In most parts of the US, old man winter is starting to give way to at least small peeks of Spring. That means your back yard visitors are looking (or will soon be looking) for places to nest and raise their young. You can help them in ways you’ve maybe not thought of. Here are my spring nesting tips to help make your back yard a preferred spot for nesting birds.
In no particular order they are:
- If you have nest boxes, make sure they are cleaned out from last year before you put them back up.
- Put up at least two different kinds of boxes. I have a small box that only chickadees can get in and a bluebird box. This keeps the starlings or bluebirds from bullying the chickadees.
- When you finish brushing your cat or dog, maybe you can put the hair out in the yard so it can be gathered for nest building.
- I strongly recommend you use baffles on your nest box poles if you have squirrels or raccoons. In twelve years of birding, I’ve never had a squirrel be able to get into a nest box.
- Take a good look at any trees you have that may have grown and allowed squirrels access from the air to your nest boxes and trim them back or relocate the box.
- Be careful using any herbicides around any fencing you have. Especially if you have mossy rocks back there. Chickadees will use the moss to build their nests and you wouldn’t want to poison them, would you?
- Take some time on a weekend to pay attention to what birds are in your back yard and do anything you can to discourage starlings or house sparrows. Both of these species will displace or kill bluebird nestlings. You may just have to take down the food they’re sneaking until they decide to move on. Don’t worry. The birds you want will forgive you and return when you put it back up. It’s been my experience sparrows and starlings are worst if they can consistently find something to eat in your back yard.
- Think about planting some bright flowering perennials or shrubs to attract hummingbirds and give other birds a place to retreat if they feel threatened.
- Consider offering bluebirds some mealworms before they need them for their young. The best approach for this before there are young is to put out a small quantity at the same time every day. This way, you’re not wasting money feeding larger birds and will allow the bluebirds to figure out where they can find help feeding their young.
- Try not to over mow or spread noxious weed killer if you can avoid it too early.
I hope you found this spring nesting tips post helpful. I’m sure I’ve left plenty out but I wanted to at least give you a starting point for this nesting season. Let me know what you think of this post by leaving a comment below. Also, if you have any other tips that I’ve missed, leave them below as well so everybody can benefit from your knowledge!
This is going to be a very short post to give you a quick way to change your mood and liven up your life that costs very little and can reward you instantly.
Have Your Birds Over For Dinner
While this may work best if you have a patio or deck, you can pull this off with a feeder you can set up right outside your window. Platform feeders would be best but not necessary.
Depending on what time you get home for work or what time you eat dinner you want to do this just before sunset. That’s when they should be thinking about grabbing their last meal before bedtime. What you need to do is grab about 1/5 cup of sunflower chips and the same amount of hulled peanuts. Walk out your back door, scatter them on the ground (in at least a three foot strip to avoid crowding) and sit back and be entertained! Depending on your feeder refill schedule, you may have to do this a couple times before they figure it out. In my case, I did this while I was taking a break from my full feeding schedule so interest was quite high. This is not required though.
I have squirrels so I know it’s important to figure out their schedule too. Still, I’ve been able to feed any bird that’s interested before the squirrel pack comes to descend on it. One thing I use that helps is whole peanuts. Most of the time the squirrels will grab one and go away to eat it in peace. Other times, they’re perfectly happy trying to vacuum up the sunflower chips. Don’t sweat it. Make it fun. Just change stuff up each time you do it.
The most important thing is that you create a new feeding source that gets their attention and allows you to view your beautiful birds closer up. That way, you get to see all the squabbling, sharing and general hijinks that go on every day at your other feeders at arm’s length.
I promise you that nothing will lift your spirits faster than watching a titmouse come down, steal away with a peanut piece as big as its head and make off like he’s just committed the perfect crime!
Do Me A Favor
Could you do me a favor? Could you use your smartphone or camera to take a 30 second video of this, upload it to dropbox or google drive and send me the link at help at birdoculars dot com so I can post them in a future post? If you prefer, I can download them and post them on the birdoculars server if space is an issue with you or your service. Either way, I’d love to see your birds taking you up on your dinner invitation. Remember that this is something you can do whenever you feel like it so it doesn’t become something you feel you “have” to do. We all have too many of those things, don’t we?
Give it a go, have fun and let me know how you make out! Trust me, you’ll be glad you did! All I have to do is walk outside at around the time I usually feed them. I’ll see all the cardinals lining up in my trees and the titmice squawking and scolding me while flying from branch to branch. It’s a great feeling!
Please let me know if you have any questions by leaving a comment below.
The Day Started Like Any Other
I was catching up on email and other early morning tasks. My wife was working from home and was out watering the new plants around the house. After a while, she came and and told me there was a little bird out front under the garage light that appeared to be sleeping but was standing up. From my previous experience with my back yard friends, I was pretty sure this was not going to turn out well. I finished what I was working on and went outside to take a look.
