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Seed Blocks: Cylinders, Cakes and Bells

Seed cylinder, cakes and bells contain seed, fruit, nuts and/or insects held together by an edible gelatin. Some varieties contain hot pepper, to discourage squirrels while still attracting birds. They’re simple to hang, long-lasting, and less messy than loose seed. Hang them with the included mesh or with a simple hanger. You can also protect them from rain with a covered feeder. Ask our local backyard birding experts for help selecting the best seed block for your yard.

Who eats peanuts?

Adapted from the October/November 2018 Bird’s-Eye View Newsletter. Article by guest contributor MELISSA BLOCK.

 

 

Often our customers, seeing our open barrels of peanuts (In-Shell Peanuts and Peanut Pickouts), ask us which birds eat peanuts? Actually, there’s a long list of birds that love peanuts:

  • Jays
  • Woodpeckers
  • Cardinals
  • Chickadees
  • Nuthatches
  • Crows
  • Ravens
  • Towhees

Peanuts Are Not Actually Nuts

They are legumes (like peas, soybeans and lentils). Peanuts are high in fat and protein, which means they are an excellent source of energy and calories. They are easy for birds to hide and store for another day.

Irresistible to Blue Jays

Offering In-shell Peanuts will always attract Blue Jays. It’s fun to watch jays pick out a peanut when served in an open tray. They may pick up a couple of different peanuts, seemingly weighing each one and flying off with the best. Jays can also store one peanut in their expandable throat pouch and take another peanut to eat or store. Jays seem to announce to other Jays that peanuts are being served and soon there are more Jays taking turns grabbing a peanut.

Precision Pecking: Red-bellied Woodpeckers

Red-bellied Woodpeckers also like In-shell Peanuts, but most often they will stay at the feeder to peck open the shell and then fly away with the peanut.

Shelled Peanuts/Peanut Pickouts Attract Smaller Birds

Peanuts served out of the shell are easier for birds to eat, especially smaller birds. Peanut Pickouts allow a greater variety of birds to eat them since they don’t have to expend the energy it takes to remove them from the shell. Northern Cardinals, Black-capped Chickadees and White-breasted Nuthatches are most often seen eating Peanut Pickouts.

How Birds Adapt to Winter Weather

While we simply get out our heavy coats, hats, gloves and boots for the winter, our backyard birds go through some amazing changes to make it through the cold and snow.

Behavioral Changes

We can all notice some of the behavioral changes birds make during the winter months. Some birds migrate. The other birds that stay tend to congregate in larger flocks and cover larger territory. These large flocks help them all identify food sources and spot danger quicker than individual birds.

Anatomical Changes

FEATHERS

Birds also go through some amazing anatomical changes to make it through our harsh winters. After breeding season, and before the cold, most birds molt. Birds need fresh feathers for the winter, including additional insulating feathers. Often the color of their feathers change. For example, the male American Goldfinch goes from his bright yellow breeding plumage to a more subdued olive-green color.

SEXUAL ORGANS

Birds’ sexual organs actually shrink after breeding season and before the cold months. Sex organs in both sexes are enlarged and functional only during breeding season. During the winter season the organs shrink to make room for extra fat storage to get birds through the harsh weather. Come spring, when the day length increases, hormones are released to enlarge the sexual organs for the upcoming breeding season.

BRAIN CELLS

Before the cold really begins another fascinating change occurs. Birds—in particular, chickadees—grow new brain cells. In the adult brains of birds, neurons are replaced periodically as the demand for memory space peaks. Chickadees discard cells that hold old memories that they don’t need and replace them with new cells that will allow them to store new memories. This helps them to remember where they’ve cached all the seeds over the summer and fall for that particular year; they don’t need to remember where they stored them the previous year. The part of the brain responsible for spatial organization expands by about 30 percent over the winter months. In the spring it shrinks back to its normal size.

TORPOR

Torpor is another fascinating anatomical and behavioral change to adapt to harsh conditions. In order to conserve energy and heat, birds enter torpor. Torpor is a state of slowed body functions. Birds enter a state of torpor, lower their body temperature and slow their heart, respiration and metabolic rate. Their metabolic rate decreases up to 95 percent. It’s like a short-term hibernation. Birds will use torpor to survive long winter nights or severe storms. Their reflexes and reaction times are also stunted when they are in torpor, making them more vulnerable to predators. ■

Article by guest contributor MELISSA BLOCK. Reprinted from the November/December 2019 Bird’s-Eye View Newsletter.

Bird Feet

Avian Multi-Tools

Pause to consider the functions required of various birds’ feet: perching, clinging, walking, swimming, preening, carrying objects, egg rolling, mating displays, and even heat loss regulation. It turns out that a foot’s functions emerge as an arrangement of the toes.

The Toes Do the Work

Birds are considered digitigrade, which means that they generally walk on their toes, not on their entire foot. Most birds have 4 toes. How these toes are arranged will tell us a lot about their habits.

