Readers Ask: Should I Clean Out Last Year's Nest Box?
Mar 31, 2021

Readers Ask: Should I Clean Out Last Year's Nest Box?

This is a topic of some debate among nest box researchers. Messy, dropping-covered old nests should definitely be removed for health reasons. Some researchers believe that a bit of nesting material inside a box enhances its attractiveness to prospecting pairs of birds. Others claim that nest building is an important part of the courtship and breeding process and so we should allow our tenants to build their own nests.

Building a Better Bird House
Mar 24, 2021

Building a Better Bird House

Whether you buy your nest boxes at a store or nature center, or build them from scratch, there are certain characteristics your housing should have to best suit the needs of nesting birds. Here are some recommendations for nest box basics.
Save Your Eggshells for the Birds!
Mar 17, 2021

Save Your Eggshells for the Birds!

Here's one weird, but true way to help birds during nesting season: Save your eggshells and offer them to your avian visitors. Female birds need calcium—especially during egg-laying season.
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Is There a Screech-owl in Your Neighborhood?
Mar 10, 2021

Is There a Screech-owl in Your Neighborhood?

Do you have have a screech-owl living in your yard or neighborhood? You might! Unless you know what to look and listen for, you may not be aware of a screech-owl living in or near your backyard.

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Is It Safe to Clean Bird Feeders with Bleach?
Mar 3, 2021

Is It Safe to Clean Bird Feeders with Bleach?

Dear Birdsquatch:

You’ve recommended cleaning bird feeders with a solution of nine parts water to one part bleach. But isn’t bleach bad for the environment?

—COLLEEN S., TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA

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Ask Birdsquatch: How Do Birds Sleep?
Feb 24, 2021

Ask Birdsquatch: How Do Birds Sleep?

Dear Birdsquatch:

My grandson informed me recently that bird nests are nurseries and not houses. If that’s true, then where do birds sleep? I mean the birds that visit my bird feeders, not ducks or herons or roadrunners. And if your answer is that they perch in trees, then why don't they fall off when they sleep?

—Patty J., Columbia, Missouri

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Listen for Early Birds
Feb 17, 2021

Listen for Early Birds

Across much of the United States, some birds always seem to rush nesting season; they can be heard singing even as February snow flies. The northern cardinal leads the pack of early singers, closely followed by the tufted titmouse and chickadees.

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On Thistle and Goldfinches in Winter
Jan 27, 2021

On Thistle and Goldfinches in Winter

A Watching Backyard Birds subscriber emailed editor Dawn Hewitt a few days ago to ask why the American goldfinches had abandoned her thistle feeder. She said she had several Nyjer (thistle) feeders that she kept full, and the finches had been abundant there until recently.
Feeding content. Click for more!
Supplying Skulkers and Wallflowers
Jan 20, 2021

Supplying Skulkers and Wallflowers

Winter may be the best time of year for backyard feeding stations, as wild food sources become scarcer. In our yard in northwestern West Virginia, we also take an extra step that is often undervalued: We spread some handfuls of mixed seed on the ground in sheltered spots where we know skulking birds hide.
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Itty-Bitty Bird Feet
Jan 13, 2021

Itty-Bitty Bird Feet

Have you ever watched a bird vist your feeder during the winter and wondered, "Won't birds freeze their little feet off on the metal perches? It's 20 degrees below zero! How do they do it?" Nature has a clever way of keeping birds' feet warm and functional.
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Identifying Red Finches
Jan 6, 2021

Identifying Red Finches

The two common "red" finches that visit bird feeders all over North America are the purple finch and the house finch. Of these two, the house finch is the more common. It is also the more commonly misidentified because its plumage can vary from dull red to bright orange.
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These Holiday Gift Ideas Are for the Backyard Birds
Dec 9, 2020

These Holiday Gift Ideas Are for the Backyard Birds

Birds might not celebrate human holidays, but they are well aware of shorter days, longer nights, and dropping temperatures. Since most of us celebrate winter holiday by giving gifts, here are some ideas for holiday presents for backyard birds. They'll show you their gratitude by using them, and, if you've placed them properly, by coming into closer view.
Habitat content. Click for more!
Watch for Subtle Dimorphism
Dec 2, 2020

Watch for Subtle Dimorphism

Don't worry: Sexual dimorphism is G-rated. It means that males and females of a species look different. Dimorphism means "two forms." Cardinals are a great example: Adult male cardinals are bright red; females are a warm brown.

Four cool things about woodpeckers
Nov 25, 2020

Four cool things about woodpeckers

What makes a woodpecker a woodpecker? Certainly their behavior is an identifying characteristic: Most forage for insects on the trunks and branches of trees, and drill holes to get to prey or sap within; they drum with their bill; and they nest and roost in cavities they have excavated. But woodpeckers also have unique anatomical adaptations to their ecological niche.

10 Steps to Get Your Backyard Ready for Winter
Nov 18, 2020

10 Steps to Get Your Backyard Ready for Winter

When summer's last blossom is a memory, and the music of bird song has been replaced by the drone of tired autumn insects, your thoughts may turn to the long winter ahead. Now is the time to improve, enhance, and expand the attractiveness of your property for birds and other wildlife. Here are 10 easy steps to help you get ready for winter.

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Ask Birdsquatch: Head Bangers
Nov 11, 2020

Ask Birdsquatch: Head Bangers

Dear Birdsquatch:

I love woodpeckers and have managed to attract five woodpecker species to my backyard here in Kentucky. At my feeders they eat peanuts and suet and sunflower hearts. I know their natural food preferences are wood-boring insects, which they dig after with their chisellike bills. My question is this: How do they keep from knocking themselves out when they pound on a tree trunk repeatedly? Do they get concussions? Headaches?

—SIMONE, MUDLICK, KENTUCKY

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Leaf It Alone!
Nov 6, 2020

Leaf It Alone!

Autumn is a favorite season for many, with its kaleidoscope of colors, the arrival of wintering birds, and the crunching of leaves underfoot. We encourage you to enjoy the gifts of this season rather than spending time in your yard undertaking the traditional fall tasks of raking leaves and cleaning up garden and flowerbeds—the birds (and your back) will thank you!
Habitat content. Click for more!
Autumn Gardening Tips for Your Yard Birds
Nov 4, 2020

Autumn Gardening Tips for Your Yard Birds

Whether you'd like to admit it or not, autumn is here. Spring cleaning gets lots of attention, but for the backyard bird watcher, there's just as much to do in fall as in spring. Check out four tips to help your backyard birds in fall.
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Song Sparrow: Nearly Ubiquitous and Universally Delightful
Oct 28, 2020

Song Sparrow: Nearly Ubiquitous and Universally Delightful

Except for northern Canada and inland Alaska, song sparrows can be found throughout North America during some part of the year, and they are common denizens of backyards—especially under bird feeders. In the Northeast and most of the West, song sparrow is a year-round resident, but across southern Canada and the north-central states, the species is a summer breeder that heads south for the colder months.
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Ask Birdsquatch: Angry Birds!
Oct 21, 2020

Ask Birdsquatch: Angry Birds!

Dear Birdsquatch:

My girlfriend lives in a apartment complex next to a river where there are lots of ducks. The management of the complex left the following note on the exit doors of the complex:

"ANGRY BIRDS!! The angry birds are back!! Please be careful!! These birds are protected, so we cannot injure them. They like to come at your head."

Is this an Alfred Hitchcock movie come to life? What kind of birds are these and why would they attack?

—Nervous Boyfriend (Dennis B.) Waukesha, Wisconsin

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