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5 Reasons to Serve Dried Mealworms

Many of us dish up live mealworms in the early summer months to help orioles and bluebirds provide nutrition for their fledglings. But did you know that serving dried mealworms in the winter months offers benefits to a wide variety of backyard birds?

Pacific Bird Supply Dried Mealworm bucket

Pacific Bird Supply Dried Mealworm bucket

Here are five reasons to start mixing dried mealworms in with your seed.

  1. It’s incredibly easy! Simply mix any amount in with your regular seed mix in a tray or hopper feeder and watch the birds come flocking!
  2. Dried mealworms are nutritious. They provide the perfect balance of protein, fat and fiber to promote bird health and vigor.
  3. Mealworms appeal to birds’ natural instincts. Insects like mealworms are naturally a part of many songbirds’ diets.
  4. Attract a greater variety of birds. Serving dried mealworms with your seed may attract new species that aren’t attracted to seed alone. Among winter bird species that eat dried mealworms are: chickadees, cardinals, nuthatches, woodpeckers and the occasional bluebird or American Robin.
  5. Freeze-dried mealworms won’t spoil or crawl away! Dried mealworms are less maintenance than live mealworms and can even be re-hydrated with a little bit of water or nectar.

If you’d like the benefits of dried mealworms without the extra step of mixing them in with seed, you can also try serving a Bugs, Nuts & Fruit cake or cylinder. Or, try serving Pacific Bird and Co. suet cakes with mealworms.

 

Hang a Feeder and They Will Come?

A Novice Bird Feeder’s Journey to Successfully Attracting Birds

by All Seasons Wild Bird Store (in Eagan) employee, SANDRA TOCKO

If you are reading this, you are either currently feeding birds or aspire to do so. Hopefully you are not in the same position I was four years ago—throwing money into the bird feeding industry, but not seeing any birds at my feeders. A lot has changed since then; I learned how to attract birds, AND save money, ever since visiting my local All Seasons Wild Bird Store.

Trial & Error—Emphasis on Error

Getting started with feeding birds is easy, right? Hang a feeder with seed and they will come . . . or not. Buy another feeder, and different seed, the next time you are at one of the local box stores (buying a shovel or toilet paper) and you feel inspired to try feeding the birds again. Fill the feeder, hang it and wait. And wait. And wonder. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon start to feeding birds.

After spreading the uneaten seed out in the woods for anything to eat, I hung the lonely feeders in our garden shed. Feeling defeated, but not willing to give up, it was time to visit an All Seasons Wild Bird Store with my head hung low to seek guidance and insight. How I wish I had visited the store from the day I felt inspired to feed birds!!!

No/No Original Forest Green Mesh Feeder. Please call your local All Seasons Wild Bird Store for availability.

Consulting the Experts

My perception of All Seasons Wild Bird Stores was that it is a place for those well-honed in the art of bird feeding to purchase fancy seed mixes and evolved feeders. What I didn’t realize is that the employees are a wonderful resource to start feeding the birds on any budget. I left the store with a simple, but well-designed feeder, a small bag of Joe’s Mix, and the instructions of, “hang it and see what birds visit”. Somehow, though still feeling the pain of earlier rejection, after speaking with the employees at the store, I had new faith. “Having ‘the right’ feeder and fresh seed makes a big difference,” I was promised.

With my new “No/No” mesh feeder filled with Joe’s Mix hung in my yard, I was absolutely delighted to see Black-capped Chickadees, goldfinches, nuthatches and Downy Woodpeckers arrive AND return! Feeling the energy, I returned to the store, became a “Frequent Feeder Member” and the next Official Feeder of the Birds. Four years later, our backyard has several types of feeders with varied seeds, nuts, mealworms and suet, water sources and MANY varieties of birds faithfully visiting.

A Footnote

In the well-written book on feeding birds, Wild About Birds, by the MN Dept. of Natural Resources, they validate that we are not alone in our attempts at starting off, but clarify what commonly goes wrong: “There are so many choices of bird food available that a novice bird lover can easily become confused…” (agreed), “If you use the right kinds of ‘good’ bird foods, you can probably double the number of species you attract” (very true).

 

 

 

 

 

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VIDEO: 5 Winter Bird Myths

American-Robin-winterWebThis Video Debunks 5 Winter Bird Myths Common to the Twin Cities Metro Area

For more information (including two additional myths), see our January/February 2017 edition of our Bird’s-Eye View Newsletter!

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Best Bird Seeds for Winter

Chickadee doing pull ups by Jim Weisman

A Black-capped Chickadee samples some golden safflower (Photo by Jim Weisman)

As with every season, you should select seed for the type of birds you’d like to attract and the environment in which you reside. However, in cold weather climates, you should also consider birds’ additional energy needs. Birds must eat more per hour during cold weather in order to energize their metabolism and produce body heat. With fewer daylight hours in which to feed, birds need high fat and nutrient dense foods.

