Identifying Dark-eyed Juncos (Slate colored):
Ranging from 5.5 to 6.5 inches in length, this medium-sized sparrow has a rounded head with a short, stout bill and a prominent long tail. With the simplest coloring in the Junco family, the Slate-colored Dark-eyed Junco has dark gray covering the back, face, and chest with a white underside and outer tail feathers. A short pink bill brightens the face of this round bird.
Birds of the ground, Dark-eyed Juncos are typically seen hopping around the bases of shrubs and trees. They will often venture out onto lawns, especially beneath bird feeders, looking for fallen seeds.
Slate-colored Juncos have the widest habitat range. In summer, this range expands across most of Canada and Alaska, stretching south into the northeastern United States as far south as Georgia. In the winter months, the range shifts from southern Canada to the Gulf states, mostly east of the Rockies. Juncos are often found in coniferous forests but can be found in deciduous forests as well. In winter months they can be found in a wider variety of habitats, including open woodlands, parks, fields, and gardens since food sources become more scarce.
Attracting Dark-eyed Juncos to Your Feeder:
Dark-eyed Juncos mainly eat seeds, with buckwheat, sorrel, chickweed, and lamb's quarters making up around 75% of their diet. Studies show feeders only account for roughly a quarter of a wild bird's diet, so incorporating these plants into your landscape can go a long way in attracting these birds. At feeders, all Dark-eyed Juncos prefer millet, but will also consume sunflower seeds.
As Dark-eyed Juncos do prefer to spend most of their time foraging on the ground, if it is an option, spreading some seed directly on the ground or even simply allowing the ground below your regular feeders to accumulate small amounts of discarded seed can help to attract these birds to your yard. Tray feeders that allow for a wide open feeding area can also be successful in attracting these birds. Tray feeders (sometimes called platform feeders) can be hung from a traditional shepherd's hook or can also be mounted closer to the ground, although doing so may encourage squirrels and other wildlife.
Needing more energy and protein during breeding season, they will also expand their diets to include insects such as moths, butterflies, caterpillars, beetles, flies, wasps, and even ants. As always, we recommend limiting the use of broad-spectrum herbicides whenever possible to ensure these natural food sources are available.
Pictured: Dark-eyed Junco on Hanging Platform Feeder (Model# WWCF23)
Dark-eyed Juncos typically construct their nests in a depression on the ground or amid tangled roots. Occasionally juncos will nest above the ground on horizontal branches or in hanging ports or light fixtures, however it is much less common. After choosing a suitable site, the female uses her beak to weave nest materials together to frame her body. Materials used to construct the nest range from a fine lining of grass or pine needles to a more "typical" nest with twigs, leaves, moss, grass, and hair depending on the nest location; nests directly on the ground tend to have less materials included in the frame.
Nests measure anywhere from 3 to 5.5 inches across and 1.6 to 2.8 inches deep when completed, roughly 3-7 days after construction begins. Eggs are roughly 0.8 inch in length and 0.6 inch wide and color can range from white to gray or pale blue or green with a dusting of brown speckles. Eggs typically hatch after around 12 days of incubation and the young will fledge in an additional 10-13 days.
Pairs can have between 1-3 broods per year depending on weather and location. Each clutch typically consists of 3-6 eggs.
The Dark-eyed Junco has a vast range of geographic variation with a total of 15 described races. Of these, six forms are fairly easily recognizable in the field. Two widespread forms of the Dark-eyed Junco are that of the "slate-colored", found in the eastern Unites States and most of Canada and the "Oregon", found across a large portion of the western United States. The "Oregon" junco has the typical Junco build with a dark hood, brown back and rust flanks.
Share your Dark-eyed Junco stories with us below!
The Northern Cardinal is one of the most sought-after backyard bird due to its vibrant color, year-round residency (in the eastern United States), and beautiful song. To attract them, it's important to make them feel comfortable in your yard with the right bird feeders, their favorite seeds, and a safe feeding location.
What kind of bird feeder is best for cardinals?
Cardinals are fairly large songbirds. The best type of bird feeder for cardinals is one that provides enough space for them to perch and eat. A platform or tray bird feeder, hopper feeder, tube feeder, gazebo feeder or suction cup window feeder are all great options for attracting cardinals to your yard.
Platform or tray bird feeder
One of the best bird feeders for cardinals is a platform feeder with a perforated seed tray that allows for rain drainage. The open design of this feeder allows cardinals to easily access the seed and provides enough space for them to perch and feed.
Pictured: Hanging Platform Feeder (Model# CWF3)
Hopper bird feeder
Another great option is a hopper feeder that has a large tray for perching. A hopper feeder has a seed chamber that provides great protection from the weather, keeping seed fresher longer. A vertical hopper feeder has an extended base tray to accommodate larger birds and can also have feeding ports and perches on either side to increase the number of birds feeding at one time.
Window bird feeder
A window bird feeder can allow you to get up close and personal to your backyard cardinals like never before! Most birds are comfortable coming up close to buildings to feed. When selecting a window bird feeder, make sure it has an opening large enough for them to be comfortable feeding in as well as sturdy suctions cups that will accommodate the weight of cardinals. To give yourself the best viewing experience, choose a window feeder with side-mounted suction cups that gives you a full view of your bids!
Tube bird feeder
A tube feeder with large, strong perches can attract cardinals. Squirrel proof or gazebo bird feeders often have larger perches that can accommodate the size of a cardinals’ body.
