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Blog / Bird Feature
Identifying Baltimore Orioles:
Slightly smaller and more slender than an American Robin, Baltimore Orioles range from 6.7 to 7.5 inches in length and feature long legs, a thick neck, and long pointed bills. Adult male Baltimore Orioles have black feathers on their head and wings, bright orange tell-tale plumage on their chest and underside, and a single solid white bar on each wing. Females and immature males are a more muted yellow-orange with grayish shading on the head, and gray wings with two white bars on each wing.
Above left: A female Baltimore Oriole on a specialized jelly and orange feeder.
Above right: A male Baltimore Oriole on a specialized feeder offering nectar, jelly, and oranges.
Where Baltimore Orioles Live:
Baltimore Orioles are a migratory bird that breed in the eastern portion of the United States and South-central Canada during summer months. Keep an eye out for these birds arriving from early April to mid-May. Their season is short, with some departing as early as late July for wintering grounds in Florida, the Caribbean, and Central America.
How to Attract Baltimore Orioles to Your Feeder:
These birds are often heard more than seen as they typically forage high in trees for insects, flowers, and fruit. They tend to be more skittish than other backyard birds, but you can be successful in attracting them to feeders. One of the simplest ways to attract Baltimore Orioles to your yard is to set up an oriole feeder.
Maintaining a clean feeder is always important for the health of your birds, but is even more important when offering feeds rich in sugar as these feeds can spoil quickly, especially in the hot summer weather. It is recommended oriole feeders be cleaned every 4-5 days. To clean, take down your feeder and discard any unconsumed jelly or fruit. Flush feeder with warm water. Scrub using either a mild solution of unscented dish detergent and warm water, or sanitize using a solution of 9 parts water to 1 part bleach. Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry completely before refilling.
What Baltimore Orioles Eat:
In the spring and fall, a Baltimore Oriole's diet is composed mainly of nectar and ripe fruit. Including flowering trees and shrubs such as crabapple and mulberries in your landscaping can help to draw these birds to your yard. The most common food offering for Baltimore Oriole's are oranges, which can be sliced in half and placed in a specialized feeder, or even nailed directly to a tree (or impaled through a smaller branch). A slightly more specialized feeder can allow the offering of additional feed options, such as nectar (sugar water) and grape jelly.
While breeding and feeding their young, a significant portion of the Baltimore Oriole's diet consists of protein-rich insects. Not overall picky, these birds will consume a wide variety of beetles, crickets, caterpillars, snails, and other small invertebrates. The protein derived from these insects is pivotal in the growth and development of the young, and we strongly encourage withholding the use of broad-spectrum insecticides in your yard to ensure a food source during this crucial stage.
Baltimore Orioles build extremely unique hanging sock-like nests woven together from slender fibers constructed in the slender upper branches of a tree. Typically these nests are 3 to 4 inches deep with a smaller opening on top and a bulging bottom chamber up to 4 inches across where the eggs are laid. Females gather materials for and construct the nest within the territory defended by her mate. Males will occasionally aid in collection of nesting materials which can consist of long grass, strips of grapevine bark, horsehair, as well as artificial materials such as twine or fishing line (*please do not purposefully set out these artificial materials as they are not the safest options for the birds).
Each pair will raise one brood consisting of 3-7 eggs each season. Eggs are roughly an inch in length and 0.6-0.7 inches in width and are a pale gray with black or brown marbling. Eggs typically hatch within 14 days and the young will fledge in an additional 14 days.
Have you seen any Baltimore Orioles on your feeders recently?
National Wild Bird Feeding Month is February. To celebrate, we have asked employees to name their favorite birds. This week's bird is a favorite of Julie, our Sales Coordinator - the White-breasted Nuthatch.
Identifying White-breasted Nuthatches:
The largest of the nuthatches, the White-breasted nuthatch is still a small bird averaging 5" to 5.5" in length with a wingspan ranging from 8"-10.5". With gray-blue coloring on the back, a white face, and white underparts this bird features a very short tail. Typical of most nuthatches, the White-breasted nuthatch has a large head and almost no neck. Its long, narrow bill is straight or sometimes slightly upturned. Males feature a black cap that runs from the beak down the back of the neck (on females this cap is dark gray). Most commonly found in woods and woodland edges of deciduous forests, these agile birds can often be seen creeping along tree trunks and large branches, often turned sideways and upside-down on vertical surfaces as they forage.
