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Attracting Birds

Q. I had bluebirds at my birdbath this winter. Will they stay and nest?

A. We know from banding data that many of the bluebirds we have here in winter are actually northern birds who have moved down to more inhabitable areas. So the answer is not necessarily. The key to attracting nesting bluebirds is habitat and a well-placed box. While bluebirds may seek food in wooded areas in winter, they pre­fer open areas with scattered trees for nesting. You may see them visit a nest box as early as mid February but they will not get serious about nesting in our area until the first week or so of April.

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Q. When is it safe to clean out my bird houses for the season?

Many birds only nest once each summer but most of our residents attempt multiple nestlings. It is always a good idea to clean out bluebird and wren houses after each nesting if you houses are designed to do this easily. Once young birds leave their nest, they do not return. Cleaning out the nest is a good way to prevent passing one set of problems along to new residents. Bluebirds will not use the same nesting materials and will simply build a new nest on top of the old.

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Q. Last August I thought I had a Rufous Hummingbird at my feeder. Could it have been one?

Yes. Though rare, we know that a small population of rufous hummingbirds over winter in Florida. Many of those birds pass through our area each fall. One of my customers gave me a great description of an adult male rufous that visited his feeder for a day late last August. Keep your eyes open, take notes if you see something different and don’t hesitate to call me.

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Q. Should I try to run off the sparrows form my feeders?

Well . . ., you may have heard me rant a little about the House Sparrows at my feeders and my desire to thin them out a little. Keep in mind I am talking about the non-native House or English Sparrow that crowd out our native birds. To learn more about the many wonderful native sparrows that can be attracted to your feeder station ask for a copy of Winter Sparrows, a reprint of an article I wrote for the Missouri Conservation magazine several years ago.

**Now only found online


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Q. Why can’t I get anything to use my birdbath?

There are generally two major issues that plague birdbaths. First is their distance from cover. Just as with feeders, a birdbath that is too far from escape cover will make birds feel vulnerable. By far, the most common problem is that the birdbath in question is too deep. Birds need shallow water and most “bowls” don’t have shallow areas. We recommend placing rocks in a bath to give different depths of water but now we have a new option. The Bird Raft ™ is designed to fit in water features to create a shallow bird bath that can change with the feature’s depth.

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Q. Has everyone been seeing lots of different birds at their oriole feeders this year? (SPRING 2008)

Definitely. We have had loads of reports this spring of “never seen before” birds feeding on oranges and especially jelly. Aside from the Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, we have had the semi-regular Grey Catbirds, Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, House Finches, Northern Cardinals, Cedar Waxwings, and Northern Mockingbirds. We’ve had reports of American Goldfinch, Scarlet Tanagers, Summer Tanager, Western Tanager (very rare in MO) and Tennessee Warblers feeding as well. Call or e-mail us if you have any species that we can add to the list.

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Q. Is there anything I can place out that will help the hummingbirds with their nesting?

Hummingbirds build their nest primarily from spider webs, moss and plant down. Songbird Station now has a new nesting helper that contains materials they can use as nest liner.

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Q. Where did my goldfinches go this spring? (SPRING 2008)

Goldfinches are resident birds that come and go from feeders primarily with wild food availability. In the early spring, one of the first wild seeds available are the dandelions. Soon to follow are the oaks, maples and other trees. Last year most of that food crop was killed by the “Easter Freeze” so goldfinches were plentiful at the feeders’ right through spring. Don’t fear, they will be back on and off through till July when they start nesting.

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