What do cardinals like to eat?
The Northern Cardinal's diet consists of seeds and fruit, supplementing these with insects when available. Cardinals preferred seed types are black oil sunflower and safflower seed. You can also offer berries, crushed peanuts, cracked corn, or even small chunks of suet.
What is the best place to put a cardinal bird feeder?
If you already own and are having success with other bird feeders, try placing the new feeder near the existing feeders. Place your feeder roughly 10 feet from a natural shelter such as trees or shrubs to offer a resting place for birds between feedings and quick refuge from any predators. Be careful not to put feeders much closer than 10 feet from trees or shrubs since it can increase the likelihood of squirrels. Remember, feeders should be hung or mounted closer than 3 feet from a window or farther than 15 feet from a window to help prevent fatal window collisions.
What time of day do cardinals feed?
Cardinals are known to be early risers. They are most active at feeders during dawn and dusk but will feed throughout the daylight hours as well.
Why aren’t cardinals coming to my bird feeder?
There are many factors that could be causing a bird to choose a different source of food. One thing to keep in mind is that birds are creatures of habit. It may also take some time for the birds to get used to a new landing pattern or learn the mechanics of getting out the seed from a new feeder. If you aren’t seeing any cardinals at your feeders in the first few weeks of having them out, try these suggestions to make sure you’re setting yourself up for success.
BEST BIRD FEEDERS FOR CARDINALS
Identifying Hairy Woodpeckers:
Ranging from 7 to 10 inches in length and featuring a long straight, chisel-like bill roughly the same length as its head, the Hairy Woodpecker has a very standard woodpecker build with a square head and long stiff tail used for propping against tree trunks. Both males and females have a white underside, black upper wing and checkered lower wings with a boldly striped face and white stripe down the center of the back. The center of the tail is black, outlined by white border feathers. Males are easily differentiated by a flashy red patch towards the back of their heads.
Hairy Woodpeckers have a wide territory where they remain year-round encompassing most of the United States and Canada. Birds residing in northern territories tend to be larger than their southern counterparts. While western birds have much less spotting in the wings and narrower facial stripes, birds East of the Rocky Mountains are predominately white below with extensively contrasting spotted wings. Birds in the Pacific Northwest are a faint brown and black; giving off a coffee-stained appearance.
Left: Female Downy Woodpecker. Right: Male Downy Woodpecker
Attracting Hairy Woodpeckers to Your Feeder:
Hairy Woodpeckers most often take residence in mature forests, though they’re also found in woodlots, parks, and suburbs, as well as forest edges and open woodlands. As with other woodpeckers and insect eating birds, suet is a safe bet when trying to attract these checkered visitors. Suet feeders with extended bases provide space for these bottom-heavy birds to prop their tail for comfortable feeding, much like they would naturally on the trunk of a tree. Peanuts and black oil sunflower are also favorites of the Hairy Woodpecker. These can be fed in an open tray feeder for unimpeded bird viewing.
In summer months, it is not unusual to see Hairy Woodpeckers visiting Oriole feeders with grape jelly or even Hummingbird feeders with nectar.
Hairy Woodpeckers are cavity nesters and nest in dead trees or dying trees infected with a rot which makes the wood softer and easier to excavate. The cavity is often excavated in an angled branch with the entry hole positioned on the underside to deter other animals who may otherwise attempt to take over the space. When complete, the cavity will be 8-12 inches deep, widening toward the bottom and lined only with wood chips. Pairs will have 1 brood per year with an average clutch size of anywhere from 3-6 eggs.
Eggs are roughly 1 inch in length and 0.8 inches wide and are completely white. Eggs typically hatch within 12 days and the young will fledge in an additional 30 days.
Distinguishing between a Downy and Hairy Woodpecker:
Downy Woodpeckers are roughly two-thirds the size of Hairy Woodpeckers. Since this can be fairly hard to establish in the field, some birders use their feeders as indicator of size and scale. Another establishing feature of the Downy Woodpecker are distinguishable black bars on the white tail feathers in contrast to the all white side tail feathers of the Hairy Woodpecker. If the bird's bill is visible, the major difference in bill size. The Downy’s bill is roughly one-third the length of the bird’s head, while the Hairy’s bill is almost as long as the its head - a railroad spike in comparison. An additional, less reliable distinguishing feature is that the male Hairy Woodpecker's red patch is often split in two, while the Downy’s is not.
Left: Hairy Woodpecker. Right: Downy Woodpecker. Illustrations from the book "A Field Guide to the birds" by Roger Tory Peterson.
There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing unwanted critters eating the seed that’s meant for your birds! Invasive species like starlings and grackles are notorious nuisances at backyard bird feeders. They can be aggressive, territorial, and have been known to empty out bird feeders in record time. Before you wave the white flag, try these tactics to discourage bully birds from your feeders so you can get back to birding!
Why are starlings invasive?
These boisterous birds are slightly smaller than a robin, with iridescent black glossy feathers speckled in brilliant white spots. They might even have an attractive appearance if they weren’t so troublesome! Brought over from Europe, starlings were intentionally released in Central Park, New York by ornithologists in the 1890s who reportedly wanted to introduce every bird species mentioned by Shakespeare in his works. Since then, we’ve discovered that starlings can wreak havoc on crops, are naturally aggressive towards other birds (even injuring or killing them), spread disease, and are a general disturbance to people with their loud shrieks. Mainly ground feeding birds, starlings will use bird feeders in an attempt to extract the seed and toss it to the ground to eat, emptying bird entire feeders in the process.
