Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hummingbirds … Attracting Those Little Flying Powerhouses

Hummingbirds … Attracting Those Little Flying Powerhouses
by Bonnie Carrier

It’s early in May a beautiful fairly warm day so I’ve decided to enjoy it and sit on the front porch.
While relaxing in a rocking chair with my eyes closed, just enjoying the sun and early warmth I begin to hear a sound off in the distance. At first it’s not recognizable, sounds almost like a hum from a model airplane.
As it begins to get louder I’m beginning to think I know what the source of this strange noise is.
I open my eyes and sure enough just as I thought there is a small green colored Hummer hovering right at the edge of the porch – coincidentally right where a feeder normally hangs – now I’m not certain but he appears to be looking right at me like he’s trying to tell me “Hey, I’m back, where’s the food”.
Every year it’s the same, they show up around Mothers Day and every year I’m always a little surprised to see them and of course not prepared.  Well so much for my relaxing afternoon, it’s time to get out the feeders, clean them and make up some food then get them hung. And so begins another season with these marvelous entertaining little birds.
Attracting Hummingbirds:
Hummers have a good memory they can remember where to find food sources from previous years. However, in order for them to remember your home you will first need to let them know about it.
There are two ways to accomplish this, first by planting or hanging flowers that will attract them, second is to have an additional food source such as a hanging feeder that you keep filled with a syrup solution.
Flowers that have red to orange blossom colors are known to attract them but they will visit any color if they discover sufficient nectar.
Blossom shape is also important as this little birds beak is long and tapered, so downward-hanging blossom – Honeysuckle is a good example – are a favorite.
Several other varieties are as follows. These particular flowers are geared for the Northeast – where I happen to live – so you will want to check within your region for appropriate blooms.
· Bee Balm

· Salvia

· Foxglove

· Lilac

· Hollyhock

· Forsythia
There are several Annuals that will also satisfy their little palettes.
· Fuchsia

· Impatiens

· Petunia
As these are favorites in the use of hanging baskets each summer try hanging several around your home. The most common place of course is on your front porch or on hooks around a deck or patio; another idea is to hang some right from tree branches. I’ve done this and not only do the Hummers like them; it also adds color and interest out in the yard.
Putting Up A Feeder:
From elaborately decorated glass to simple plastic there are numerous types of feeders to choose from.
I will tell you from experience, I’ve used both – the decorated one just because it was pretty, the Hummers really didn’t care – and I ended up with a simple teardrop shaped clear glass container with perches around the base, it was easy to tell when the solution was low and simple to take apart.
Where to hang your feeder or feeders – once you start, guaranteed you’ll have to have more than one – is up to you and the layout of your home and yard. If you have an open porch this is a great place or from tree branches. Most people look for spots where the birds can be seen; after all half the fun comes from watching these little dynamites. Feeders that mount to windows with suction cups are another alternative.
What To Fill Them With:
Two choices here, pre-made solution or hand made, the choice is up to you. I personally have done both but if you prefer to make your own the following is the standard recipe.
· One part ordinary white cane sugar to four parts water

· Boil the water if you wish however it is not really necessary

· Store unused syrup in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
If you choose to make your own solution, do not add honey as it ferments very rapidly and can be fatal to the birds. Also the addition of red food coloring is not necessary, they will find the food without it.
Maintenance of Feeder:
Sugar and water mixed together will ferment – not good for the birds – which limits it’s usability, this can happen very quickly during hot summer months.
Therefore, when temperatures range between 60-85 degrees – or higher – the mixture really should be changed about every three days, of course if you happen to have a few Hummingbirds visiting your outdoor diner then you will be refilling about this amount of time anyway. If you should notice any cloudiness in the mixture change it right away.
Before refilling feeder be sure to thoroughly clean the feeder with warm soapy water and rinse very thoroughly. This is where having a feeder that comes apart easily is important.
Attracting these wonderful little birds is not only entertaining it’s also beneficial as they also eat insects.
Plant some Bee Balm, hang a container filled with a beautiful Fuchsia plant and last but not least put up a feeder.  You’ll find that having your peaceful afternoon snooze on the porch interrupted is worth it.
If you would like to learn more about the Hummingbird the following web site are filled with lots of great information.
· The Hummingbird Society -