Here are some suggestions for winter bird feeding:

  • Best single-source seeds/nuts: Black oil sunflower, golden safflower and peanuts
  • Best mix to discourage European Starlings: Golden Safflower as they don’t like it as well as black oil sunflower.
  • Best seed mix to attract a variety of birds: Joe’s Mix is our signature blend and provides a full spectrum of seeds, something for every seed eating bird.
  • Best mix to treat your birds: Cabin Mix is loaded with peanuts and black oil sunflower. Berry Nutty (available in stores) has dried fruit, larger nut meats and lots of sunflower out of the shell.
  • Best mix for little to no clean-up in the spring: Kracker Jax or medium sunflower chips.

Who Eats Peanuts?

inshellpeanuts_pile600

“Who eats peanuts?” many customers ask as they pass the in shell peanuts and peanut pick-out barrels in the store. Many of our backyard birds love peanuts and benefit for peanuts’ high protein and rich fat. See our selection of peanut-based foods and feeders here.

Blue jay flying with peanut in beak

A Blue Jay flies away with a whole peanut in the shell.

Blue Jays Grab and Go

Blue Jays are adept at pulling whole peanuts through the wire grate of in shell peanut feeders. Often Blue Jays will “swallow” one and take another in their bill. They fly up to a tree branch or favorite perch and peck the shells open, eating or storing the nuts.

 

 

downytakingpeanut

A Downy Woodpecker pecks at a whole peanut.

Downy Woodpeckers and Chickadees are Extractors

These birds will peck open the shell of whole peanuts while the peanut is still in the feeder and extract one nut.

 

brome-peanut-plus-with-3-birds-masl0536-left-a

A titmouse, chickadee and Red-bellied Woodpecker enjoy peanut pick-outs (courtesy of Brome)

Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Nuthatches and Cardinals Prefer Peanut Pick-Outs

Peanuts out of the shell, called peanut pick-outs, are usually put in a wire mesh feeder. Pileated Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Downy, Hairy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers frequent these feeders. Cardinals also love peanut pick-outs but don’t do well with the mesh style peanut pick-out feeders. Peanut pick-outs in a fly through feeder, hopper feeder, hanging tray or on a tray attached to a tube feeder are a treasured find for Cardinals.

Contributed by Wayzata store manager, MELISSA BLOCK

For Irresistible Yards, Just Add Water!

Want to make your yard irresistible to birds?

Try adding motion and sound to your birdbath! Motion on the water’s surface or the sound of falling water is like a magnet to birds because they instinctively equate moving water with natural water sources that are cleaner and healthier than stagnant water. The sound of moving water also lures birds that otherwise wouldn’t frequent your feeders—like warblers, Cedar Waxwings and American Robins—to drop in for a visit. Intrigued? Here are a few ways to get your birdbath water moving.

WaterWigglerWebWater Wiggler™

The Water Wiggler™ does just as its name promises: it agitates two small floaters on the surface of the water, creating ripples in your birdbath. The classic, battery-powered model wiggles continuously for months on two D batteries and is also available in a model that plays sounds of a gently babbling brook. Or, skip the batteries and select a solar-powered model of the Wiggler. Not only will Water Wigglers™ make your birdbath irresistible, but they’ll also help prevent mosquitoes from laying their eggs.

A goldfinch takes a shower under a mister.

A goldfinch takes a shower under a mister.

Misters and Drippers

Misters and drippers are another way to get your water moving. They require no electricity; just hook ’em up to an outside water source and regulate the flow of water by adjusting a small valve.

Drippers are just that: they drip into a birdbath, providing the sound and water movement that birds love. Misters spray fine droplets of water into the air. They’re a big attraction for hummingbirds, which love to fly through fine mist! Attach the mister to a tree branch or vine or hang it over a shepherd’s hook and aim it towards a shrub or tree.

Tips for Using Drippers and Misters

  • Don’t worry about water that spills over onto the ground around baths with drippers and misters—birds often bathe in the small puddles and use the mud to build their nests. Butterflies enjoy these mud puddles too.
  • It’s a good idea to place your mister in an area with lots of cover so birds feel safe while bathing.
  • You can use a faucet timer from a garden center or hardware store to program when to turn misters and drippers on and off.
  • Try placing your mister in a location where the water will collect on nearby leaves and drip down to a birdbath underneath. Then you’ll have a mister/dripper combination!

By Wayzata Manager MELISSA BLOCK

Late-Nesting Goldfinches

Male-Goldfinch-on-flower-2015Goldfinches are the latest nesting songbird in Minnesota. Unlike most of our songbirds, they do not feed their young insects or larvae as their diet is strictly vegetarian. As a result, Goldfinches delay nesting until milkweed, thistle and other plants produce seeds in an effort to ensure that there will be plentiful food sources to feed their young. Typically in Minnesota this means nesting begins in late June and July.

BestNestBuilder_customer

An American Goldfinch collecting nesting material from a Best Nest Builder ball. Customer photo by Tony Hase.