Why are grackles a nuisance?
Easily recognizable by their striking black plumage and iridescent bluish-purple feathers on their head, grackles are a medium to large-sized bird known for their intelligence and bold behavior. Commonly mistaken as invasive, grackles are native to North America, but have been deemed an agricultural pest for the damage they have caused to crops. Grackles are also aggressive in nature and can exhibit violent behavior towards smaller songbirds, raiding their nests and even killing adult birds, most of the time House Sparrows. Flocks of grackles can eat feeders clean in minutes, wasting your bird seed and discouraging your regular feeder visitors.
How to get rid of starlings and grackles at your bird feeder and birdhouse
While there is no single tried and true method to eliminate starlings or grackles from your bird feeders, with a little trial and error, you can discourage them from raiding your feeders with these bird feeder and birdseed modifications:
- Tube feeders: Starlings and grackles are known for having long legs, and that can make perching on a tube bird feeder difficult. If they’ve taken over your feeders, try putting up a tube feeder and filling it with seed less preferred by starlings or grackles for the best chance at detracting them. See seed recommendations below.
- Upside-down feeders: Starlings and grackles are both large, stocky birds who prefer feeding upright. If your suet feeder is being raided by starlings or grackles, try replacing it with an upside-down suet feeder. Woodpeckers, titmice, chickadees, and nuthatches are expert fliers and agile climbers who will have no problem feeding upside down. Scaling up and down the sides of trees for food, they’ll often hang upside down on tree branches and tall weeds to find insects.
Note: Upside-down feeders have been a successful way to detract starlings and grackles for thousands of backyard birders. However, these birds are persistent and will sometimes put in the effort to learn how to feed upside down. If you’ve got stubborn starlings or grackles on your hands, we’d recommend trying out one of the other tactics on this list.
- Low baffle: Starlings and grackles are reluctant to feed under coverings, especially if it’s difficult for them to navigate underneath. Try using a baffle suspended above your regular bird feeder to limit their access to your feeder.
- Distract them with a decoy feeder: Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. Try setting up an extra platform bird feeder away from your main bird feeding station and fill it up with a cheap seed blend for the less desirable critters in your yard. While they’re distracted by the easy access to seed, they should leave your main bird feeders alone for you and your songbirds to enjoy.
- Temporarily remove feeders: If you notice a flock of starlings or grackles coming through your backyard, you may choose to temporarily remove your bird feeders until the flock has passed through and found another food source.
Bird feeders to detract grackles and starlings
- Safflower: Safflower is a thick-shelled seed that is high in protein and fat. Because of its thick shell, this seed is difficult for starlings and grackles to crack open. With cardinals, chickadees, doves, grosbeaks, and nuthatches attracted to safflower, it is your best chance to attract the widest variety of birds while eliminating nuisance birds.
- Nyjer/Thistle: Nyjer seed (also referred to as Nyger or thistle), is a small, black seed high in oil content. Starlings and grackles have long, large beaks, making it difficult for them to feed on such small seed. Nyjer seed is most preferred by small songbirds – mainly finches. So if you’re looking to attract a wider variety of birds while excluding starlings and grackles, it might be best to choose another type of seed from this list.
- Plain suet: Starlings and grackles are mainly attracted to the seed and fruit found in mixed blend suet. They will also feed on plain suet but will usually avoid it if there are other more appealing food sources around.
- Avoid this seed: suet blends, seed blends, various types of sunflower seeds
- Entry hole size: Starlings and grackles cannot fit through a hole with a diameter of 1 ½” or smaller. Look for wren houses that have entrance holes of 1 1/8” and bluebird houses that have entrance holes of 1 ½” (Eastern) or 1 9/16” (Mountain) to keep nuisance birds out. You can also purchase an aftermarket predator guard to affix to any existing birdhouse.
Note: Because of their native status, grackles are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which means it is illegal to capture, injure or kill grackles or harm their eggs.
Identifying Rose-breasted Grosbeak:
These stocky, medium-sized songbirds are broad-chested with a short neck, large triangular beak, and medium-length tail that is squared at the tip. Measuring between 7.1 and 8.3 inches in length with a wingspan ranging from 11.4 to 13 inches, the Rose-breasted Grosbeak is a species with sexual dimorphism, meaning the male and female have very distinct coloration. Females and juveniles are fairly drab brown with heavy streaks throughout and a bold white extended brow. Breeding males have a black head, mottled black and white back, white underside, and it's namesake bright red upside-down triangular marking on the breast. When observed from below in flight females flash a yellow-tint on the underside of their wings while males flash a pinkish-red.
Above left: Female (credit James Kinderman | MaCaulay Library) / Above Right: Male
Attracting Rose-breasted Grosbeak to Your Feeder:
Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are long-distance migrant birds that winter in Central and northern South America and breed in the northeastern portion of the United States and southern portions of Canada. Grosbeaks seem to prefer second-growth woods, parks and suburban areas, gardens and orchards, and shrubby forest edges next to a body of water like a stream or pond.
