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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Woodpeckers probably aren't hurting your house

Red bellied Woodpecker
Woodpeckers peck on houses for two reasons. First, searching for insects, in which case the holes are small. Not much damage is being done. A dead tree, left standing, is much more appealing. If this is happening, the wood of your house is staying damp, attracting insects. This leads to wood rot. Check for water leaks, and thank woodpeckers for alerting you.

Sometimes, woodpeckers will peck hard on a metal part of a house. They've found that their noise is amplified greatly. This happens early in mating season and marks a  territory.

Very rarely, woodpeckers may be creating a nest cavity. Although quite rare, it can cause serious damage. Fake owls or snakes don’t work at all. They don't move, which is what scares birds away. Save your money.

Instead, suggests Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology, try tacking up brightly-colored or shiny ribbons (about 4–5 ft. long) that can blow around with the wind. Their motion should shoo Woodpeckers away, and they can usually be taken down after a few days, allowing you to check for the real problem.



Sunday, January 6, 2013

"The Goldfinches in my yard aren't bright yellow, like in magazines"

Eastern Goldfinch

    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 seasons.
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.