· The Hummingbird Web Site -
This is a share ware article. Give this article away for free on your site, or include it as part of any paid package as long as the entire article is left intact including this notice.   Copyright © 2005 bonnie carrier.
Bonnie P. Carrier is the creator of Savvy Home Decorating & Savvy Outdoor Decorating.  She is the mother to two grown daughters and a very spoiled 4yr old Blue Merle Sheltie named Toby. Stop by for information and ideas for both inside and outside your home.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Learning about Hummingbirds

Learning about Hummingbirds
by Brian Ramsey

Hummingbirds are a joy for a birdwatcher to observe. They are
found only in the Western Hemisphere, from as far north as
Southeastern Alaska and the Maritimes of Canada and as far south
as Southern Chile. There are approximately 350 species of
hummingbirds with 320 species found in the tropics. Within the
family of hummingbirds is found the smallest bird in the world,
the Bee Hummingbird of Cuba at 2.17 inches (5.5 cm) and weight
1.95gm (0.07 oz). Hummingbirds range in size from 2 inches to 8

The hummingbird derives its name from the humming sound that is
produced by its rapid wingbeat. Generally the wingbeat is so
rapid that the individual only sees a blur as most of these
birds flap their wings about 50 times per second. The speed of
the wingbeat depends on the size of the bird, the largest the
Giant Hummingbird, has a wingbeat rate of 10-15 times per
second. The fastest recorded rate was about 80 times per second,
on a tiny Amethyst Woodstar, and the slightly smaller Bee
Hummingbird - the world's smallest bird - may have an even
faster rate. A hummingbird's wing is flexible at the shoulder,
but inflexible at the wrist, this enables them to fly in many
different directions. They can fly right, left, up, down,
backwards and even upside down. To move away from the flowers on
which they feed hummingbirds fly backwards and are the only bird
able to fly backwards. While other birds get their flight power
from the downstroke only, hummingbirds also have strength on the
up-stroke. Though they fly very fast, they can suddenly stop and
make a soft landing. They are so light they do not build up much
momentum. Hummingbirds have poorly developed feet, so that
although they are able to perch and will do so when feeding or
resting, they do not walk. In order to move, even along a
branch, they fly. Hummingbirds lift from perches without pushing
off; they rise entirely on their own power, flapping their wings
at almost full speed before lifting off. Hummingbirds sleep
perched on branches with their neck retracted and their head
forward, the bill pointed up at a sharp angle, and the feathers

It is believed that hummingbirds live for only 3 to 4 years.
They have a fast heartbeat with a rate of 1260 beats per minute
having been measured in a Blue-throated Hummingbird. In torpid
hummingbirds, the heart rate can drop to 50-180 per minute.
Their fast heart rate and rapid wing motion require them to feed
regularly throughout the day. It is reported that they must feed
every 10 minutes and they may consume 2/3 of their body weight
in a single day. A major part of a hummingbird's diet is the
nectar they obtain from flowers and their bills are perfectly
adapted to the various types of flowers that they feed on. Some
hummingbirds have especially curved or elongated bills that
allow them to feed on special flowers, eg the White-tipped
Sicklebill hummingbird who'se downward curving bill allows it to
draw nectar from heliconias. Copper-rumped Hummingbird has a straight
long bill that allows it to feed on medium sized tube shaped
flowers such as the allamanda. In feeding, hummingbirds use
their tongue to lap the nectar in a similar manner to cats
lapping milk. Their tongue can extend a distance equal to their
beak length. As they feed hummingbirds accidentally collect
pollen and as they move from flower to flower, they help the
flowers to reproduce.