Above: Male Red-breasted Grosbeak on Hanging Platform Feeder (Model# WWCF23)
The Rose-breasted Grosbeak's diet consists of seeds, fruit, and insects. Seeds preferred include sunflower seeds, oats, wheat, smartweed, pigweed, foxtail, and even milkweed. Preferred fruits include raspberries, mulberries, blackberries, juneberries and elderberries. Studies show feeders only account for roughly a quarter of a wild bird's diet, so incorporating these plants into your landscape can go a long way in attracting these birds. Rose-breasted grosbeak will also eat a wide variety of insects including beetles, sawflies, ants, butterflies, moths, and even bees. As always, we recommend limiting the use of broad-spectrum herbicides whenever possible to ensure these natural food sources are available.
Often frequent visitors of backyard bird feeders, these birds will eat sunflower seeds with vigor. Due to the Rose-breasted Grosbeak's stout stature, it is recommended to use a feeder with ample spacing such as the open feeding design of a platform or tray feeder, or a feeder with extended perch spacing for larger birds like a gazebo or hopper style feeder filled with black oil sunflower seed.
Above: Male Red-breasted Grosbeak on Paisley Sky Gazebo Bird Feeder (Model# GAZ-D2)
Both male and female work together to choose a location and construct the nest. Often nestled in a vertical fork of a sapling, the nest is built using sticks, grasses, decayed leaves, weed stems, or straw and is lined with rootlets, hair, or fine twigs. A finished nest can measure anywhere from 3.5 to 9 inches across and 1.5 to 5 inches high.
A typical clutch size can range anywhere from 1 to 5 eggs. Eggs are pale green to blue with burgundy or brown speckles and measure 0.8 to 1.1 inches in length and 0.6 to 0.8 inches in width. After a standard incubation period of roughly two weeks the eggs hatch and young will remain in the nest for roughly 9 to 12 days. Depending on weather and geographic breeding location, Rose-breasted Grosbeak can have anywhere from 1 to 2 broods in a season.
Do you have any Rose-breasted Grosbeaks at your feeders?
Help mom reconnect to nature and take care of her backyard birds with a new bird feeder, birdhouse, or helpful birding accessory! Give her a gift that will bring her hours of joy and relaxation in the yard and garden. From the mother of birds to the gardening enthusiast, here are our top picks for mom this year.
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For the hummingbird-obsessed
Bring the birds to her window
Vintage feeders she’ll love
Fabulous farmhouse feeders & houses
For the gardening mom
For the DIY grandma
Give her a helping hand
For the hummingbird-obsessed
Does mom care for her hummingbirds like they’re her own children? Consider gifting her a beautiful new hummingbird feeder that will bring even more hummingbirds to her yard.
*NEW* Get connected with nature
Modern shapes, bold colors, and floral patterns will make these top-fill feeders a statement piece in mom's yard. Limited space? No problem! Feed more hummingbirds in one vertical space with Easy Connect!
*BEST-SELLING* Illuminated hummingbird feeder
Gorgeous hummingbird feeder by day. Stunning lantern by night! Our best-selling illuminated hummingbird feeder includes a solar-powered LED that is sure to impress mom.
*NEW* Take a twist on a classic
Inspired by our best-selling illuminated hummingbird feeder, these antique textured glass top-fill hummingbird feeders have a fresh new look with practical features! Take your feeder from hanging hook to tabletop with the dual-use decorative basket. A solar-powered LED light (ANTHF2-I only) transforms the feeder into a beautiful decoration at night.
*BEST-SELLING* Gifts under $15
Our mason jar hummingbird feeders are as cute as they are practical! With a 6 oz. capacity and an easy-clean, easy-fill design, it's the perfect gift for beginners or those with limited outdoor space. New for 2023, our antique teal glass and soft pink flowers will bring an old-fashioned style to the yard.
*NEW* Squirrel Shield feeders
Help her stop the squirrels in style with these brand new additions to our Squirrel Shield™ lineup! Multiple squirrel-stopping features work together to keep them at bay while the stylish designs are sure to become a statement piece in her yard.
Bring the birds to her window
Window bird feeders
Bring the birdwatching experience inside and help mom relax throughout the day as she observes nature through the window! Attract all types of birds to the window with a hummingbird window feeder or a seed window feeder – it all depends on what you decide to fill it with!
Vintage feeders she’ll love
*NEW* Antique hummingbird feeders
She’ll love the intricate detail on our new antique textured glass hummingbird feeders! A solar-powered LED light on the ANTHF2-I turns this model into an illuminated decoration at night. Our large capacity gravity feeder is bee resistant and can hold up to 28 oz of nectar!
Vintage floral tube feeders
Bring a decorative vintage feel to her birding experience with these decorative Easy Clean tube feeders! These feeders can be used for sunflower and mixed seed blends, or can also be converted to a thistle feeder with the thistle inserts, allowing her to attract an even wider variety of birds with a single feeder.
*NEW* Gazebo feeders
Have her try a new silhouette with a new gazebo bird feeder! Designed with a channeled and perforated base, these feeders have proper water drainage to keep seed fresh. The wide opening and push toggle roof make for easy filling!
Fabulous farmhouse feeders & houses
What better way to welcome the birds to mom’s backyard than with our rustic and elegant collection of bird feeders and houses? See our top picks below and shop the entire rustic collection to find the perfect fit for the birding mom.
Spring stained glass hopper feeder
Featuring beautiful spring blossoms and butterflies, this versatile hopper feeder has two suet cages and a large 3 quart hopper, letting mom feed a wide variety of birds all in one feeder!
Take her backyard birds to the farmers market with an inviting farmhouse feeder! With multiple feeder styles in whitewashed and galvanized finishes, you’re sure to find the perfect fit for your farmhouse fanatic mom!
