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See Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s newest live bird cam at The Peregrine Fund in Boise, Idaho of the American Kestrel. It features two views: one inside the nest box and another from the outside so you can see adults arrive and admire the western skyline. The eggs have hatched and there are five tiny baby birds! http://www.allaboutbirds.org/kestrels

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Male and Female Anna's Hummingbirds

Male and Female Anna's Hummingbirds

I haven’t been able to get a really clear photo of the hummingbirds that visit my sugar-water feeder. As you know, they are very small birds and land on the feeder for a very short time; then they’re off about their business! And when their wings are beating thousands of times a minute they look like a blur. This is the best photo I’ve taken. It shows a male and female Anna’s Hummingbird drinking sugar-water. As you probably know, the male bird is the dark green color and the female is the tannish grayish green color. The male Anna’s Hummingbird is the only U.S. hummer with a scarlet red crown and throat. The female has a small central patch of red spots on her throat.

I’ve had a few sightings during the past ten years of the Allen’s Hummingbird. The male bird has rufous or rust colored sides, rump, tail, and cheeks with a fiery red throat and a green back.

Each spring I hang a mesh bag of white cotton lint from my dryer on the deck near the bird feeders for the birds to use to build and line their nests. American and Lesser Goldfinches and House Finches peck at the lint. A few days ago an Anna’s Hummingbird drank nectar from the sugar-water feeder and then flew over and pecked at the cotton a few times and flew away with a beak full. Made my day! During the course of a day I usually miss these sightings.

If you’d like to bring hummingbirds to your yard buy a nectar or sugar-water feeder and hang where it can be seen from above. Hummingbird feeders are usually plastic and inexpensive when compared to other bird feeders. The red-colored design of the feeder grabs the attention of the hummingbirds. As you probably know hummingbirds drink nectar from brightly colored, especially red, flowers. They also eat insects.

Mix your own sugar-water hummingbird food using one part sugar to four parts water. Don’t use honey or food coloring. Bring 4 cups water to a boil and then add one cup of sugar and dissolve. Cool before pouring into feeder. Store left-over sugar water for up to a week in the refrigerator. If your feeder is small bring 2 cups of water to a boil and add 1/2 cup sugar; dissolve.

I have a beautiful new bird house (nest box) to put in our yard this spring. Since I live in northern California I probably should have put up the bird house by now.

Bird houses can be put up one month prior to the arrival of nesting birds. Houses should be up by February in the warmer climates and by late March or early April in colder climates.

Before I put up the new bird house I plan to modify it to protect the bird house and the birds who build a nest from gnawers and predators. We have three bird houses (nest boxes) in our backyard from previous years. The opening of all three houses has been gnawed so that the houses are no longer safe for our backyard birds and birds will probably not nest in them.

Birds choose to nest in a bird house because they feel safe from predators. I’ve found some suggestions to protect my bird house from predators.

First

  • Make sure that the entrance opening is the correct size for the birds you are trying to attract.
  • Never use a perch on your bird houses. Perches only invite predators. If you buy a bird house with a perch, remove it.

I’m hoping to attract and make a home for one of these species.
The recommended diameter size of the bird house opening is given for each species.

Bewick’s Wren – 1  1/4 inches
Chestnut-backed Chickadee – 1  1/8 inches
Oak Titmouse – 1  1/4 inches
White-breasted Nuthatch – 1  1/4 – 1  3/8 inches

The bird house I ordered from a well-known online bird store has an opening diameter of 1 1/2 inches and while it appears a bit large, the company says it will attract all the species I have listed.

Cats and raccoons will attack the bird house from above. They will either climb the tree that the bird house is mounted on or they will jump from a nearby tree. They will then reach into the nest box and destroy the nest.

Solutions:

  • Mount your bird house on a pole or a tree at least 10 feet from the ground and at least 10 feet away from any structure that a cat or raccoon could jump from.
  • Using a metal baffle will keep many bird house predators from climbing up to the bird house. A piece of metal air duct is inexpensive and a perfect solution for this.
  • A roof that over hangs the front of the bird house at least six inches will prevent cats and raccoons from reaching inside from above.
  • Attach a block of wood ¾” to 1″ around the entrance hole. This will make it more difficult for cats and raccoons to reach inside.

Squirrels will destroy the bird house by chewing at the entrance hole to get inside. This makes is easier for the squirrels and other predators to get inside and destroy the nest and inhabitants.

Solutions:

  • Attach a block of wood ¾” to 1″ around the entrance hole. This will make it more difficult for the squirrels to enlarge the hole.
  • Place a piece of sheet metal around the entrance hole, matched it to the size of the hole. This will protect the entrance hole from being enlarged by squirrels and other birds.