Attracting White-breasted Nuthatches to Your Feeder:
White-breasted nuthatches eat mainly insects. The types of insects they consume is wide-ranging and includes wood-boring beetle larvae, weevil larvae, scale insects, ants, gall fly larvae, caterpillars, stinkbugs, click beetles, and a host of other insect pests. While it may be hard, refrain from spraying pesticides in and around your yard as it removes these birds' natural food source.
These nuthatches will also eat seeds and nuts like acorns, hawthorn, and sunflower seeds. We recommend filling feeders like tube feeders or hopper feeders with black-oil sunflower to attract these birds. Nuthatches are also big fans of many types of suet and peanuts and are able to cling sideways and upside-down on suet cages and mesh, making upside-down suet feeders or mesh peanut feeders an ideal option for these birds.
Typically built in natural tree cavities or abandoned woodpecker holes, white-breasted nuthatches will sometimes enlarge these holes but will very rarely excavate them entirely. Females construct the nest on their own. After lining the nest cavity is with fur, bark, and lumps of dirt, she will then build a nest cup of fine grass, feathers, shredded bark, and other various soft materials. White-breasted nuthatches will often reuse their nest holes in following years, and they will sometimes use man-made nest boxes.
Clutches consist of 5-9 creamy white eggs speckled with reddish brown that are roughly 0.6" wide and 0.8" long. Eggs hatch after a two week incubation period and will fledge after 26 days. White-breasted nuthatches typically have 1 brood a year.
National Wild Bird Feeding Month is February. To celebrate, we have asked employees to name their favorite birds. This week's bird is a favorite of Theresa, our Accounting Manager - the Tufted TItmouse.
Identifying Tufted Titmice:
This small songbird has soft silvery gray feathers above and white feathers below. A black patch just above the beak and a rusty or peach-colored wash underneath the wings are helpful identifiers. Tufted Titmice are roughly 5.5"-6.3" from beak tip to tail with a wingspan of 7.9"-10.2". These birds are regular visitors to bird feeders, and can be a treat to watch, the tuft of feathers at the front of its head communicating much of its emotions and "attitude".
Attracting Tufted Titmice to Your Feeder:
Tufted Titmice are often regulars at backyard bird feeders, especially during the winter months. These small birds prefer sunflower seeds and will also consume suet, peanuts, and a variety of other seeds as well. Experiments with Tufted Titmice actually indicate that they will always choose the largest seeds they can when foraging.
When titmice find larger seeds, such as sunflower seeds, they will typically fly away to a nearby shrub or tree so that they can comfortably hold the seed with their feed and hammer it open with their beaks. Providing natural cover like larger bushes and trees in your landscape will help to give these little birds a safe place to consume seeds. Titmice have even been known to hoard these shelled seeds in bark crevices in fall and winter.
During summer months, Titmice eat mainly insects including caterpillars, ants, beetles, wasps, stink bugs, as well as spiders and snails. As hard as it can be, it's best not to spray any pesticides as this can detract from the natural protein source of these birds.
These small birds construct their nests in cavities. Unable to excavate their own cavities, they will use natural holes or old nest holes made by certain woodpecker species. Tufted TItmice will also nest in man made structures including fence posts, metal pipes, and nest boxes. Titmice build cup-shaped nests using a mixture of leaves, moss, grasses, and bark. Soft materials such as fur, hair, wool, and cotton are used to line this cup.
The average clutch size can range from 3-9 eggs. Eggs are approximately 0.6 inches wide and 0.8 inches in length and are creamy white flecked with chestnut-red or brown specs. The young typically hatch in two weeks and will remain in the nest for an additional two weeks before leaving the nest.
Have you seen any Tufted Titmice on your feeders recently?
National Wild Bird Feeding Month is February. To celebrate, we have asked employees to name their favorite birds. This week's bird is a favorite of Curt, our Sales Manager - the American Goldfinch.
Above image shows typical winter coloration.