Help the birds make a home, sweet home in her backyard with these cozy farmhouse birdhouses! She can attract Bluebirds and Tree Swallows with a Bluebird house or wrens and chickadees with a wren house.
For the gardening mom
Farmhouse bee houses
Help her plants reach their full potential without the use of harsh chemicals or pesticides by using a beneficial bee house! Gentle solitary bees are capable of pollinating up to 20 times the amount of flowers as honey bees.
For the DIY grandma
Interactive My First Kits
Give her the gift of quality time with the grandkids and let her creative side shine with our My First series of build-it-together kits! These kits transform into fully functional houses as you guide a child through assembly and decorate them together. Help teach children the benefits of conserving and supporting wildlife while creating lasting memories in the yard!
Give her a helping hand
Handle-it Seed Bag Clip
Everyone could use a helping hand! Help make it easier to get the chores done by gifting the Handle-it bag clip! Handle-it is an all-in-one solution for storing and using big bulky bags of seed, feed, or fertilizer.
Identifying Northern Flickers:
Northern Flickers are a fairly large woodpecker with unique coloration that varies slightly by geographic location. Measuring approximately 11.5 inches in length, flickers feature a slim rounded head, a long slightly downcurved bill, and a longer flared tail that tapers to a point. These woodpeckers are a dusty taupe overall with richly patterned black spots, bars, and crescents on their backs and undersides and a black bib underneath their necks. For eastern birds, the undersides of the wing and tail feathers are bright yellow and the males have two distinct black batches extended from the beak down either cheek. In the western counterpart undersides of the wing and tail feathers have a red tint and the cheek patches are also red.
Above Left: Female Northern Flicker (Yellow Shafted) / Above Right: Male Northern Flicker (Yellow Shafted)
Above Left: Female Northern Flicker (Red Shafted) credit: Eric Ellingson | Macaulay Library / Above Right: Male Northern Flicker (Red Shafted) credit: Matt Davis | Macaulay Library
Attracting Northern Flickers to Your Feeder:
Flickers typically reside in open habitats close to stands of trees. This includes areas like woodlands, wood edges, yards, and parks. In the West they can be found in mountain forests all the way up to the tree line.
As with other woodpeckers and insect eating birds, suet is a safe bet when trying to attract these spotted visitors. Suet feeders with extended bases provide space for these bottom-heavy birds to prop their tail for comfortable feeding, much like they would naturally on the trunk of a tree. Peanuts and black oil sunflower are also favorites of the Northern Flicker. These can be fed in an open tray feeder to allow ample space for these larger birds to feed comfortably.
Since birds get only roughly 25% of their nutritional needs from feeders, it is important to remember to try to limit the use of broad spectrum pesticides and when possible leave larger dying or dead trees standing to help provide natural sources for the insects that make up a large portion of this bird's diet. Flickers also eat berries and seeds, especially in winter months. Including plants such as dogwood, sumac, wild cherry and grape, bayberries, hackberries, or elderberries in your landscape can also help to provide additional food sources and keep these birds close by.
Above: Male Northern Flicker (Yellow-Shafted) on Hanging Platform Feeder (Model# WWCF23)
Northern Flickers typically excavate nest holes in dead or diseased tree trunks or large branches. Because of this, look for nest cavities in tree species which are more susceptible to a heart rot, like Aspen or Alder, which makes for easy excavation. Unlike many woodpeckers, flickers will often reuse cavities that were excavated in a previous year. Nests are generally placed 6-15 feet off the ground, but can be located significantly higher in some cases. Both male and female help with nest excavation, creating an entry hole roughly 3 inches in diameter with a cavity between 13 and 16 inches in depth which is left bare with the exception of a bed of wood chips for eggs to rest on.
Eggs range from 0.8-1.4 inches in length and 0.6-1.3 inches in width and are solid white. Typically clutches contain between 5 to 8 eggs and hatch within 14 days. Young will remain in the nest four roughly 4 weeks before fledging.
Have you had any Northern Flicker sightings in your yard?
Hummingbirds have captivated hearts and fascinated birders for as long as they’ve been around! Their incredibly quick flight pattern, cute chirping sounds, and sometimes questionable behavior have us oohing, aahing, and wondering what our hummers are getting up to each day!
Pictured: Male Anna’s Hummingbird
Here are 10 interesting facts you might not have known about hummingbird behavior:
Why do hummingbirds hum?
Is it because they don’t remember the words? You may have heard this one before, but all jokes aside, the humming we hear comes not from their voice, but the sound of the hummingbird’s wings as they flap. When birds flap their wings, most species will create lift and drag on the downstroke of the wingbeat, making a “whoosh” sound. At 40 beats per second, hummingbirds create lift and drag during both the downward and upward stroke of each wingbeat! The force and volume of these wingbeats makes the familiar “hum” noise that earned the hummingbird its name.
How do hummingbirds eat?
A hummingbird has a tongue that can stretch twice as long as its beak. Their tongues are forked and are lined with lamellae, which are tiny, hair-like barbs that extend outwards as they open their beaks and stick out their tongues. When they retract their long tongue back into their beak, it coils up inside their head, wrapping around their skull. The average hummingbird’s beak can range from 15mm-21mm (.59in-.82in) in length, meaning its tongue can stretch up to 1.6 inches long!
