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, June 8, 2014
Dyeing nectar with red food coloring causes DNA damage to Hummingbirds
Hummingbirds and butterflies love clear nectar.
Food coloring (red or any other color) has never, in all recorded history,
been proven to be effective. It's just a fable, augmented by a few anecdotes. In fact it’s genetically harmful. It’s been
proven via several well-documented studies to mess up the DNA of newborns.
On hot days, red food coloring
probably will introduce some tiny bits of mold or bacteria, which will rapidly
multiply in our Texas heat and ruin your whole batch of nectar. Result: Hummingbirds will look somewhere else for nectar.
the world through a bird’s eyes It
would certainly look a lot different. Besides seeing all the colors of the
rainbow, scientists tell us that many birds can see into the ultra-violet
spectrum, too. (as a kid I learned that
the rainbow humans see is “Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet”.Therefore, birds can see what’s beyond violet;
birdwatchers of all abilities often have difficulty telling male birds apart
from females of the same species. However, research using ultraviolet light
shows that males and females frequently have radically different markings that
we can’t see. An extreme example from north Texas is the Brown Creeper. The Brown
Creeper itself, however, has no problem at all.
ultraviolet vision can also help birds in finding food. Research with Kestrels
has shown that they can see trails of rodent urine; known to reflect
ultraviolet light. I’m not suggesting this as a method, but I’m sure you can
come up with many other colorful alternatives.
OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger,
is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north
Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society
of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape
Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National
Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.