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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:
SHOP WREN HOUSES:
Identifying House Wrens:
House Wrens are very small songbirds with rather drab brown coloring, but what vibrancy they may lack in appearance they make up for in the beauty of their song. A small and compact bird with an overall length ranging from 4.3-5.1 inches, House Wrens have a flat head and fairly long, curved beak. Darker brown barring covers short wings and long tail. These birds often can be seen in a rather tell-tale stance keeping their longish tails cocked above the line of the body. In summer months, House Wrens are common in forest edges and open forests or areas with scattered grass and trees. Backyards, farmyards, and even some city parks are perfect habitats.
While these small birds may be fairly dull in appearance, it is their beautiful song which enamors many bird enthusiasts. Males often sing 9-11 times per minute when attempting to attract a mate. Songs are long, shuffled bubbling introduced by abrupt churrs and scolds. They are made up of 12-16 recognizable syllables. Listen to the beautiful song here.
Attracting House Wrens:
House Wrens feed mainly on insects like caterpillars, crickets, beetles, spiders, grasshoppers, and worms. They will visit feeders more infrequently when the weather is mild and these food sources are abundant. Since they rely mainly on these natural food sources, it is always recommended to limit or completely avoid the use of pesticides. Wrens can often be attracted to feeders with meal worms or suet. In addition, making sure to include native shrubs and trees in your landscaping can help to attract these birds by providing them with the cover they prefer.
Erecting a traditional hanging wren house, box wren house, or even a traditional bluebird house can also help to entice house wrens to your property.
Cavity nesters, House Wrens are not overly picking regarding location for their nests. From old woodpecker holes, natural crevices, artificial nest boxes, or even discarded shoes or tins unintentionally provided by humans House Wrens are fierce competitors for chosen nest sites, sometimes even evicting a larger species and claiming its cavity. The seemingly only requirement these birds hold firm to is that the nest sit be located within 100 feet from woody vegetation.
After selecting a nest site, a male House Wren while pile twigs into the cavities of several nest site options. These twigs fill the entire cavity and mound up into a barrier between nest and entrance, seemingly to protect the nest from cold weather, predators, or potentially even other birds that may attempt to disturb the nest. The male will then flutter from branch to branch in a tree or shrub nearby the next sites, singing loudly in attempts to attract a female. The female will inspect the sites and may choose whichever one is to her liking. Once a site has passed her approval, the nest cup itself is built into a depression in the twigs and lined with just a very small amount of feathers, grass, plant material, or animal hair.
Clutch sizes vary from 3 to 10 eggs that are roughly 0.6-0.8 inches in length and 0.5 inches in width and a light white, pink, or gray in color with reddish brown speckling. Eggs are incubated between 9 and 16 days and hatchlings will leave the nest in roughly two weeks after both parents take part in providing food and cleaning the nest to raise the young together.
Leave a comment to share with us your House Wren stories!
Identifying Purple Finches:
These small stocky-bodied finches have large powerful conical beaks, shorter wings, and a seemingly short notched tail. Roughly 5 to 6 inches in length, these streaky grayish-brown finches are dimorphous, meaning male and female birds have different coloration. Male Purple Finches are a delicate dusky pink-red on the head and breast, mixing with brown on the back and cloudy white on the belly. Female Purple Finches have no pink or red coloration anywhere on the body. Instead, they are coarsely streaked on their undersides and have strong facial markings including a whitish eye band and a chunkier dark brown line down the side of the throat. Coloring can vary from bird to bird as the red of the male's coloring comes from pigments contained in its food during molt. This means the more pigment in the food, the more vibrant the male's coloration.
Top perch: breeding female Purple Finch. Bottom perch: breeding male Purple Finch.
Attracting Purple Finches to Your Feeder:
Purple Finches eat mainly tree seeds such as those from coniferous trees and elms, tulip poplars, and maples, among others. They also eat soft buds, nectar (consumed by biting the bases off flowers versus inserting their beak into the flower like hummingbirds), and a wide variety of berries and fruit, including blackberries, honeysuckle, crabapples, juniper berries, cherries, and apricots. In winter Purple Finches can be seen eating seeds of weeds like dandelions, ragweed, and cocklebur. Including some or all of these plants in your landscaping when possible can help to attract these birds to your yard. These birds also eat some insects, including aphids, caterpillars, grasshoppers, and beetles, so try to limit the use of broad-spectrum pesticides when possible to help increase these natural foodsources.
As with most birds, Purple Finches will readily come to feeders filled with black oil sunflower seed. As is typical for finches, these birds are very social and are often found in large groups. To maximize bird viewing, consider placing feeders with a large number of feeding ports like a tall tube feeder, or wide open feeding access like a tray feeder.
Purple Finch nests are often built far out on the limb of a coniferous tree or, in the southern portion of its breeding range, in deciduous trees such as cherries, oaks, and maples. An occasional nest may also be found in shrubs or among vine tangles. Nests are often built under an overhanging branch or structure for additional shelter and can be found as low as 2.5 feet and up to 60 feet off the ground. The female does most if not all of the nest construction using twigs, stick, or even root pieces as a foundation with an inner cup structure lined with softer animal hair and fine grasses. When completed, the nest will be approximately 7 inches wide and 4 inches tall.
A typical clutch size can range from 2-7 eggs. Eggs are approximately 0.7-0.9 inches long, 0.5 inches wide, and are a very pale greenish-blue to white with fine dark speckles. Incubation period is typically around 12 days and hatchlings are ready to fledge after approximately 14 days in the nest.