As a hummingbird extends its tongue into a flower, dish or nectar feeder port to drink, the lamellae spread from the forks in their tongue, capturing the nectar by quickly curling back up towards the tongue and trapping it as the tongue fully retracts into their head. Hummingbirds can flick their tongues in and out of nectar as many as 20 times per second!
Pictured: Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Why do hummingbirds migrate?
Needing to eat every 10-15 minutes to retain energy, hummingbirds consume the equivalent of 150,000 calories per day for their metabolic rate! During the cooler months, many locations lack the flowering plants and shelter that hummingbirds need to survive. As fall draws nearer, hummingbirds will set out on their journey to find locations with better resources through the winter.
Why do hummingbirds like red?
As you look for an attractive hummingbird feeder, chances are you’ll find an abundance of red, red and more red! Why do hummingbirds seem to gravitate towards this fiery color? Scientists have studied to find the answer to this tricky question. Research has shown that while hummingbirds have a heightened sensitivity to the red and yellow end of the color spectrum, they’re also attracted to many more colors that humans can only imagine - so don't let that limit your feeder choices!
Pictured: Female Allen’s Hummingbirds on Modern Hummingbird Feeder - Solid Red (Model# MHF4)
Why do hummingbirds hang upside-down?
If you ever come across a hummingbird hanging upside-down from a branch or a hummingbird feeder, there’s no need to panic! The most likely cause of this backwards behavior is actually sleep. Hummingbird sleep, or torpor, is a state of lowered body temperature and metabolic activity that allows hummingbirds to conserve energy. Torpor occurs most often in cold conditions but can sometimes happen during hot days as the body’s response to save energy. Torpor can last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, so if you see a hummingbird hanging upside-down for a long period of time, leave them alone and they will eventually awaken in search of nectar to recover.
Why do hummingbirds chase each other?
Seeing your sweet hummingbirds become bullies at the bird feeder can leave you wondering how something so cute can exhibit such hostile behavior! There are a few reasons why hummingbirds fight and chase each other around feeders and flowers. Although they’re one of the world’s smallest birds, these tiny fighters can show great aggression to claim their territory from other hummingbirds by charging, chasing, and even following the intruder far away from the feeding area.
Male hummingbirds will also chase and dive at females during courtship attempts. This impressive show of territorial behavior also allows the male to chirp loud and clear directly at their potential mates.
How do hummingbirds communicate?
Although hummingbirds aren’t capable of producing complex songs like other wild birds, they do have a variety of chirps, calls, and squeals they use to interact with each other. What they may lack in vocal communication, they make up for in physical displays of behavior. Hummingbirds are known to show their feelings by chasing, tracking, diving, and charging at each other during displays of courtship and territorial defense.
When do hummingbirds eat?
Like other wild birds, hummingbirds are most likely to come out and visit a feeder around dawn and dusk, or early in the morning and late in the afternoon before sunset. But since they have one of the highest metabolic rates of all backyard birds, hummingbirds need to eat almost constantly to keep their energy up. That means hummingbirds can be seen feeding at various times throughout the day!
Pictured: Ruby-throated Hummingbirds on Artisan Gravity Hummingbird Feeder - Sunny Day (Model# AGF3)
What do hummingbirds do in the winter?
Not all hummingbirds migrate! Most hummingbirds in the United States and Canada will travel south in search of nectar-rich flowers, insects, and longer daylight hours. But one type of hummingbird has begun to stick it out through the Pacific Northwest winters. The Anna’s Hummingbird has been known to stay year-round in regions ranging from Seattle, Washington to Vancouver, BC. How do hummingbirds survive the winter in these chilly locations? Winters here are mild, with temperatures around 45°F (7°C) during the day and only about 5 in/12 cm of snowfall per year. Many winter-blooming flowers, along with plenty of generous hummingbird feeder hosts, are able to provide the nectar hummingbirds need to generate the energy to stay warm in the colder weather and occasional snowfall.
Pictured: Male Anna’s Hummingbird on Illuminated Hummingbird Feeder (Model# GHF7)
How do hummingbirds find feeders?
Most hummingbirds are migratory birds, meaning they leave and return from a specific area seasonally. Hummingbirds have excellent memories. As they return from migration and end up in their ultimate destination, they will remember the source of their first meals - oftentimes coming back to the same feeders repeatedly. They have even been known to return to the same feeders and flowers from their birthplace! For the best chance of attracting hummingbirds to your hummingbird feeder, it is recommended to have them up and ready about two weeks before they typically return from their winter migration.
SHOP HUMMINGBIRD FEEDERS
There are over 330 species of hummingbirds found in the world, but less than two dozen of them are common enough to be found in the US and Canada. Because of their small size, quick flight pattern and migratory nature, hummingbirds can be tricky to spot, and even more difficult to distinguish between. Let’s take a look at how you can identify the 5 most common backyard hummingbirds.
Difference between Allen’s and Rufous Hummingbird
What hummingbirds eat
How hummingbirds nest
How to attract hummingbirds
Identifying Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds: Beating their wings on average 53 times per second, these quick little birds are a bright emerald green on the back of the head down to the tail. While both male and female have a grey-white underside, only the males have a very distinct ruby red patch on their throat. The shade of red and size of the patch can vary from bird to bird, with the feathers sometimes appearing very dark until catching the light.
Left: male. Right: female.
