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Saturday, January 30, 2016

What our birds eat hints at what species they are

·       Birds are always busy finding food and eating. Particularly in cooler
weather.   Birds burn energy very quickly – in fact, the smaller the bird, the faster
they burn it. Thus smaller birds need to eat much more often. Each type of bird
has a particular way of locating and taking their food.
Mother Nature solves the overwhelming demand, and possible competition, for
food within the avian kingdom by having different species eat at unique times of
the day and night, at different depths of water, at varying heights in the
trees, and even at different places within trees and shrubs.

      Some birds will feed on their own. Most hawks and eagles are solitary hunters.
Other birds of the same species or even different species will group together
to seek out a meal. Think of the large groups of robins, grackles, and
sparrows you may easily spy, dining on the insects and seeds in neighborhoods.
Some birds learn that it pays to get help from other kinds of animals. If you live near farmland,
look for Cattle Egrets near grazing cattle who will gobble up multitudes of insects
stirred up by the cows. Other birds will eat off insects from other animals, such as
deer, who are relieved to be rid of the bugs.
    Sometimes birds will band together for safety since there are more eyes looking
for predators.  Flocks of terns can be
seen diving and confusing the school of fish, thus allowing the flock to catch
more fish! Other species, such as stilts and avocets, may form huge formations
and beat the water with their beaks, causing the very confused fish and even
bugs to come to the surface, allowing all of the birds to more easily catch a meal
and fill their stomachs. Groups of White Pelicans will drive fish into more shallow
water by beating their wings in the water while swimming.
      Birders often identify bird species by their beaks, which dictate what and where they eat. 

Northern Cardinal's heavy/strong beak tells you it's a seed eater
The Red-breasted Nuthatch (with a narrow beak) eats insects while going DOWN a tree trunk

·       Owen Yost, in addition to blogging, is a Landscape Architect emeritus from here, whos worked in north Texas for over 30 years.  He is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Society of Landscape Architects, the National BirdFeeding Society, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. He was honored with a Lifetime Achievement award by the Native Plant Society of Texas. His design office is at

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