Home & Garden: Mating and nesting birds
WILD ABOUT BIRDS
Free Press Home & Garden Columnist
This may be wishful thinking, but it is getting to that time of year again when some species of birds are courting and looking for nesting sites.
If you are fortunate enough to have them, keep an eye on the bluebirds, chickadees, woodpeckers, jays, and titmice. Have you noticed mating behaviors such as ”kissing” (mate feeding), singing, strutting, wing fluttering, or dancing? If so, you now know what they are up to.
Along with mating rituals comes the search for adequate nesting sites. If you have bird houses, try to clean them out if you didn’t get that done in the fall. If you would like to add new bird houses, now is the time to do so. Whether or not you have noticed any courting antics, most species are beginning to look for nesting spots. The males are also staking claim to nesting sites in hopes a female prefers their site over the others.
Some species of birds are beginning to change their appearance, too. For instance, Goldfinches are now in the process of molting. They are also hungry for Nyjer and sunflower chips to help in growing their new, bright breeding plumage feathers. The House Finches are doing the same to produce their bright red colored chests.
Would you like to attract some insect-eating birds, but are having trouble doing so? Try feeding mealworms. Mealworms are the larvae of the mealworm beetle (Tenebrio molitor). This larvae stage typically lasts for 10 weeks. Mealworms are the best food to attract the insect-eating birds. These insect-eating birds include bluebirds (if you have them in your area), chickadees, wrens, and woodpeckers. Birds will visit your feeder on a regular basis to feed themselves and their young. Birds naturally eat insects and much of a nestling’s and fledgling’s diet is insects.
Like any new food in your yard, be patient and start slowly. It may take some time for birds to find them. But, make no mistake, once they find the mealworms they will be back regularly and with voracious appetites. During nesting season, birds will take as many mealworms as they can fit in their mouth and fly off to feed their nestlings.
Put mealworms out once a day at the same time and ring a bell, whistle, or say “come and get it.” The birds become accustomed to that notification and know when to show up. It is quite a treat for the birds and for you. Mealworms can usually be found at your favorite sporting goods store as they are used as fishing bait, or at a pet store where they can be purchased as a food for reptiles and fish.
As spring seems to be s-l-o-w-l-y approaching, try something new. Add a birdhouse, offer a new type of food, or maybe add a birdbath. The birds will enjoy the change, and you will enjoy the new birds visiting your backyard.
Local bird expert and GJ Free Press columnist Larry Collins owns Wild Birds Unlimited, 2454 Hwy. 6&50, which caters to folks who want the best backyard bird-feeding experience possible. Email your bird-feeding and birding questions to email@example.com and he’ll answer them in his bi-weekly Q&A column.
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