Eight Oriole Species Brighten Summer Backyards Across the U.S.
May 27, 2020

Eight Oriole Species Brighten Summer Backyards Across the U.S.

I could be forgiven, being a lifelong Baltimorian and a serious baseball fan, for having a special affection for orioles, but I am not alone. For many bird watchers, the return of orioles in the spring is a special moment. It is not just that orioles are beautiful, the males a palette of rich oranges, yellows, and blacks, or that their song, familiar and resonant, rings across the landscape. It is that no matter where you live in North America, you have a chance of seeing one.

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How—and Why—to Clean Your Bird Feeders
May 24, 2020

How—and Why—to Clean Your Bird Feeders

Although it is rare—even unheard of—for humans to become sick from handling a bird feeder, there is no doubt that microorganisms flourish on their surface. That's why it's important for you to wash your hands after handling your feeders, including after refilling them. Much more of a threat are illnesses and diseases spread among the birds that visit and share feeders. To keep your feeder birds healthy, and to prevent the spread of disease, follow these steps.
Ask Birdsquatch: Bird Nests and Fur?
May 20, 2020

Ask Birdsquatch: Bird Nests and Fur?

Dear Birdsquatch:

My girlfriend and I have been saving our cats' fur from their brush so we can put it out for birds who are building nests. What's the best way to attract birds to our balcony so that they can find and use it? What's the best receptacle for the fur?

—David F.,
Minneapolis, Minnesota

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Beware of Burdock
May 13, 2020

Beware of Burdock

The common burdock (Arctium minus) is considered a weed by most people, in part because it is not a native plant, but was brought here from Europe, and now grows wild from coast to coast. Those familiar with the plant, which can grow to six feet, know it mostly because of the tenacious burrs it produces. It can be a death trap to hummingbirds!

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Ask Birdsquatch: Gardening without Insecticides?
May 6, 2020

Ask Birdsquatch: Gardening without Insecticides?

Dear Birdsquatch: I get it that songbirds feed their nestlings grubs and caterpillars and other insects, and so using insecticides can harm baby birds. But I'm an avid gardener. I don't want hornworms to destroy my tomato plants, or worms on my cabbage. How can I grow beautiful vegetables without using insecticides?

—Peggy S.,
Rolla, Missouri

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Sky Watching: A Backyard Bird Bonanza
Apr 29, 2020

Sky Watching: A Backyard Bird Bonanza

Many backyard bird watchers miss a big piece of migration because they don't look up. Not all the birds that sweep past each spring and fall make a pit stop at your bird feeder, or even in your neighborhood. Some, such as hawks, waterfowl, and gulls, keep right on truckin', headed for distant places or searching for habitat most backyard bird watchers can't provide. In migration, the sky over your house is a highway; on some days it can be as busy as the beltway at rush hour.
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Ask Birdsquatch: Is Grape Jelly Harmful to Orioles?
Apr 22, 2020

Ask Birdsquatch: Is Grape Jelly Harmful to Orioles?

Dear Birdsquatch: My daughter is trying to convince me that grape jelly is bad for orioles. They love it, and I've had 11 Baltimore orioles and 2 orchard orioles at one time in my yard—thanks to grape jelly. Is it really so bad? Should I switch to fresh fruit instead? I'd prefer to stick with what works.

—Carolyn C.,
Ann Arbor, Michigan

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Bluebird Boxes and Spring Housecleaning
Apr 15, 2020

Bluebird Boxes and Spring Housecleaning

To clean or not to clean last year's nest from a bluebird box in preparation for nesting this spring—that is the question. Research shows that bluebirds, when given the choice, overwhelmingly select boxes with an old nest in it. This goes against a popular thought that bluebirds avoid old nests due to parasitic blowfly larvae. Blowflies lay their eggs in old nests, and the larvae attack the young birds.

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Ask Birdsquatch: Wood Duck Boxes
Mar 18, 2020

Ask Birdsquatch: Wood Duck Boxes

Dear Birdsquatch: I want to put up some wood duck boxes in my large, wooded backyard. However the nearest body of water (a wooded pond in a county park) is more than a half-mile away from my property. Am I being foolish? Do I need to ask permission to put the boxes on the park property where the pond is?