Identifying American Goldfinch:
This small finch has a short conical bill and a short notched tail. American Goldfinch are typically 4.5"-5" in length with a wingspan of roughly 7.5"-8.5". During early spring and summer months, breeding males have a vibrant yellow body with a black forehead and black wings with white markings above and beneath the tail. Adult females share the same color pattern but in much more dull or drab tones that may appear more olive or tan in color.
During winter months, these birds are drab, solid olive or light brown with blackish wings and two pale wing bars. In fact, the American Goldfinches are the only finch that molts body feathers twice a year; once in late winter and again in late summer. Spotting a male Goldfinch with brightening yellow feathers in early spring is one of the welcome signs of approaching warmer months!
Below Left - Adult breeding male. Below Right - Adult female.
Attracting American Goldfinch to Your Feeder:
These finches can be found at feeders any time of the year, most abundantly during winter months. American Goldfinches are most attracted to black oil sunflower or nyjer seeds. Almost any kind of bird feeder including hoppers, platform feeders, or tube feeders will attract American Goldfinches.
To encourage American Goldfinches in your yard, also consider planting native composite plants like thistle as well as Zinnias, Coneflowers, and native milkweed.
Both male and female American Goldfinches take part in identifying a suitable nest location but the female is the one to actually construct the nest. Nests are often built high in shrubs where multiple vertical branches join. The site is usually shaded by clusters of foliage from above, and often open and visible from underneath. The nest is an open cup of plant fibers and/or rootlets lined with plant down. The female connects the nest foundation to supporting branches using spider silk. A downy lining of "pappus" (the tufts of hairs on some plant seeds like those of thistles and dandelions) is the final touch.
Average clutch size can range from 2-7 eggs. Eggs are roughly 1/2" wide and 1/2" long and are a pale bluish-white and sometimes have small faint brown spots around the larger end. Eggs natch in 12-14 days and the young will fledge in an additional 11-17 days. American Goldfinch will have 1 to 2 broods a year depending on geographic location and weather conditions.
Leave a comment to share with us your Goldfinch stories!
National Wild Bird Feeding Month is February. To celebrate, we have asked employees to name their favorite birds. This week's bird is a favorite of Craig, our VP of Sales - the Mourning Dove.
Identifying Mourning Doves:
Plump-bodied and long-tailed birds with short legs, Mourning doves range from 9-13.5 inches from beak to tail with a wingspan of around 17.5 inches. These birds have a small bill, short reddish colored legs, and a head that looks small in comparison to the body. Their coloration is typically light grey and brown and generally muted in color with a dusting of larger black spots on their lower wings.
One of the most abundant and widespread birds of North America, Mourning Doves can often be seen foraging for seeds on the ground and perched on telephone wires. When taking flight, their wings make a distinct, sharp whistling sound. The Mourning Dove gets its name from its distinct soft, drawn-out lamenting or mournful calls.
Mourning Doves are the most frequently hunted game bird in North America, with more than 20 million birds shot annually in the U.S. for sport and meat. The species' ability to sustain its population is due to its prolific breeding; in warm areas, one mated pair may raise up to six broods of young in a single year. The oldest known Mourning Dove was a male, and at least 30 years, 4 months old when he was shot in Florida in 1998. He had been banded in Georgia in 1968.
Attracting Mourning Doves to Your Feeder:
Mourning Doves are typically ground foragers that feed almost exclusively on seeds. These birds can be attracted by scattering seeds, particularly millet, on the ground. Due to the birds' large size, they are unable to sit and feed comfortably on most bird feeders. If you want to keep the mess of seeds off the ground, try looking for a hopper feeder designed with an extended perch rail that offers adequate space for the Mourning Dove's plump body. Your best bet, however, is an open platform feeder where the birds have ample space to feed and you will have optimal bird viewing.
The male Mourning Dove gathers nest materials and takes them to the female at the nest location of her selection. Nest materials can include twigs, grass blades, and conifer needles. Mourning Dove nests are flimsy in construction and are most commonly found in trees but can also be found in vines, shrubs, or on buildings. If a suitable elevated nest site cannot be located, Mourning Doves will sometimes nest on the ground.