Hummingbirds have little or no sense of smell, so colour is
important to a hummingbird's search process for locating flowers
containing nectar. While they will visit any flower that has
sufficient nectar they prefer flowers that are red to orange in
colour. It is believed that there are several reasons for this
colour preference. Red flowers standout in a green
background and so are more easily seen by the hummingbird. It is
also believed that because hummingbirds compete with insects for
nectar they choose flowers that are less likely to be visited by
insects. Most insects do not see well at the red end of the
colour spectrum and so may not visit red flowers while
hummingbirds see the full visible spectrum.

Hummingbirds also need protein in order to build muscles, so
they eat insects. They prefer to feed on small spiders and
slow-flying insects such as gnats, small wasps and leafhoppers,
which are rather buoyant in air and easy to catch. They also
probe the bark and foliage for insects such as aphids, spiders,
caterpillars and insect eggs. It is believed that up to one-half
of their diet is made up of small insects. Hummingbirds are
capable of living for extended periods without nectar as a
component of their diet. They can quickly convert fat reserves
and recently ingested insects to energy when deprived of nectar.
Hummingbirds compete for nectar and insects and so they develop
territories, which they guard aggressively. They will fight with
other hummingbirds that enter their territory but serious harm
is seldom inflicted during these fights. Also when food sources
are scarce they fight to protect their source.

Most hummingbirds are green except hermits, which are mainly
brown, and are known for the iridescence. These brilliant,
iridescent colors of the hummingbird plumage are caused by the
refraction of incident light by the structures of certain
feathers. These structures split light into its component
colors, and only certain frequencies are refracted back to the
viewer. The brown colour in some hummingbirds is the result
however of pigmentation. Hummingbirds groom themselves with
their bills and claws, using oil from a gland near their tail.
They also use their claws like a comb to groom their heads and
necks. They sunbathe positioning their breast towards the sun
and fluffing out, extending their neck and spreading their tail.
Hummingbirds also take water baths using the water in shallow
pools or cupped leaves. They flutter their wings or pull them
straight back while lifting and spreading their tail; they dip
their chins and bellies into the water. At times they can be
seen sitting on a bare branch allowing the rain to soak through
to their skin. After bathing they will preen and dry their

Hummingbirds build cup shaped nests, however hermits build long
hanging nests usually attached to foliage. Male hummingbirds do
not contribute to the building of nests or the care of young.
All feeding is therefore left to the female. When feeding the
female perches on the side of the nest, arches her back,
stretches her neck, lifts her head, and holds her bill down to
regurgitate nectar and half-digested insects to her babies. Her
throat swells and she pumps her beak like a sewing needle.

Although various larger birds, snakes, and mammals raid
hummingbird nests for eggs and chicks, this is not a major cause
of death.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tough Question for you Birders out there.

Tell me the one bird that you don't care if you ever see again. I don't mean that you would want them to become extinct or anything like that. But, what bird would you not mind if you ever saw again. Think about it and let me know what bird and why. I know there will be some votes for Starlings and maybe Vultures but I can't honestly say that I wouldn't want to see them ever again. I happen to think that Turkey Vultures are beautiful! Well, maybe a little homely in the face, but the feathers are beautiful!

This question came to mind because I'm always saying that a bird (whatever kind) is one of my favorites or beautiful. Surely they can't all be beautiful! I'm just curious.

Outdoor Bird Houses--What Birds They Can Attract into Your Yard

Outdoor Bird Houses--What Birds They Can Attract into Your Yard
by Mary Fesio

The American Robin is the largest thrush.  Robins prefer to build their nest in the crotch of a tree.  You can offer a nesting platform if you don’t have an appropriate tree.  You should pick a spot that is, at least, six feet above the ground on a shaded tree trunk or under the overhang of a shed or porch.  A created mud puddle in the vicinity, also, offers additional enticement, as robins use mud to hold their nests together.

