Tail Identification: May 16, 2018

Hiding on the far side of a feeder doesn’t always work.

With bird feeders, and seed blocks especially, you really begin to learn how to identify birds by their tails. Some birds spread their tails out while others neatly stack them. Then there is the positon that they hold their tail in (up, down, straight out). After a bit of time, you become familar enough with your local birds to be able to make a pretty good guess at identification from just the tail. This particular picture shows some of the body as well.The bird in question is a Tufted Titmouse. The above picture is from one of our other feeders a couple of years ago. In the case of the Tufted Titmouse, it is the color combined with the mostly stacked straight out position that typically gives it away.

Popular Seed Block

There is something in there that they like

A couple of years ago we started hanging a Pennington Seed block on a pole outside one of our windows. It seems like every bird in the area, including a number of surprising suspects has come by to try it out. Above is a Northern Mockingbird. At first it was only one, but the first one convinced its opposite number that there was something good here, and since that time I have frequently seen pairs of Mockingbirds visiting the seed block.

Here we have a Tufted Titmouse and a Red-headed woodpecker on the seed block at the same time. Once it is eaten down, we move what is left to one of the tray feeders, and it typically doesn’t take very long for them to find it and finish it off. The recent snows had an interesting side effect. Normally, the local chipping sparrows prefer to eat from the ground or trays. They will also use standard perches. They would come over and land on top of the seed block’s cage and try to reach the top of the seed block. However, when the snow covered everything else, they discovered it was possible to hang on to the side of the cage and get at the only visible seed (everything else was under snow). Since that time, several sparrows have remembered this, and they have continued to cling to the cage to eat. This has led to a second variety of jailbird.I am sorry about the lower quality. I didn’t want to scare it off, and the sparrows seem to be a bit “nervous” about eating here. Don’t worry, it had no trouble getting back out again without help.

Snow Days, Again

A Cold Southern Vacation

The birds really are not happy this year.Usually, we average about 1 chance of snow each winter. This makes a second, measurable snowfall very unusual. The juncos, like the male above,  come only for the winter, spending their summers in Canada. In our part of middle Alabama, we get a number of birds that turn up only in winter. This year their southern vacations have been a bit frosty. We made certain the bird feeders were full and seed was scattered on the ground so at least they were not hungry.This snowfall was even more uncommon. The snow stuck to the roads (yes, there is a street in the picture); not a very good thing when the heaviest road-clearing equipment is usually a sand truck. We had several days of frigid weather with temperatures in the teens. It was cold for the birds, and for the people too. We had to take precautions such as leaving cabinet doors open to make sure our pipes did not freeze. If it is very cold, we may leave a faucet dripping.


Birds with Water Problems

Birds Don’t Like Hard Water

Our local birds will not be getting one of the things they wished for. They prefer their water to look like this. Unfortunately for them, this is what the forecast has in store for them over the next week. They expect us to fix it. The entails taking some hot water out to melt the ice, or at least loosen it enough to dump out. Then some more tepid water to make sure it isn’t too hot when they come rushing back. If this doesn’t happen soon enough, some of them (frequently cardinals) will start looking in the kitchen window.

Carolina Wren Nests

Location, Location, Location…

With Fall coming on and the end-of-summer sales going on, we have decided that it is time to go shopping for a new wren nest box (also known as a gas barbeque grill). Earlier this summer when I was getting ready to prep the grill for cooking marinated chicken, I opened it up to find quite a surprise. The Carolina Wrens had found another use for our grill. Carolina Wrens build dome-shaped nests. The entrance can be seen near the center of the photograph.The nest had not gone beyond the planning stage. I am sure the lady wren had realized the black grill got far too hot to be a suitable nesting spot. The male will start several nests and then the female will choose one and finish it to her liking. We had to find another way to cook our chicken that night. In cleaning up the grill we determined that the wrens had done us a favor. It was apparent the grill was reaching the end of its useful life and would have to be replaced soon.

Carolina wrens are reputed to be shy but we have not found that to be the case. Usually it is our garage that is chosen as a desirable location for a nest. Almost every available shelf or nook has had a test nest built on or in it. The birds are incredibly loud for their size and on occasion seem to be trying to convince us that they would be willing to share their garage with us.

This nest was very close to completion. It was in a grocery bag full of pinecones hanging by the door from the garage into the house. If you look carefully, you can spot the snake-skin “rug” placed near the entrance. I have read that this item is highly favored by female wrens. There were no eggs in the nest so we removed the bag. The garage is closed at night and would not be a good location for a nest.


Chickadees break into jail and back out again

This caused a bit of a panic the first time I saw it happen. There is a seed block hanging outside one of our windows. A surprising variety of birds visit the seed block, including mockingbirds and brown thrashers. It was a fairly new addition to our collection of bird feeders. I happened to look out the window, and something looked a little off.

The chickadee was inside the cage holding the seed block. I was a bit worried about something like this having read stories about chickadees getting themselves into places such as the inside of tube feeders. So now the question was, did we need to let it out? We watched for a bit, and eventually the problem resolved itself without issue. The holes in the cage are large enough for a chickadee to get in and out without trouble. I don’t know if it makes it easier to get to a chosen seed, or if there is some other logic behind it. Once I saw two in there at once, but that didn’t last long. Another time, one squeezed itself in on top of a fresh seed block. This is a frequent sight whenever the chickadee thinks he will fit.

If you are curious it is a Pennington Premium seed block.