Clutch size is almost always 2 eggs that are white in color and roughly 1 inch log and just shy of 1 inch wide. Both male and female take turns incubating the eggs, with the male sitting from morning to afternoon and the female the remainder of the day and through the night. Incubation takes two weeks and the young typically fledge in about 11-15 days.
Have you seen any Mourning Doves on your feeders recently?
National Wild Bird Feeding Month is February. To celebrate, we have asked employees to name their favorite birds. This week's bird is a favorite of Cheryl, our Customer Service Manager - the Red-winged Blackbird.
These birds have a winter range in Mexico and most of the southern United States. In the Northern states and Canada, the first sightings of these birds are anxiously awaited as an early indicator that spring is on its way!
Identifying Red-winged Blackbirds:
Roughly the same size as robins, breeding male Red-winged Blackbirds are pretty hard to mistake. Average length beak to tail ranges from 7-9 inches with a wingspan of 12-16 inches. True to their name, these stocky, broad-shouldered blackbirds have bold red and yellow shoulder patches on either side (above left image). The females look much different with a streaked brown and tan pattern (above right image). Nonbreeding male Red-winged black birds' pattern looks somewhat like a marriage of the two: paler, often incomplete red shoulder patches with some tan streaking showing through the black (below image).
Red-winged Blackbirds are most often found in marshes, along watercourses, throughout vegetation surrounding water hazards on golf courses, wet roadsides, and also in drier meadows and fields. While females tend to stay lower to the ground and can be harder to see through vegetation, the male Red-winged Blackbirds can be found sitting on any high perch they can find, singing loudly. Think you may be hearing a Red-winged Blackbird? Check here for examples of this bird's loud call.
Attracting Red-winged Blackbirds to Your Feeder:
In the fall and winter, Red-winged Blackbirds flock with other blackbirds, grackles, starlings, and cowbirds. During migration, these ravenous flocks can drain feeders in a matter of hours.
Red-winged Blackbirds are most comfortable feeding on the ground, so spreading cracked corn, millet, or even oats in your yard can attract these black beauties. An open-style feeder such as a platform feeder, a large hopper feeder, or a vertical feeder with extended perching tray are good feeder options as they offer ample space for these birds to perch without feeling crowded. Black oil sunflower and hulled sunflower along with seed mixes that include sunflower, corn, peanut hearts, and milo can be used in these feeder styles to attract Red-winged Blackbirds.
Red-winged Blackbirds build their nests among vertical shoots of marsh vegetation or surrounding trees or shrubs. The female will select a nest location typically near the ground in dense, grass-like vegetation. Vegetation like cattails or phragmites in wetland locations, and in uplands vegetation like goldenrod, blackberry, or willow and alder trees.vShe will construct the nest by winding long thin strings of plan material around several upright stems. Once she completes weaving this platform she will add wet leaves and decayed wood and plaster the entire inside with mud to form a cup shape. Once formed, this cup is then lined with finer dry grasses.
Measuring 4-7 inches across, this nest will house a clutch of 2-4 eggs. Eggs are pale gray-blue in color with black or brown marbling. Eggs will hatch in roughly two weeks and the young will fledge in an additional two weeks.
Have you seen any Red-winged Blackbirds yet this year?
National Wild Bird Feeding Month is February. To celebrate, we have asked employees to name their favorite birds. This week's bird is a favorite of Keith, our CEO - the Pileated Woodpecker.
Identifying Pileated Woodpeckers:
This large woodpecker has a long neck, a distinctive triangular red crest that sweeps off the back of the head, and a long chisel-like bill. Average length from beak to tail ranges from 16-19 inches and the wingspan can be as large as 26-29 inches. Both male and female have black bodies with white stripes on the face and neck. Males can be distinguished by the red stripe on the cheek (see image above).
Even if you can't see them, there are some distinct clues that Pileated Woodpeckers are in the area. The first is the loud drumming sound that can be heard when these large birds drill into dead trees in search of insects. The sound is a somewhat distinct deep, slow rolling pattern. The large holes that Pileated Woodpeckers drill into rotten wood have a rectangular shape that also help to identify the presence of these birds. Their calls are quite loud and have a somewhat "whinnying" sound. Listen to a Pileated call and drumming here.