She Can’t Have Much Time Left
By the time I got to her she was already listing to one side, breathing was rapid but shallow. She was almost completely unaware of my approach. She protested a bit when I picked her up but not for long. I held her in my two cupped hands making sure not to impede her breathing or startle her in any way. I asked my wife to open some doors for me so I could take her out on the back steps so we could be where she spent most of her time with us.
I just wanted her to feel safe, familiar and loved!
Her End Is Near
I watched her as she continued her rapid breathing. She appeared to be in no distress so I just comforted her, talked to her and waited for her time to come. I told her how happy we were to have her choose our back yard to come for food, water, play and relaxation. I told her how much joy her and her friends and family have brought to our family. She listened without sound or movement. She seemed so glad not to be alone at this time and I was happy I could help her now.
Time For Prayers
The last thing I remember her doing is opening her eyes briefly and looking right at me. It was as if to tell me “Thank you for all we’ve shared. But mostly, thank you for holding me now as I begin a new journey.” She then gave a brief shiver, closed her eyes and was gone. I’m sure I felt her spirit leave her body. I couldn’t help just staring at her and marveling at what I was blessed to have experienced. I prayed God would receive her and find her another back yard to play in. It may be cliche’ but… I know she’s in a better place now. I hope we get to see each other again some day! Amen.
Am I Paying Attention?
It’s time like these that I take a look at my life and ask if I’m really paying attention. Or is life just flying by where I only catch glimpses from time to time. I’ve been a daily meditator for the last three years and I believe this has helped me cherish all the moments more. I still struggle with it but I’m making progress towards my goal of being more mindful. I know it made spending the last days with my mom last year a little easier on both of us. For that I’m grateful.
What About You?
Have you had the incredible experience of helping one of your back yard friends or pets move on to the next phase of their journey? How did it affect you? Leave me a comment below so we can talk about it.
About The Artist
Robin Hallett is an Intuitive Healer, writer and artist who helps people discover and manifest their dreams. You can find her at RobinHallett.com.
Your Friends Need Help!
I know what your non-birding friends are going through. They know you love to feed, watch and learn about birds. But, that’s about as far as their knowledge of birding goes. End result? They end up throwing up their hands and getting you a gift certificate. That’s fine and it beats the heck out of taking a stab at something you already have or something else you don’t need. But for close friends who want to find a birding gift that shows they put some effort into it, this list should be emailed to them. I’m attaching a PDF below that you can download and email to those friends.
In an effort to make this list as useful as possible, I’ve included links to products on Amazon. These are affiliate links and I will receive some commission if you use the link to purchase the item. I just wanted you to know about them in the interest of being transparent.
Backyard Birding Boots-I have a pair very similar to this and they have been the best money I’ve ever spent! My back yard is backed up to woods and tends to hold water for a while. I just remove my shoes, slip these on and my worries of wet or cold feet just melt away.
Rubber Mallet-Any birder who has a resin birdbath and lives anywhere it gets below freezing in winter knows how challenging it can be to keep water available. Especially, if your bird bath is too far away to safely connect a heater. I’ve used one of these for almost 10 years on my resin birdbath and have not cracked it yet.
Under Feeder Rake Set-This is another one of those things I’ve used forever and I love it! I actually got it initially to pick up massive poop for dogs we were fostering. The first time I tried it for cleaning up under my feeders, I was hooked. And yes, it’s still the best way I know to collect poop too!
Brome Squirrel Buster Peanut Plus Feeder-This feeder was sent to me to demo by Brome and I can’t recommend it nearly enough. I have squirrels in my backyard and they haven’t figured a way to bust it yet. It’s easy to take apart to refill and clean and it allows you to set a specific tension to exclude exactly the birds you want to. If you put one of these up, you won’t believe the variety of birds who will use it. Nuthatches, chickadees, titmice, wrens, woodpeckers will get on it and a lot of other birds will feed from the little pieces that drop from it.
Metal Squirrel Feeder-Don’t waste your time with wood squirrel feeders! I went through 3 of them in as many years until I got a metal one. I’ve had it ever since. While I don’t believe this is all you have to do to stop squirrels from raiding your feeders, it is an integral part of a system along with baffling all your feeders and NEVER underestimating their intelligence.
Upside Down Suet Feeder-I’ve also had one of these for many years and they do really discourage many of the larger birds from raiding your feeders. Sure, some young bluejays and occasional starling will figure it out. For the most part, these will feed your chickadees, titmice, wrens, woodpeckers and even nuthatches!
20 lb Bag of Black Oil Sunflower Seed-Still the most widely accepted and most economical feed to give your backyard friends. Wrapping it might be difficult but what birder doesn’t love to have more seed on hand?
For your friends that just can’t make up their minds what to get you, gift certificates are always welcome. Here are two I recommend.