Where Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds Live:
This particular species of hummingbird lives in forest edges, meadows, grasslands, open woodlands, and in gardens, parks, and backyards. During the summer months of breeding season these birds can be found across the Eastern half of the United States and the southern portion of Canada. This is the only species of hummingbird found in the Eastern United States. Despite their small stature, most of these little birds make the amazing trek all the way to southern Mexico for winter months, while a small number may remain in the southern most tip of Florida.
Identifying Anna's Hummingbirds:
At just under 4 inches in length, Anna's hummingbirds are small in comparison to other birds but in the hummingbird realm they are medium-sized and somewhat stocky. Mostly pale gray on the underside with an iridescent emerald green back, tail, and wings (sometimes also extended around the abdomen), the Anna's hummingbird is distinguishable from the Rufous hummingbird because it lacks any orange or rust-colored markings. While sometimes appearing a dull brown without direct sunlight, the male's face and throat are covered with brilliantly colored fuchsia feathers.
Left: male. Right: females.
Where Anna's Hummingbirds Live:
These dazzling jewels can be found year-round along the western coast of the US and into Arizona. Occasionally Anna's hummingbirds can be seen in parts of New Mexico in winter months and in rare occasions they can be sighted north along the very coastal western strip of Canada.
Identifying Black-chinned Hummingbirds:
These quick little birds are a dull metallic green on the back of the head down to the tail. While both male and female have a grey-white underside, only the males have a very distinct black patch on their throat. The shape and size of the patch can vary from bird to bird, with a thin iridescent purple strip at the base, sometimes unnoticeable until catching the light.
Left: male. Right: female. [Photo credits to: Joan Gellatly | Flickr & ©Marky Mutchler | Macaulay Library]
Where Black-chinned Hummingbirds Live:
These hummingbirds inhabit the Western United States during breeding season. They can be found in Texas, New Mexico, parts of Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana and West to the Pacific Coast. They have even been found to travel as far North as the southern part of British Columbia. After the breeding season, some adults will first move to higher altitude mountain habitats where flowers are still abundant because making the long migration south to winter in western Mexico.
Identifying Rufous Hummingbirds:
These small hummingbirds are roughly 2.8-3.5 inches in length and have fairly straight bills and short wings that don't reach the end of the tapered tail when perched. Male Rufous hummingbirds are fiery orange in good light with a bright iridescent red throat. Females are green on their backs with rust colored feathers on their flanks, tail, and often a small patch of orange on the throat as well. Both male and female Rufous hummingbirds are aggressive and can typically be found performing aerial launches to chase off any other hummingbirds that appear, even in areas where they're spending only a short amount of time passing through for migration.
Left: male. Right: female.
Where Rufous Hummingbirds Live:
During summer breeding season this particular species of hummingbird resides mainly in the Pacific Northwest into the Southwestern strip of Canada in open or shrubby areas of forest openings, yards, and parks, and can also sometimes be found in thickets, swamps, and meadows ranging from sea level to about 6,000 feet. When in their wintering grounds in Mexico, these hummingbirds are found between 7,500 to 10,000 feet elevation in shrubby areas and thorn forests. These birds can also often be found in the Southwestern portion of the United States on their migratory path to Mexico although only for a short period of time while passing through.
Identifying Allen's Hummingbirds:
Allen's hummingbirds are rust orange and green all over. Adult males have a rust colored tail, eye patch and belly with a deep red-orange throat. Immature males and females have similar coloring with only small spots of iridescent bronze on their throats.
Left: male. Right: female.
Where Allen's Hummingbirds Live:
When the earliest signs of spring begin to show, as early as January, Allen's hummingbirds make their appearance in their breeding grounds along the western coast of California and Oregon. Males can be found in open areas of coastal scrub where they can be seen perched conspicuously keeping a close watch on their territory. The females visit these areas to find a mate but will retreat into the forest or thickets to build her nest and raise the young. There are two subspecies of Allen's hummingbirds; one which stays in California year-round and a second which migrates to Mexico during the winter months. These two subspecies are not distinguishable in the field.
Difference between Rufous and Allen’s Hummingbird
Both Allen's hummingbirds and Rufous hummingbirds share many of the same physical characteristics and can be extremely hard to distinguish in the field, even by experienced birders. The only true way to decipher between these species is by subtle differences in the shape of their tail feathers. In the Allen's hummingbirds, all tail feathers are narrower than their Rufous counterpart. The Rufous hummingbird has a subtle but distinct notch at the top of the R2 feather (second from center).
What hummingbirds eat
Hummingbirds feed on nectar from tubular flowers and insects which they catch during flight or may even pull from spider webs or plants. Hummingbirds will also readily consume artificial nectar from hummingbird feeders. Nectar can be made using a ratio of 1 cup white sugar to 4 cups water. The use of dye or food coloring in artificial nectar is not necessary for attracting hummingbirds to a feeder and is not recommended due to the sensitive nature of these tiny birds.
How hummingbirds nest
Most nests are typically located between 6 to 12 feet above the ground on an exposed horizontal branch well below the canopy. Roughly the size of a large thimble (1 inch deep and 2 inches wide), the female builds the nest out of soft down held together with strands of spider silk and cocoon fibers. Nests in cooler areas will typically have thicker walls than those found in warmer climates.
A clutch size is typically 2 eggs that are roughly 0.3 inches wide and 0.5 inches in length. The tiny eggs are white and weigh less than half a gram. Eggs hatch in 12 to 16 days and will fledge the nest after an additional 21 days. Hummingbirds can have between 1 to 3 broods per season depending on the weather and breeding location.