—Dawn, Who is Desirous of Ducks
Lawton, Oklahoma

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Why Do Birds Sing?
Mar 11, 2020

Why Do Birds Sing?

You don't need to be an avid birder to notice that birds make a wide variety of sounds. Some of these sounds are gentle and pleasant, like the beautiful phrasing of a newly arrived wood thrush in spring. Other sounds can be jarring and annoying, at least to a nonbirder, such as the loud mechanical imitations of a northern mockingbird on a summer night.
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Ask Birdsquatch: Furry Enlightenment
Mar 4, 2020

Ask Birdsquatch: Furry Enlightenment

Hey Furball:

I want to give the birds some natural nesting material this spring. Can I put out the long gray hairs that were just cut from my head? I decided it was time to lose the mullet. I’m looking for enlightenment here. You’re so hairy I figured you’d know.

—Dandy Dan
Hattiesburg, Mississippi

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Junco Facts You Might Not Know
Feb 26, 2020

Junco Facts You Might Not Know

Did you know? Juncos begin leaving their homes in the boreal forests across northern North America in October and tend to return to the same areas each year, bird banding research has shown.
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Early Birds
Feb 19, 2020

Early Birds

Across much of the United States, a cohort of birds always seems to rush the season; they can be heard singing even as February snow flies. For those of us who fall asleep with seed catalogs draped across our flannel-clad chests, these songsters are immensely cheering. Yet many of us are unaware of why certain birds seem to start singing—and nesting—so early in the season.
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Love / Birds
Feb 14, 2020

Love / Birds

Do birds "love" their mates? The answer is impossible to know, and certainly requires anthropomorphizing. We know that birds and humans share some emotions, with fear being perhaps the most obvious. But what about love? Many birds (male hummingbirds are an exception) are devoted parents, who seem to care for their nestlings and fledglings lovingly. But is that really love? What about birds who mate for life? Could their pair bond be called love?
Top 10 Signs of Early Spring
Feb 12, 2020

Top 10 Signs of Early Spring

By the time you read this, spring may have a firm grip on your local area, but February is usually still winter in Ohio. It’s going to happen, though, spring is. Here are 10 long-awaited signs that a change in seasons is just around the corner.
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How Much Seed in a Pound of Seed?
Feb 5, 2020

How Much Seed in a Pound of Seed?

Hulled sunflower seed (which means "without hulls") is often sold as sunflower chips, sunflower hearts, or no-mess sunflower seeds. It is very convenient, and attracts a wide variety of species to your feeder, but it is pricey compared with black-oil sunflower seeds in the shell. Or is it?

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Types of Seed Blends
Jan 30, 2020

Types of Seed Blends

With several types of bird food available on the market today, it's nice to have an option that offers something for everyone eating in your backyard. We've rounded up the most common ingredients of seed blends, their benefits to birds, and how to make sure you're buying the right mix for your backyard birding needs.
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Making a Good Match: Bird Seed and Bird Feeders
Jan 29, 2020

Making a Good Match: Bird Seed and Bird Feeders

Would you frequent a restaurant that served your sandwich on the floor and dog food on the table? That's the human equivalent of offering birds inexpensive mixed seed in a hanging feeder. Cheap birdseed mixes usually contain a high proportion of milo, wheat, millet, and cracked corn. Such ingredients are fine for many ground-feeding birds, such as doves, blackbirds, quail, and sparrows, but not the favorite foods of birds that naturally eat above the ground, such as chickadees, nuthatches, wrens, and grosbeaks.
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Millet vs. Milo
Jan 22, 2020

Millet vs. Milo

If you look at the contents of a birdseed mix, you might find sunflower seeds, cracked corn, or peanuts. Those are pretty well understood commodities. But you might also find millet or milo. What are they, and who eats them?

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Top 10 Foods for Winter Bird Feeding
Jan 15, 2020

Top 10 Foods for Winter Bird Feeding

Winter: 'Tis the season for feeding birds all across North America, especially in those regions where it gets mighty cold and snowy. If you are just getting started in bird feeding, or if you are frustrated by a lack of success in attracting winter birds to your feeders, the first thing you need to determine is whether you are feeding the right foods. If you are not giving the birds what they want, you might not have many birds.
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