 Bluebirds can be attracted by putting up a bluebird house near an old field,  golf course, park or orchard.   The most consideration must be given to the hole diameter.  A hole that is an inch and a half in diameter is small enough to deter starlings, which along with house sparrows, are known to kill bluebirds while sitting on the nest.  Other animals are problematic to bluebirds, also.  Cats, snakes, chipmunks and raccoons can be discouraged from bluebird nests by mounting the bluebird home on a metal pole or by using a metal predator guard on a wood post.

 Purple Martins are a welcomed bird in many a yard because they are known to eat nearly 2,000 mosquitoes a day.  While it is true purple martins eat flying insects, don’t expect them to eliminate all the mosquitoes in your yard.  The martins prefer dragonflies which prey on the larvae of mosquitoes.  If you want to rid your yard of mosquitoes, you would have better luck if you put up a bat roosting box.  One bat can eat thousands of mosquitoes in one night.

 Martins, however, are entertaining birds.  You will enjoy watching their antics in your yard.  The best way of attracting martins is if you put a house on the edge of a river or pond, surrounded by a lawn or field.  A nearby telephone wire gives them a place to congregate, as martins are sociable birds.  

 Purple martins, being sociable birds, nest in groups, also.  Therefore, you will need a house with a minimum of four large rooms, six or more inches on all sides, with a 2 ½ inch entrance hole about 1 ½ inches above the floor.  Drainage and ventilation are major factors in the design of a martin house.  Porches with porch dividers, railings and supplemental roof perches like a TV antenna make any house more appealing.

 Houses can, also, be constructed from gourds by fashioning an entrance hole and small holes at the bottom to permit drainage.  If you make homes from gourds, it is not necessary to add railings and perches because adult martins will perch on the wire used to hang the house.  Before you choose a house, you must think about what kind of pole you are going to put it on.  Martins like their houses to be ten to twenty feet off the ground.  Some poles are less cumbersome than others.

 Wrens are not very choosy about their nesting place.  Nest boxes with a 1 inch X 2 inch horizontal slot are enticing to the wrens.  The Carolina wren requires a slot a little larger, 1 ½ in X 2 ½ inches.  However, the large the opening, the better the chances that house sparrows will occupy the box.  Wrens are known to fill the nest cavity with twigs, regardless of the fact they use the home to raise their young or not.  Since male wrens build several houses so that the female can have her choice of a home, you should hang several nest boxes at eye level on tree limbs that are partly sunlit.  Wrens are sociable.  Consequently, they will not shy away from a nest close to your house.

 Brown creepers and Prothonotary warblers like nesting behind the curved bark of tree trunks.  Slab bark houses appeal to creepers in heavily wooded yards.  Prothonotary warblers, also, prefer slab bark houses or bluebird boxes attached to a tree trunk.  But their houses must be place over water such as a like, swamp or river with a good canopy of trees overhead.

 Chickadees, Nuthatches and Titmice share the same habitat—feeders and food.  If you put a properly designed nest box in a wooded yard, at least one of these species is bound to check it out.  Chickadee houses should be placed at eye level.  They can be secured to tree trunks or hung from tree limbs.  The entrance h ole should be 1 1/8 inches in order to attract chickadees and exclude house sparrows.  Nuthatch houses should be anchored five to six feet off the ground.

 Barn Swallows and Phoebes are easy to attract if you have the right habitat like an old shed or open barn.  Their nesting behavior, not their song or plumage, which at will catch your attention.  But they tend to nest where you rather not have them — on a ledge directly over your front door.  You can offer them a nesting shelf near the front door to prevent a mess right at the door.

 Violet green and Tree Swallows prefer nest boxes attached to dead trees.  You should place the boxes about seven feet apart for these birds with white bellies and iridescent blue-green backs and wings.  These insect-eating birds like to be on the edge of a large field that has a river or lake nearby.

