If you hang bird feeders, have you figured out which birds are visiting? If you buy your birdseed mix from the grocery or dollar store, have you ever noticed that only a few types of bird visit and hog all the food? If so, it’s very likely that you’re hosting House Sparrows, whose presence in New England and the Northeast is being blamed for declines in some native songbird species. If you are concerned about the welfare of our bird populations, you do not want to feed, house or otherwise encourage House Sparrows!
It may seem cruel to single out certain types of birds to discourage, but House Sparrows (also called English Sparrows) are an invasive species in the US. Brought to this country from Europe in the 20th century, they quickly established large populations that have spiralled out of control, outcompeting native songbirds for food, shelter and space. Along with European Starlings (another invasive bird in the US), House Sparrows are considered a threat to many bird species already at risk due to habitat loss and pollution. In fact, these birds are among the very few species in the US not protected under Federal species protection laws.
Since the mid-1990s, populations of invasive birds have increased significantly. House Sparrows thrive around human habitation, and you can often see them picking at food scraps in parking lots of fast-food joints or big-box stores (where they also find safe housing inside). They are quick to find a residential bird feeder, and will gobble up large amounts of birdseed, leaving little to the less aggressive birds indigenous to New England.
Many birds use elaborate displays to impress and attract a mate. In this video from David Attenborough and BBC wildlife, some interesting male birds are shown attracting females – including peacocks, pheasants and long-tailed widowbird.
The fall season in New England not only provides colorful foliage to leaf-peepers but it’s also a great time for birders as the migratory species use the Atlantic Flyway stops throughout the region on their journey south.
These six destinations – one for each state – provides the best of both worlds for bird spotters, the opportunity to observe their favorite bird species amongst some of the most spectacular fall scenery anywhere in the world.
I apologize now for leaving out so many great spots. Also remember there is no set date for peak foliage viewing with any of these locations as there are many factors that dictate when its peak. I’ve tried to indicate average dates for great foliage but please don’t send me threatening letters if nature decides on other dates this year. Please share your own fall locations that I left out in the comments section at the end of the article.
For bird watchers and backyard birders alike, wild bird identification is a fun and sometimes challenging activity. Recognizing and identifying wild birds is easier when the four keys to bird identification are used – Size & Shape, Color Pattern, Behavior and Habitat.
Bird Identification – Bird Habitat
A habitat is where a bird lives, eats and sleeps, and all birds are uniquely suited to survive in a particular area or environment. Habitats are broken down into four general categories, including Forested Woodlands, Water or Aquatic areas, Scrub Shrub areas or Open Habitats.
Bird Watching and identification is about the probability of seeing a species of bird in their habitat during a particular time of year. Bird watchers who know what birds are likely to be seen in a habitat have a identification head start – a short list of birds they expect to see, and a quick visual cue for birds that require an extra look.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has created an excellent video series to help the beginning birder develop their wild bird identification skills. Below, is the fourth and last in the series – Recognizing Birds – Bird Habitat. The other videos in the series can be found here – Size & Shape, Color Pattern, and Behavior.
This hummingbird nest camera in Laguna Beach,California began broadcasting in May 2010. To the excitement of over 370,000 viewers, two families of hummingbirds have used the nest. The mother hummingbird called Emma by the camera operators, feeds …
What do flocks of birds have in common with trust, monogamy, and even the release of breast milk? According to a new report in the journal Science, they are regulated by virtually identical neurochemicals in the brain, known as oxytocin in mammals and mesotocin in birds.
We had a strange visitor to the butterfly bushes at the Byam Learning Garden the other day. At first, it appeared as though a smaller than usual hummingbird had found our newly planted butterfly bushes. But after closer inspection we discovered the visitor was not a bird at all, but an insect – more specifically a hummingbird moth.
Video of squirrel completing an amazingly difficult obstacle course. Brilliant.
The Toucan family is comprised of 37 species, concentrated in South America, but found as far north as Mexico. Toucans are very noisy members of the jungle population. They live in small communities and loudly make noises that sound like the croaks of frogs. They nest in tree holes, laying two to four eggs, which are incubated by both parents.
Toucans are herbivores, eating mostly berries and seeds. The Toucan’s enormous bill, is not used as a weapon, nor does it offer them an advantage when gathering food. The meaning and use of the toucan’s bill remains a mystery to scientists.
Strange fact about Toucans – in Central and South America they are associated with evil spirits, with some believing the the birds to be the incarnation of demons.
There is no better way to get birds flocking to your yard than a good source of fresh water. A bird’s need for water through every season of the year is so strong that even species you never expected will be attracted to a strategically placed water source.
Having a birdbath or fountain is an advantage to anyone who enjoys observing nature in general and bird behavior in particular.
The most natural spot for a bath is close to the ground, but water at higher levels not only appeals to some species, it reduces the bird’s exposure to cat attacks. Soaking-wet birds are no match for feline agility. Putting a birdbath near trees improves security against raptors. Plus, branches are an easily reached perch from which to preen in safety.
Solar Bird Baths are Practical and Decorative
Solar Bird Baths
Locate your bath in a shady part of your yard. This will keep the water at a cooler, more refreshing temperature in hot weather.
To get birds accustomed to the bath, try placing a feeder within five feet of the bath. Birds will notice the water as they go to the feeder.
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The rule implements federal protections provided by the ESA for the Cantabrian capercaillie, Marquesan imperial pigeon, Eiao Marquesas reed-warbler, greater adjutant, Jerdon’s courser, and slender-billed curlew.
If the pair’s breeding effort is successful at Midway Atoll Refuge, it would mark the first confirmed hatching of a short-tailed albatross outside of Japan in modern history.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has completed a report recommending closing human access to caves and mines where bats with white-nose syndrome are hibernating in an area more than 250 miles from other WNS-affected caves and mines.
The oldest known U.S. wild bird – a coyly conservative 60 — is a new mother. The bird, a Laysan albatross named Wisdom, was spotted a few weeks ago with a chick by John Klavitter, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist and the deputy manager of the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. The bird …
Damage to bat wings from the fungus associated with white-nose syndrome (WNS) may cause catastrophic imbalance in life-support processes, according to newly published research. This imbalance may be to blame for the more than 1 million deaths of bats due to WNS thus far, proposes Carol Meteyer, a pathologist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s National …
Researchers found that deforestation in the New England area at that time produced significant soil erosion, increasing sediment delivery rates — the natural flow of sand and soil in water systems. The large amounts of sediment traveling in rivers and streams to the coastline spurred a significant period of wetland growth, leading to marshes lining the coast of New England that today are abnormally large.