Distinguishing between a House Finch and Purple Finch:
Although these two finch species are similar in appearance they can be distinguished quite easily in the field. Both male and female house finches sport a more slender body with a longer tail sporting a shallower notch. The male House Finch's bold coloring is more of a red-orange limited to the face and chest area while the male Purple Finch is a rosier, pink-red coloring that extends past the face and down the back. The female House Finch have a more blurred streaking pattern in the brown and tan feathers on their flanks and also a plainer face. In comparison, the female Purple Finch is coarsely streaked below and has a pronounced darker brown line down the side of the throat and a whitish eyebrow.
When identifying between similar species it is also important to note the location and time of year. While these two species do have territory overlap, Purple Finches are typically only found in the United States during non-breeding months with the exception of the Western cost and most northeastern states whereas the House Finch is found throughout most of the United States year-round.
Left: breeding male Purple Finch. Right: breeding male House Finch. Photo courtesy of The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Left: female/immature Purple Finch. Right: female/immature House Finch. Photo courtesy of The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
If you’re looking for the best location to hang your bird feeder, setting up your first bird feeder, or adding a new bird feeder to your bird feeding station, these bird feeder hanging ideas will set you up for success!
Where should I hang my bird feeder?
The best place to hang a bird feeder is a location that:
- Makes the birds feel safe from predators. Above all else, the location of your bird feeder should make the birds feel safe and at home! Birds will not eat from a bird feeder where they feel vulnerable. Place your bird feeder near natural cover like trees, shrubs, or other vegetation. This gives them shelter while viewing their feeding area so they can see any predators while waiting for their turn to feed.
- You can see from inside your house. The best thing about having bird feeders in your backyard is that you get to enjoy birdwatching from your own home! Think about where you spend your time both indoors and out. Walk around inside your house and position yourself in the spots you spend the most time in. You’ll want to choose a location where you can easily view your feeder through a window to get the most enjoyment out of it.
- Is in a convenient location. If you’re in a location with seasonal weather patterns and you plan to feed the birds throughout the winter months, you may want to choose a location that you won’t mind walking to in undesirable weather.
- Prevents pests from easily reaching the seed. There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing unwanted critters eating the seed that’s meant for your birds! Remember to keep your bird feeders roughly 10-12 feet from any tree or obstacle to deter unwanted pests from reaching the seed. (We do not recommend hanging bird feeders from tree branches as this can give squirrels and pests easy access to the feeder content.) If you’ll be placing your bird feeder in an area with lots of squirrel activity, a baffle can be used to prevent squirrels or other pests from climbing up a pole or jumping down onto the feeders from above. Head over to our blog for more squirrel proofing tips.
- Keeps birds safe from window collisions. Millions of birds die each year due to reflective glass on our home windows. To help prevent fatal window collisions, feeders should be hung either closer than 3 feet or farther than 15 feet from a window.
What can I use to hang a bird feeder?
Almost all types of bird feeders come with a built-in hanging hook, allowing you to hang it from your desired location. Whichever hanging method you choose, make sure it’s sturdy enough to support the weight of your bird feeder while it’s filled with seed!
There are an abundance of simple and decorative types of yard poles and hanging hooks available, from a traditional shepherd’s hook to a completely customizable and adjustable hook and display system. You may choose to install several hooks of varying heights for visual interest. Or you could transform an area of your yard into bird feeding statement area with a pergola or decorative trellis with hooks and spaces for feeders to be hung!
Here are some bird feeder hanging methods to help get you started:
- Shepherd’s hook
- Hanging chain
- Wall mount bracket
- Deck mount bracket
- Strong rope
Northern Mockingbird feeding from Farmhouse Hopper Feeder (Model# WWLF2-DECO)
How high should bird feeders be off the ground?
While different types of birds feed at various heights due to the natural location of the insects, berries, seed, and flowers that make up their diet, most wild birds will come to bird feeders as long as they feel safe. Follow the tips at the beginning of this article to make sure your bird feeder is in the ideal spot to attract birds.
The best overall height for bird feeders is positioned about 5 feet off the ground, or at eye level. This height makes it convenient for refilling and cleaning your bird feeders.
Can I hang a bird feeder from my window?
The best way to view birds from your window is to put up a window bird feeder. Window bird feeders typically use a suction cup mounting system to allow you to mount them directly to your window. You can attract all types of birds to your window with a hummingbird window feeder or a seed window feeder – it all depends on what you decide to fill it with! Visit our blog post to learn everything you need to know in order to use a window bird feeder successfully.
Should bird feeders be in the sun or the shade?
Birds will feed from a bird feeder whether it is in the sun or the shade. However, if you live in a location where you experience high temperatures, it may be best to place your bird feeder in a shady location, or a location where the feeder receives morning sun and afternoon shade, to preserve the seed or nectar longer.
When should I not put a bird feeder out?
Bird diseases like the Avian Flu, House Finch Eye Disease, or Salmonellosis can break out locally. It is important to remove your bird feeders if your local wildlife center recommends it. Occasionally, it may be necessary to remove your bird feeders temporarily to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria. As always, it’s extremely important that you keep your bird feeders clean so you can protect the health of your backyard birds.
If feeder pests like bears or racoons become a problem in your yard, taking down your bird feeders temporarily and/or at night can help get rid of these unwelcome visitors. Typically, if feeder pests do not have access to your feeders, they will seek out another location and your bird feeders can go back up.
Backyard bird feeding can be enjoyable and beneficial during every season of the year, especially in the winter. It’s a common misconception that birds don’t need to feed from bird feeders during the summer months. While it is true that resources like fruit and insects are plentiful in the summer, birds in vulnerable stages (like molt) will continue to look for easy sources of high protein and fat.
Still not seeing birds at your bird feeder? Check out our troubleshooting tips to help attract birds to your bird feeder!
SHOP HANGERS AND ACCESSORIES: