and less expensive,
runner-up is Black Oil Sunflower seed. That’s what I use.
In north Texas they start appearing about mid-to-late
November. They usually start their migratory flight back north around the end of April. About that time, they
may begin molting their drab winter plumage - turning again to bright yellow. But, unless you're looking at a magazine written up north, you'll never see it.
Starlings love to steal chunks of suet. Especially from a
feeder that's meant for woodpeckers. Put these impolite, non-native birds in their place by using
a suet feeder that only has access from below. Woodpeckers and several other
nimble, clinging birds will nonchalantly cling to the underside of an
“upside-down” feeder, using strong feet. Starlings (a pesky, black bird) don't have the physical features it takes to hang by
their feet, and will go elsewhere.
A few friends of mine have had success with ordinary, less expensive, suet feeders, by putting a length of duct tape across the upper edge and halfway down each vertical side-edge.