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Saturday, August 3, 2013

A possible solution to hummingbirds' overly-aggressive behavior

Hummingbirds are one of the most aggressive, selfish birds we have in north Texas. They’re bullies. Thank heavens they’re so small or they might try to take over the world… or at least every tree and birdfeeder in it.  They'll chase others from feeders, even if the "chaser" isn't hungry. Juvenile hummingbirds, especially, seem to frequent feeders where they don’t get chased away.

If you have one nectar feeder, you know what I mean! But if there are two or more feeders in the yard, a “bully” usually has a tough time claiming them all. Particularly if the line-of-sight between the feeders is blocked by something like a shrub or corner of the house. The nectar at one feeder can’t be a lot better than at the other, since no Hummingbird likes settling for second-rate food. Both feeders have to be filled with fresh nectar and cleaned regularly.  In our heat, mold can grow easily and quickly. I refill our feeders about every 3 to 5 days (depending on the weather), running the parts under very hot water at the same time. Then, every two or three weeks, I’ll clean them with a solution of one part vinegar to 10 parts water.

      Notice that I never said anything about adding food coloring. That’s a total myth. Red food dye, according to several research studies, can cause genetic defects in Hummingbirds. Most nectar feeders are bright-colored anyway, so it’s totally unnecessary and just not worth the risk. Tie a bright ribbon on your feeder(s) - it works quite well.

Ladybug, don’t fly away home           

If you control insects with Ladybugs (and lots of people do) we recommend that you release them at dusk.  Why?  Since you have the domestic variety (and you should!), they instinctively return to their birthplace – probably in the Rocky Mt. foothills. But they don’t fly at night.  So, by releasing them at dusk they’ll stay in your yard and lay lots of eggs. And hungry birds won’t get them at night.

            Asian Ladybugs were imported and let loose several years ago. They can get in your house and  become a nuisance.  Don’t buy them!


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"birdscape" your back yard, instead of taking a vacation

If vacationing in the Bahamas, Cozumel or Maui isn’t in your budget right now, do something relaxing for yourself anyway. Some people I know have created their own “birdscape” in their back yards - a place where they can go (weather permitting of course) and not worry about phones, emails and such.  Simply watch birds while relaxing in something like a lounge chair.                        A “stay-cation”!

Every birdscape will be different, and size isn’t a big deal at all. Some effective ones are just half of a back yard – maybe 200 or 300 square feet. What matters more is what you put IN the birdscape.

Clearly, you'll want trustworthy, science-based advice on local birds and their preferences. (Not about birds seen by some writer in Vermont, Ohio, or California, or …)  

Not only that, but (as you may know) I’m a licensed Landscape Architect in Texas. I can provide you with a list of bird-attracting plants native to this area, that I’ve personally seen to be durable and effective. One point I’ll always make is that the time to start creating and planning a birdscape is NOW.

A back yard birdscape is certainly not a match for a vacation on some sunny beach, but the millions of people who are taking a “stay-cation” this year will readily tell you it’s a whole lot cheaper and there's no trip to the airport involved.