How to attract hummingbirds
Placing feeders near flower beds or planters may help attract more hummingbirds to your feeder. For the best chance of hummingbirds discovering your feeder, it is recommended to have it up and ready before they return from their winter migration. Be sure to research the migratory pattern of hummingbirds in your area to make sure you haven’t put your feeder out too late, since this can cause them to overlook it later in the season. Feeders with built in perches can help these tiny birds conserve energy and feel more comfortable feeding, prolonging feeding times and increasing hummingbird viewing.
Try these hummingbird feeders:
Being host to a nesting pair of wild birds is one of the most rewarding experiences for the backyard birder! But how can you attract birds to your birdhouse? It all starts with choosing the best birdhouse that not only provides shelter, but also protects the vulnerable young from predators and disease. Find out what necessary features to look for in a birdhouse so you can enjoy nesting season to the fullest!
What type of birds use birdhouses?
Not all birds use birdhouses. Bluebirds, tree swallows, titmice, wrens, chickadees, and nuthatches all prefer to nest in a cavity, whether it be a tree cavity or a birdhouse. Wrens and chickadees will also use a hanging birdhouse that freely swings. Here is a complete list of backyard songbirds that will use a birdhouse:
What kind of birdhouse do birds like best?
It's important to select a birdhouse with features that benefit the birds while making it quick and easy for you to clean and maintain. Consider it an added bonus if it's a beautiful style! In general, it’s best to look for a birdhouse that has these features:
- Made with insect- and rot-resistant materials
- Air vents that allow for maximum air ventilation through wall and floor openings
- Note: Air vents should have roof coverage to prevent rain from getting into the house
- Note: Air vents should never be on the back of the house as it will allow rain in the house
- Clean-out door that provides easy access for cleaning and bird viewing
- Elevated mesh floor to aid in management of the blowfly
- Predator guard that extends the entrance hole to protect against predators
- An entry hole with a diameter of 1 1/2"
- Fledgling kerfs to provide extra grip for fledglings to climb out
- Sloped roof to keep the nest dry
- Weatherproof protective stain to help prevent discoloration, mold/mildew and water damage
- Bonus: clear, crack-resistant viewing window
What size should the entry hole be?
To protect nesting birds and their young from predator birds like starlings, grackles, and House Sparrows, make sure your bluebird house has an entry hole with a diameter of 1 1/2" for most species of birds, or 1 9/16" in diameter for Western Bluebirds. Wren houses should have entry holes with a diameter of 1 1/8" to accommodate wrens and chickadees.
Also consider using a birdhouse with a predator guard that extends the entrance hole. This makes it difficult for predators to reach inside the house.
Do birdhouses need ventilation?
Birdhouses that are placed in sunny locations can become very hot, especially in extreme heat. Internal temperatures of over 107 °F can be harmful to the eggs. It’s important that your birdhouse has proper ventilation to promote airflow and cool the house.
What color birdhouse attracts the most birds?
Birds can see in color, with some species able to see even more colors than humans. There has been little scientific research to prove that birds prefer one color of birdhouse over another. While the birds may not be too picky about the color of the birdhouse they choose, as the birdhouse host, turn your attention more towards the safety and convenient clean out features of a quality birdhouse rather than the color.
Keeping safety in mind, there are some birdhouse owners who worry about birdhouses with a black roof. While a black roof may absorb some heat, as long as there is ample ventilation, the house will not reach unsafe temperatures. However, if you are located in a territory with extreme temperatures during nesting season, you should stay away from birdhouses that are completely dark in color (both roof and body) as it can absorb heat. Any birdhouse should receive some mid-day shade to protect it from overheating to provide for successful broods.
Should birdhouses have a perch?
Birdhouses with perches should be avoided. Birdhouse perches can add a nice decorative feature to a house, but they can make it easy for dangerous predators to come inside the birdhouse. Birdhouse perches can also offer non-native invasive bird species greater access and allow them to kill young and take over the nest. All birds that use birdhouses are able to cling onto the entrance hole to enter and exit the house, making birdhouse perches unnecessary.
What is the best material for birdhouses?
Because of its porous structure and ability to insulate well, the best material for birdhouses is wood. Cedar is the best type of wood for birdhouses because it is insect- and rot-resistant, durable, and naturally weather-resistant.
Pay close attention to birdhouses that have a metal roof. A metal roof is completely safe as long as there is a layer of wood underneath in between the metal and the nesting cavity. A metal roof with no insulating material between it and the nesting cavity can cause house to reach unsafe temperatures that can kill the young inside. You should also avoid birdhouses with a metal frame due to its heat-conductive nature.
Ceramic birdhouses should be avoided since they are heavy, fragile, and more likely to break and not protect the young if the house should fall.
How do you make a homemade birdhouse?
Making your own birdhouse can be both fun and rewarding! The North American Bluebird Society has made available free-to-download fact sheets and plans for basic to moderate birdhouses.
If you’re looking for an easy DIY birdhouse kit with all of the same safety and convenience features as a traditional birdhouse, consider one of these My First house kits! Available in bluebird and wren styles, these build-it-together kits transform into fully functional houses. Build it yourself or guide your child through assembly and decorate them together. You can help teach your child the benefits of conserving and supporting wildlife while creating lasting memories in the yard!
SHOP BLUEBIRD BIRDHOUSES:
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