I also found that squirrels can be deterred from chewing or gnawing at the opening by applying a hot pepper solution to the wood around the opening. Squirrels and other mammals taste the hot pepper, while birds do not. The hot pepper is not harmful to birds.

To make a pepper-based squirrel repellent, mix a bottle of very hot sauce with a gallon of water and a teaspoon of mild dishwashing liquid. Mix thoroughly and apply to opening or spray on anything you don’t want the squirrels chewing on.

Another repellent is made from 1 cup crushed chili peppers and dried cayenne peppers mixed with a gallon of water. Allow the pepper-water mixture to steep for a few days. Then strain with several layers of  cheesecloth  and apply to opening. Repellent may need to be reapplied occasionally.

I plan to apply a hot pepper solution to the area around the opening and then attach a block of wood or a piece of metal to protect the opening and the birds inside.

I’ll let you know if I am successful!

“Flowers always make people better, happier and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine to the soul.”
~Luther Burbank, botanist (1849-1926)
Plant flowers, shrubs, and trees that provide nourishment for backyard birds. 

Although cold temperatures or other challenges may prevent some folks from planting outside at this time of year, starting seeds indoors is an option for anyone who wants to benefit from the “flower power” that Burbank describes. Indeed, many native plants will not blossom from seed in the first year unless they get a head start, due to their long growing seasons. Wildlife-attracting perennials such as blazing star, purple coneflower and bee balm are just three examples.

Homemade Pots for Seed-Starting

While seeds are often sown in flats that are purchased, they will also thrive—with proper care—in pots made out of yogurt cups, milk cartons and other household containers. Be sure to clean these items first to prevent diseases from affecting seedlings. And add drainage holes to keep plants from becoming waterlogged.

“It’s very easy to make seed-starting pots out of items that were destined for the recycling bin or compost pile (or, worse, the trash!),” wrote gardener Colleen Vanderlinden in an article on Planet Green. She recommends crafting pots out of newspaper, eggshells and toilet paper tubes—all of which can eventually go into the garden with the young plants.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Mother Earth News offers simple instructions for making pots out of toilet paper tubes. Or visit Adriana Martinez’s Anarchy in the Garden blog to watch a clip of her demonstrating her technique. As Martinez points out, “This is a great activity for children too.”

This eHow video highlights one way to create a newspaper pot:

How to Create Seed-Starting Pots from Newspapers

Putting up bird houses is a great way to bring nesting birds into your yard. And it helps the birds by providing nesting spots that are sometimes difficult for birds to find, especially if there is a lot of competition for those spots in the area.

Some birds nest in cavities, such as old woodpecker holes in trees or in natural cavities caused by broken-off branches. These are the birds that will also use a nesting box or bird house. But many other birds build open-cupped nests in the branches of a tree or shrub, or build specialized nests such as the hanging bag-like nest the orioles make.

No matter what types nests your birds build,  almost all of them use soft materials that dry quickly to line their nests. You can help all your birds by providing natural cotton fibers, pieces of thread or yarn, feathers, aspen fibers, or even Spanish moss. Birds will also use fresh green moss as well as string, animal hair and pine needles in their nests.

Provide nesting materials for your birds. You can simply hang a mesh produce bag of natural cotton fibers from a branch. Or you can use a hanging nesting basket filled with cotton and then refill it with cotton or other nesting materials such as aspen fibers and Spanish moss. Use grapevine balls filled with cotton. These are also refillable! An unused suet feeder also makes a great nesting materials holder.

You’ll love watching the birds come and go as they pull out tufts of materials to carry back to their nesting site. And by offering the proper materials that provide the softest lining, the best insulation, and the driest nests, you’ll be ensuring that your baby birds have the best chance at survival. And next year these same babies will return to build nests of their own in your backyard!

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Celebrate Spring and welcome wildlife to your yard. Welcome beautiful birds, butterflies, and other friendly neighboorhood wildlife to your yard and garden.

Provide these essential elements for healthy and sustainable wildlife habitats. 

  • Food Sources – Native plants, seeds, fruits, nuts, berries, nectar
  • Water Sources – Birdbath, pond, water garden, stream
  • Places for Cover – Thicket, rockpile, birdhouse
  • Places to Raise Young – Dense shrubs, vegetation, nesting box, pond
  • Sustainable Gardening – Mulch, compost, rain garden, chemical-free fertilizer

Find out how to create a certified wildlife habitat.

https://secure.nwf.org/backyard/certify.cfm?campaignid=WH08CPCRD

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