Attracting Pileated Woodpeckers to Your Feeder:
Pileated Woodpeckers are primarily forest birds requiring an ample supply of standing or downed dead or rotten wood. Because of this, they are not as frequently seen at feeders in more suburban areas. If you do have a wooded area nearby, you may be able to attract these large woodpeckers to a feeder using suet. Suet can be bought ready to feed at the store, or you can make your own. For more information on feeding suet, and suet recipes see our blog post on "A Beginner's Guide to Suet".
Pileated Woodpeckers will come to traditional style hopper feeders with suet cages. A more specialized suet feeder like a tail prop feeder is ideal for this large bird because it offers extended surface area to allow space where the woodpecker can "prop" its tail for balance and feed more comfortably. As with many other bird species, woodpeckers also eat wild fruits and nuts, so incorporating native fruit- or nut-bearing shrubs and trees into your landscape can also help to attract these birds.
Pileated Woodpecker nests are typically located in cavities in dead trees within mature or old stands of either coniferous or deciduous trees. The male excavates the nest cavity and does majority of the work preparing the nest site. The cavity in the tree is excavated anywhere from 10-24 inches in depth and this construction can take 3-6 weeks. Pileated Woodpeckers don't line their nests with any softer material like many other birds do, but may incorporate some left over wood chips from the nest excavation. Nest cavities are not reused for future broods, and these old nest sites can serve as shelter for other small birds and, in some cases, even bats have been known to take up residency in the space.
Typical clutch size is 3-5 eggs with 1 brood per year. Eggs are a little over an inch is length and white in color. Incubation period is two and a half weeks and young will remain in the nest cavity for a month.
Have you been lucky enough to witness a Pileated Woodpecker? Share your pictures and stories with us in the comment section below!
National Wild Bird Feeding Month is February. To celebrate, we have asked employees to name their favorite birds. This week's bird is a favorite of Cristin, our Product & Marketing Manager - the Black-capped Chickadee.
Identifying Black-capped Chickadees:
This tiny bird has a short neck and a large head, giving it a distinctive round body shape. Chickadees measure 4.5-6 inches from beak to tail on average with a wingspan of 6-8 inches. With a gray back and white belly, these birds have a very distinct black cap and "beard" accented by white cheeks, helping make them fairly easy to identify.
Chickadees are very social, active, and curious birds that live in flocks. These birds will typically be the first to investigate a new feeder. You'll know when they arrive from their very distinct "chicka-dee-dee-dee" call - with an increasing number of "dee" notes when they are alarms. You can listen to some Chickadee calls here.
Attracting Chickadees to Your Feeder:
Because of their small size, Chickadees are able to feed easily at a multitude of feeder types. Chickadees will readily eat sunflower seeds. In winter, seeds make up roughly half of the Black-capped Chickadee's diet with the other half consisting of berries and animal sources (insects, spiders, animal fat from carcasses) and they will gladly eat suet during this time as well.
While Chickadees will eagerly come to feeders for food, they seldom perch at a feeder for extended periods of time, often electing to snatch a quick morsel and retreat to a nearby tree or shrub to eat. A great way to attract chickadees to your yard is to ensure they have plenty of hiding places where they can eat comfortably. Native berry-bearing trees and bushes incorporated in your landscape is a perfect way to make sure these friendly little birds have a safe place to eat, and also double as an additional food source during the winter months.
Chickadees are cavity-nesters and will build their nests in natural cavities in trees or in an artificial nest box located 5-20 feet above the ground. The nest, built by the female, typically consists of moss with a lining of softer material such as animal hair. Average clutch size is 6-8 eggs. Eggs are white with very fine reddish-brown specks. Incubation period typically lasts around 2 weeks, and the young will usually fledge in an additional 2 weeks after hatching.
Leave a comment to share with us your Chickadee stories!
National Wild Bird Feeding Month is February. To celebrate, we have asked employees to name their favorite birds. This week's bird is a favorite of Elizabeth, our Customer Service Manager - the Eastern Bluebird.