Walmart Gift Card-You’ll be able to find the cheapest price on your birding supplies here almost every time. Make sure to shop around but Walmart is a good bet most of the time.
Wild Birds Unlimited Gift Card-Look at this as a down payment on that special feeder, feed or doodad you’ve been eyeing all year. These are not available online but you can use the link to locate one close to you and make arrangements by phone.
How Did I Do?
Did I cover most of the bases? If not, let me know what else you recommend that you really love to get. Leave a comment below and let’s talk about it. Otherwise, download the PDF below and email it to your non-birding friends before it’s too late!
Let’s face it…who doesn’t love goldfinches in their back yards! Their sweet vocalizations and little fights with each other are reason enough to love them. When you throw in the male’s summer plumage, it’s impossible not to want to see more of them.
Over the years, I’ve tried different things to attract them. Some have worked and some not. Surprisingly, one of the most successful means I found by accident. Let me outline them for you.
Keep It Clean
Of all of the birds I feed, goldfinches have got to be the fussiest. If you have a feeder in your back yard they’ve been bombarding and suddenly, almost none of them are bothering it, chances are it’s gotten dirty. You may not be able to see it from your window or just passing by but it’s dirty or has gotten wet inside. And not just the feeder itself. If you have any kind of clear rain shield on top of it, clean that too. Unless it’s been dirty for a LONG time, you’ll see them return to it the day you clean it. If it has been dirty for a while just be patient. They will return to it.
Turn Their Lives Upside Down
Goldfinches are very social birds with their own species but appreciate having their feeders to themselves. This means if you can get them one of those upside-down thistle feeders, they’ll love you because house finches can’t use those. It’s also a good idea to locate the feeder away from your main feeder station.
Be patient. It usually takes a little while before one or two brave souls try it. Once they have, others will learn from them. The next thing you know, you’ll look out in your back yard this feeder will look like your hanging goldfinch ornaments from it-LOL!
Treat Them Like Chickadees
This is the surprise I told you about. Many years ago, I bought one of those chickadee feeders that have the larger bird restricting ring around it. Little by little, I started seeing goldfinches coming to it. I put sunflower chips in mine. After a little while, it became so busy I had to set up another to alleviate the traffic. Trust me on this: chickadees, titmice, wrens and goldfinches love this. House finches will learn to use it over time but not immediately. One of the things I do to help this is take it down after morning feeding and put it up again after dinner but before dark. They WILL learn and adapt to this schedule, I promise you.
So, there you have it. My top three tips for attracting more goldfinches. Do you have any tips or tricks you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them! Leave me a comment below and tell us about them. Thanks again for reading and enjoy your back yard!
Note from Jeff
I apologize for not posting as frequently as I should be and I promise to fix that. I’ve had a few family health/passing issues that are now behind me. I hope you’ll come back and join in again. If not, I understand and still wish you the best! JJ
Human Parents vs Bird Parents
While I have to admit I am not a parent in the conventional sense. We are parents to our 10 year old yorkie/chihuahua mix, Maggie which has been both challenging and rewarding. However, I am over fifty years of age and have been around a ton of parents and have heard about their struggles and triumphs. So, let me give you a light-hearted breakdown of the major issues facing both kinds of parents.
Human parents hope the child is born without complications and completely healthy. Bird parents hope nobody breaks into their house and harms their offspring before they’re born.
Human parents want their children to flourish so they can be parents themselves one day. Bird parents hope their babies get old enough to have children of their own.
Leaving The Nest
Human parents are divided between how much they’ll miss their kids when they leave the house and how nice it will be to have the house to themselves again. Bird parents can’t wait for their young to get out of the nest so they can stop carrying those damn fecal sacs in their beaks-yuck! Still, feeding them wherever the youngsters happen to land can get very tedious.
Human parents want their children to get whatever education they need to succeed in life. Whether they choose to go to college and career or are entrepreneurial minded, they want them to get the tools they need. Bird parents need their children to learn a whole bunch of stuff very quickly so that they will grow up-period!
Human parents want their kids to learn how to get along and work with many different types of people. You never know what opportunities will present themselves if you’re open to them. Bird parents want their children to learn to work with other birds, regardless of their social status, to help each other survive from predatory attacks.
Human parents want their kids to eat food that will help them grow big and strong. They help them learn the best places to get food that will support that goal. Ditto for bird parents.
Although they can be some of the most stress-filled ventures, human parents still want to take their kids on trips so they can see more of the world together. The parents of migratory birds feel the stress too! They may need to make long trips with their families in order to survive. Along the way, they’ve got to contend with lack of food or water, the elements and predation.
Both of these parents, I’m sure, will have fond memories to look back on in their later years.
Calling All Parents!
As I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch, could you please help me fill in the blanks here! Leave me a comment on your favorite comparisons between human and bird parents.