Goldfinches gather the silk of the Canadian Thistle plant to line their nests and favor the seed of the plant for food. They are also attracted to nesting material like the Best Nest Builder™ which is made of cotton fibers. Watching the adults fill their beaks with the fluffy, white cotton is an added bonus in backyard birding.

Both adult birds work to select a nest site but the female builds the nest. They chose shrubs or saplings in a fairly open area. The nest is built in 2-3 vertical branches that form a fork which is shaded from above but often visible from the ground. The female uses spider silk to secure the foundation of the nest to the branches. It takes her 6 days to build the nest which will be 3” across and 2-4.5” high. The typical clutch is 2-7 eggs and in Minnesota birds have one brood per year. The eggs are pale blueish and sometimes have faint brown spots on the larger end of the egg. The female incubates the eggs for 12-14 days.

Once the young hatch they stay in the nest for 11-17 days. After they fledge, the young will join the adults at seed feeders in the yard. Goldfinches frequent feeders filled with Nyjer™, golden safflower or sunflower out of the shell.

For more information about songbird nesting, download our Nesting Notes pdf..

I found a baby bird! Now what?

We get this question quite a lot from our customers, and it’s no wonder — most of us are passionate about our backyard birds and want to help the best we can to make sure they’re healthy. To help you out, we’ve prepared this flow chart.

Plus, check out the video from Slate Magazine on the topic!

Pileated Woodpeckers


Video of dueling Pileated Woodpeckers used courtesy of Karol Patzer

Some Facts About These Magnificent Birds

  • Pileated Woodpeckers will remain in an area that provides trees for cover and roosting cavities.  They also look for established food sources and that includes backyard feeders.
  • Suet feeders long enough for the Pileated to prop their tail for stability and leverage, a peanut pickout feeder as well as a bird bath are excellent for attracting them to your backyard.
  • Shock absorbers in their skull and a long tongue that wraps around the brain prevent injury from the constant pounding.  The tongue is coated with a sticky salvia and has barbs that point backwards.  These features make the tongue uniquely suited for extracting insects and larvae from the holes the woodpeckers drill in trees.
  • Adult male Pileated Woodpeckers have a red mustache below their eye and red on the head all the way to the bill, making them distinguishable from the females who lack these traits.
  • Pronouncing the name as pill-E-ated or pile-E-ated are both considered correct.

Contributed by Minnetonka Manager CAROL CHENAULT

Attracting Cardinals, Attracting Joy

Beautiful red cardinal eating a sunflower seed at a bird feeder

Beautiful Northern Cardinal eating a sunflower seed at a bird feeder

Cardinals Resonate in the Hearts of the People Who Observe Them

When a family visits our store interested in attracting a certain bird, it’s always a special experience to guide them in their quest. One family in particular will always stand out to me, as they were hoping to attract cardinals in honor of a late family member who adored this vermilion-bathed bird. This interest opened up a robust discussion on cardinals… what are they like, and why do we love them so much?

Although one of the most common sought-after backyard feeder birds, the Northern Cardinal still boasts some noteworthy ecology in the bird world. Permanent residents in the Twin Cities, cardinals have gradually expanded northward in the past 100 years, with the Minnesota’s first recorded sighting occurring in 1875. Typically foraging as ground feeders, cardinals prefer a sizable tray or perch when it comes to backyard feeders. At this time of year they’ll be on the lookout for dense foliage for nesting, in which cardinals can rear 2-5 eggs up to twicet each year. Once courtship is complete, the female scopes out various sites, with the male following close behind and equipped with nesting material. While the female is one of the few female North American songbirds that sing, the male is known for voraciously defending it’s territory. If you see a male cardinal attacking it’s reflection in a window, it’s probably time for some deterring window decals or tape to break up their reflection. Similar to wrens, a mated pair of cardinals share song phrases unique only to them (honey, that’s our song!).

But beyond the ecology, cardinals are also well versed in culture and folklore. With a name deriving from the resemblance of Vatican priests’ robes, cardinals have long been seen as a symbol of faith, cheer, strength, communication, and duty. The word cardinal derives from the Latin word cardo, meaning hinge/axis, and the Greek word kardia, meaning heart. While these may seem unrelated, this Latin phrase cardo refers to the place from which something is moved, such as a door. The heart, the kardia, then of course governs and moves a person in the same way. Could this be why we love cardinals so much?

When the human story converges with that of ecology, the phenomenon of birding occurs. While at times this phenomenon manifests in the form of a parent who’s delved into a quirky hobby, perhaps it’s the parents, in their lived experience as such, who are most receptive to all the cardinal truly has to offer. Perhaps the art of birding—finding joy in the fleeting, intricate, and heart-felt details—is something our world needs now more than ever.

CONTRIBUTED BY STAFF MEMBER NICK VOSS

Sources:
Cornel Lab of Ornithology: www.allaboutbirds.org
National Audobon Society: www.audobon.org
The Cardinal Experience: www.thecardinalexperience.com