Toes of Perching Birds

Songbirds are considered perching birds. They have independent, flexible toes, with one facing backwards and three facing forward, best for grasping perches. This is called anisodactyl.
When perching birds sit, a tendon on the backside of their foot automatically flexes, locking their toes around a perch, like a branch. When their feet are in this position, their toes are locked
in place—so sleeping birds don’t fall. As the bird stands up,
the tendon releases.

Toes of Water Birds

Water birds, like ducks, have webbing between their toes for swimming. Gulls also have similar webbed feet to provide more surface area for walking in soft mud near water.
Wading birds, like herons, have long toes which help spread their weight over
a large area to help walking on soft surfaces near the water’s edge. The Snowy Egret has bright yellow toes that it wiggles as lures to attract fish.

Toes of Raptors

Raptors, like hawks, eagles, and owls use their large claws to capture, kill, and carry prey with their feet. Owl feet are even more unique in that they can also rotate one toe forward, so they have three toes forward and one toe backwards for perching.

Toes of Clinging Birds

The toes of clinging birds, such as woodpeckers, are arranged differently from perching birds. They have zygodactyl feet, which means that two toes face forward and two toes face backwards. Owls and most parrots also have zygodactyl feet. This foot shape allows these birds to climb up, down and along the trunk of a tree, and to hang upside-down.
With this zygodactyl arrangement, woodpeckers can access upside-down suet feeders while most other birds cannot. An upside-down suet feeder can eliminate suet raiders like Red-winged Blackbirds, starlings, grackles and crows, since they cannot cling upside down as easily as woodpeckers.

A “Hybrid” Foot

White-breasted Nuthatches hang upside-down, but do not have zygodactyl feet. Instead, you might classify nuthatches as perching/clinging hybrids: their toes are still arranged as a perching bird, but they have an extra large claw on one backward-facing toe that allows them to keep a grip better than most other perching birds.

Downy or Hairy?

Here’s a quick video to help you feel confident in identifying these similar-looking birds.

Downy or Hairy Woodpecker?
Downy (left) and Hairy (right) Woodpeckers. Photo by Jim Weisman.

Versatile Treats: Mealworms

Many birds—not only orioles and bluebirds—enjoy mealworms and will benefit throughout the year from the protein, fat and fiber they provide. 

Mealworms are actually the larval form of the mealworm beetle, also known as the darkling beetle. They are not slimy but rather easy to work with. Serving mealworms will aid your birds throughout the winter cold and into spring reproduction and summer nestling and fledgling feeding.
Birds attracted to mealworms—in the winter and throughout the year—include cardinals, nuthatches, chickadees and woodpeckers. During Minnesota’s spring and summer, mealworms also benefit Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, orioles, bluebirds and Scarlet Tanagers.

Live Mealworms

Since their movement attracts attention, birds seem to prefer live mealworms. Live mealworms should be served in a smooth-sided cup or container with 1-2″ high sides. Live mealworms need to be stored in the refrigerator. Using a window feeder brings the birds up close for excellent viewing!

Dried Mealworms

Dried mealworms are very versatile and never spoil. They can be mixed right in with your birdseed in a hopper, tray, tube or dish-style feeder. Sprinkle dried mealworms with olive oil for extra nutrition. In the spring and summer, soaking the dried mealworms in nectar and serving them in a dish feeder attracts orioles.

Best Mealworm Products

Our Picks:

1. EASY MEALWORM FEEDING
For really easy dried mealworm feeding, select a suet cake, seed cake, bell or seed cylinder that includes dried mealworms within the product. Shown: Mealworm and Peanut suet cake by Pacific Bird and Co.

2. DROLL YANKEES: BO’S MARMALADE FEEDER
Great for offering treats to orioles and more. The cup is easily removable for cleaning and is made of durable polycarbonate. Use this feeder to offer grape jelly, an orange half, or mealworms to a variety of birds.

3. HANGING ORIOLE FLOWER FEEDER
With perching areas shaped like the petals of a flower, this oriole feeder provides pegs for orange halves and an orange plastic bowl for serving grape jelly, live mealworms, or dried mealworms soaked in nectar.

Article by Minnetonka Manager CAROL CHENAULT

Reprinted from the September/October 2019 Bird’s-Eye View Newsletter

Fall Transition Tasks

Minnetonka Manager Carol Chenault shares how she readies her backyard for the change in seasons.

Addressing Nectar Feeders

As I bid the Baltimore Orioles farewell the first week of September, the transition to fall backyard bird feeding begins. Taking down the oriole feeders, washing them well with soap and water and disinfecting them with either bleach (1:10 ratio of bleach to water) or white vinegar (50:50 vingar to water) is an autumn routine. However, I keep my hummingbird feeders full of fresh nectar. Though male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds leave in early September, some females and juveniles remain until late October.