Identifying Eastern Bluebirds:
Eastern Bluebirds are small, beautifully colored thrushes. Averaging between 6-8 inches in length with a wingspan ranging from 9-12 inches (slightly larger than sparrows but smaller than robins), these blue beauties are fairly easy to identify. They can often be seen perched in a somewhat "hunched" position on wires or fences in fields and open woodlands. The adult male bluebird has a vibrant blue back, head, and tail that are hard to miss, especially during breeding season. A rust colored accent across the throat and breast above the white belly clearly distinguish the Eastern Bluebird from its Mountain Bluebird relative. Female markings mimic those of the male but in more subdued hues - their "blue" can often look more like a shade of grey.
Attracting Eastern Bluebirds:
During much of the year, bluebirds 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. Their winter diet is heavily dependent on many kinds of wild berries. Making sure to include fruit-bearing shrubs and trees in your landscaping can help to attract these birds. These plants include but are not limited to sumac, blueberries, black cherry, tupelo, currants, wild holly, dogwood berries, hackberries, pokeweed, and juniper berries. Bluebirds can also be attracted to feeders with meal worms or suet.
Erecting a traditional bluebird house can also help to entice bluebirds to your property.
Bluebirds are cavity nesters and they must compete for these spots with other small birds such as chickadees, tufted titmice, and nuthatches. They also have to compete with invasive species such as house sparrows and European starlings. The supply of natural nesting cavities for all these birds has diminished over the years because of habitat loss, the removal of dead trees and limbs, and a shift from the use of wooden fence posts to metal posts. Fortunately, bluebirds readily nest in artificial nest boxes and widespread efforts to provide these boxes have helped reverse dramatic population declines.
While the male Eastern Bluebird makes a big show of carrying material in and out of the nest box and perching on top fluttering his wings, he only does this to attract a female to his nest site. Once he has successfully caught her eye, the female does all of the nest building. Nests can be identified by loosely weaved grasses and pine needles lined with fine grasses and occasionally animal hair. A typical clutch size can be anywhere from 2-7 pale blue eggs. Eggs typically hatch in two weeks, and young birds fledge from the nest in another three weeks. Depending on your location, the birds may reuse the same nest for additional broods. If you're a bird enthusiast and want to watch the nesting process, we recommend getting a special viewing house with an acrylic window to prevent eggs or young Bluebirds from accidentally falling out of the house.
Leave a comment to share with us your Bluebird stories!
National Wild Bird Feeding Month is February. To celebrate, we have asked employees to name their favorite birds. This week's bird is a favorite of Justin, our Supply Chain Manager - the Blue Jay.
Identifying Blue Jays:
A large crested songbird with broad, rounded tail, Blue Jays measure on average 9-12 inches from bill to tail with a wingspan of 13-17 inches (smaller than crows and larger than robins). With a white or light gray underneath, various shades of blue above, and a bold black "necklace", the Blue Jay is aptly named and can bring a wonderfully vivid pop of color to your feeders. Its tail and wings are barred with black and it has a bold white wing bar (a distinct field mark on the top of a bird's wing caused by contrasting colors on the tips of the primary and secondary coverts).
Blue Jays are loud birds and are often considered to be "bullies" at feeders due to their somewhat aggressive behavior. Blue Jays have been known to mimic the sounds of other animals, like hawks. It is believed that this behavior may be to either alert other Blue Jays in the area to the presence of the predator, or to scare off other birds to hog the feeders to themselves. More commonly their call is a loud distinct "jeer". Some examples of these distinct calls can be found here.
Attracting Blue Jays to Your Feeder:
Blue Jays are larger birds and prefer feeders with ample space. Tray feeders (also called platform feeders) are a great option for attracting Blue Jays and provide optimal bird viewing as well.
Black oil sunflower seed, striped sunflower, and suet are also feeds that Blue Jays will gladly eat. The number one feed we recommend for attracting Blue Jays is peanuts. Blue Jays love peanuts! In shell peanuts or shelled peanuts are both great go-to options for attracting these blue beauties.
Blue Jays build their nests in the thick outer branches of deciduous or coniferous trees, usually 10-25 feet above the ground. Both the male and female take part in gathering materials and constructing the nest. On average, the male does more gathering and female more building. Clutch sizes are typically 2-7 eggs that are light blue in hue with brown speckling. Only the female incubates the eggs while her mate brings her food. Incubation period is typically 3-4 weeks.
Have you seen any Blue Jays on your feeders recently?