 Violet-green swallows, generally, nest in the forested mountains of the West.  Boxes placed on large trees in a semi-open woodland will tend to attract them. Woodpeckers of all types can be attracted with a suet feeder.  But, only, the flicker is likely to use a bird house.  They prefer a box with a roughened interior and a floor covered with two inches of layered wood chips or sawdust.  Flickers are, especially, fond of nest boxes filled with sawdust because they pile it up to suit themselves.  The box should be placed high up on a tree trunk, exposed to direct sunlight for best results.

 Flycatchers—the great crested and its western cousin, the ash-throated flycatcher, are commonly, found in rural areas that have wooded lots and in wooded suburbs.  They use abandoned woodpecker holes for nesting sites.  Flycatchers tend to nest in a bird house if it is placed ten feet high in a tree in an orchard or at the edge of a field with a stream.  

 Owls very rarely build their own nests.  Great-horned and long-eared owls like abandoned crow and hawk nests.   Most other species nest in tree cavities and bird houses.  Barn owls like selecting nesting sites near farms.  These birds will nest in barns, silos and church steeples where trees are sparse.  You can try fastening a nest box for owls about fifteen feet up on a tree trunk if you live near a golf course or farm.

 Screech owls prefer abandoned woodpecker holes at the edge of a neglected orchard or field.  They will love boxes lined with an inch or two of wood shavings.  You may attract a second tenant in one season—a kestrel, if you clean out the box in late spring after the young owls have fledged.

 You need to provide drainage, ventilation and easy access for monitoring and maintenance for the boxes.  A mixture of concrete and sawdust offers protection other houses cannot provide—squirrels cannot chew their way in.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Birds, Birdwatching, And What To Feed Them

Birds, Birdwatching, And What To Feed Them
Birds. Alfred Hitchcock did his best to scare the heck out of us in regard to our fine feathered friends but birds are still about the safest of all animals to be around. Even the least attractive bird has a beauty to it. Maybe that's why so many people take up bird watching.

If you're thinking that the only thing involved with bird watching is going outside, making your way to a park and opening your eyes then you need to think again. Bird watching can actually be very involved. There are many techniques bird watchers use to just get the birds to come.

Starting with feeding.

What is it that birds want? Well, if you're trying to attract birds in the winter time to stare at from the confines of your nice warm home, the first thing you need to know is that most birds you will see in the winter are seed eating birds. So if you have a bird feeder in your backyard then what you simply want to do is make sure it is supplied with seeds and water. Do this regularly and eventually the birds will know that this is a consistent source of food and will come back regularly. Assuming that your bird feeder is close to a window you can get a, forgive the pun, bird's eye view of your dinner guests.

The best seeds to provide for your dinner guests are sunflower seeds. These seeds attract cardinals, woodpeckers, blue jays, goldfinches, purple finches, chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches.

Another really good seed is niger. Goldfinches absolutely love niger You can easily have as many as a dozen goldfinches visiting your feeder at one time. However, be forewarned, niger is very expensive. How expensive? Over $1 a pound expensive. So you want to be very careful with niger and don't waste it. The best thing to do is buy a hanging tube with tiny holes designed especially for it. Then hang it where you can see it from your window with the best view.

Another great seed to buy is safflower. This is a white seed that is smaller than a black sunflower seed. What's great about this seed is that squirrels won't touch it, which leaves more for the birds. These seeds are great for cardinals, titmice, chickadees, and downy woodpeckers.

White millet is another important seed to get for your feathered friends. This is a very cheap seed and you can scatter it on the ground for sparrows, juncos, and mourning doves. You can get a 50 pound bag of these for close to nothing. Very, very cheap seeds.

One thing you should never buy is bags of mixed birdseed. The reason is that there are going to be seeds in the bag that some birds will eat and some won't. Ultimately, because a bird will stumble upon a seed it doesn't like, the bird will fly away. In the end, all the birds will fly away and not come back. So stick to a seed that you want to use to attract the bird you're looking for.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tornado in MN.

I normally post birds or about birds but I saw this video of a tornado and had to post it. As I understand the family pet was killed but all others made it through the tornado.