Cleaning, Rearranging

I do like to rearrange things (just ask the staff at the Minnetonka store), so the departure of the orioles leads to feeder cleaning and rearranging of the feeding stations. It’s a good time to disassemble, soak and scrub feeders and clean out birdhouses. Leaving some birdhouses out for the winter may provide shelter as a winter roost for chickadees and nuthatches. I replace the oriole feeders with feeders for suet and Peanut Pick-Outs to entice Red-breasted Nuthatches, woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatches and Black-capped Chickadees. Though disguised in their dull olive-yellow winter plumage, we do have American Goldfinches in the yard all winter. Adding a feeder filled with Nyjer™ & Chips will provide more feeding volume just in case it’s a winter that brings redpolls and Pine Siskins here in numbers. I also sprinkle some Nyjer™ & Chips on the ground for the Dark-eyed Juncos that return in September.

Changing Up Food Offerings

Offer peanuts in the shell for Blue Jays and woodpeckers

A favorite fall activity at our house is watching the Blue Jays cache peanuts in the shell and whole corn kernels. I prefer to feed Blue Jays at their own feeding station about 20 feet from the other feeders. This allows them to visit without disturbing the smaller birds. Blue Jays warn other birds of impending danger from predators like owls, hawks, cats and snakes. We have often heard them call the alarm and send the other birds fleeing, saving them from hawks like the Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks during the winter months.

Flocks of migrating grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds move through Minnesota until late October. Feeders filled with golden safflower seem to be less inviting to grackles, starlings and Red-wings but the Northern Cardinals, goldfinches, chickadees, House Finches and others love it. After fall migration is completed, I might switch to a no-mess seed like Medium Sunflower Chips or Kracker Jax. These have no shells, leave no mess and won’t germinate in the spring. The pre-shelled seeds provide for quick energy for less effort and help birds to survive severe weather.

Gardening, Keeping Autumn Birds in Mind

Goldfinch on seed head
Leave seed heads on for birds.

Fall garden cleanup commences but I leave the stalks and seed heads standing of the rudbeckia, sunflower, bee balm, aster and coneflower. They are a fall feast for goldfinches and chickadees. When trimming shrubs, leaving V-shaped branches encourages American Robins and cardinals to nest in the spring. Creating a brush pile in the back corner of the lot provides cover for the birds and protection from predators, wind and weather.

Autumn brings Cedar Waxwings, robins and cardinals to berry-producing bushes and trees like the high bush cranberry, red osier dogwood and crabapples. Their visits to the birdbath are a delight.

Preparing the Heated Birdbath

At some point the heated birdbath will be needed. If the bath has lime deposits, I fill it with water and white vinegar (50:50), let it sit overnight and scrub it out with a birdbath brush in the morning. I hope for a long, beautiful fall with no need for the heated birdbath, but it will be cleaned and ready to go when needed.

Minnetonka All Seasons Wild Bird Store manager Carol Chenault has been helping our customers since 2003 and feeding birds for as long as she can remember.

Reprinted from our Sept/Oct 2017 edition of Bird’s-Eye View

Feed Backyard Birds; Entertain Your Cats!

Cat watching birdsMost cats love watching small animals, especially when it comes to birds.

Setting up a window bird feeders for your indoor cats will provide hours of entertainment for them. Stalking their prey through a window helps them become more active during the day and hopefully less active at night. Your cats can suffer from boredom just like we do. Set up easy viewing for your cats by creating a comfortable place where they can watch the feeders. Make sure to secure your window and window screens so that your cat is safe and can’t fall out.

You may even get to hear the cats do some “chirping” or chattering of their own when watching the birds.

BY GUEST CONTRIBUTOR Melissa Block

Apply for our Holiday Artisans Pop-Up

Calling Local Artisans!

All Seasons Wild Bird Stores are proud to be locally owned and operated for over 25 years. This holiday season, we are partnering with local artisans to offer high-quality, locally made products to our customers for holiday gift giving.

Now in its second year, our boutique-style Holiday Artisans Pop-Up seeks local artisans who create nature and bird-themed art and gifts, including paper goods, jewelry, pottery, woodworking and more. Up to 10 artists will be selected by a jury to sell their high-quality, handmade gifts in one of two All Seasons Wild Bird Store locations during the holiday season.

Artists will be required to be present for a meet-and-greet at their assigned location during Small Business Saturday (November 30th) for 3 hours between 10am and 3pm. Following the Holiday Open House, artists will be asked to leave stock for sale until December 24th. We may ask artists to restock items as needed throughout the pop-up sale.


To Apply: Download a pdf of the application here. Email the completed application with 3 digital images representative of your work to dave@wildbirdstore.net

Application fee: None. All Seasons Wild Bird Store will take a 35% commission fee from each sale.

Application deadline: September 15th, 2019. Artists will be notified by October 1, 2019.

Prevent Window Collisions

Each year, 350 million or more wild birds perish from collisions with windows in America. You can do something to help! Apply UV-reflecting WindowAlert™ decals to your picture windows. The decals shine like a beacon to birds, but are hardly noticeable to humans.

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