Who knew that ravens could be so interesting? | PostIndependent.com

Who knew that ravens could be so interesting?

Larry Collins
Free Press Home & Garden Columnist

In continuing the last article, there are a few more interesting facts about ravens before I go on to a different subject. The following information is also from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Common Ravens are present over most of the Northern Hemisphere in nearly any habitat (eastern forests and the open Great Plains are exceptions). In the West, these include coniferous and deciduous forests, sagebrush, mountains, desert, grasslands, and agricultural fields.

Common Ravens will eat almost anything they can get hold of. They eat carrion; small animals from the size of mice and baby tortoises up to adult Rock Pigeons and nestling Great Blue Herons; eggs; grasshoppers, beetles, scorpions, and other arthropods; fish; wolf and sled-dog dung; grains, buds, and berries; pet food; and many types of human food including unattended picnic items, and garbage.

Males bring some sticks to the nest, but most of the building is done by females. Ravens break off sticks around 3 feet long and up to an inch thick from live plants to make up the nest base, or scavenge sticks from old nests. These sticks, and sometimes bones or wire as well, are piled on the nest platform or wedged into a tree crotch, then woven together into a basket. The female then makes a cup from small branches and twigs. The cup bottom is sometimes lined with mud, sheep’s wool, fur, bark strips, grasses, and sometimes trash. The whole process takes around 9 days, resulting in an often uneven nest that can be 5 feet across and 2 feet high.

Common Ravens build their nests on cliffs, in trees, and on structures such as power-line towers, telephone poles, billboards, and bridges. Cliff nests are usually under a rock overhang.

Feed the Birds and Not the Bees

Both bees and wasps feed from flower nectar. One of the age-old questions has been how to keep them away from hummingbird feeders. The following are ways to minimize or eliminate bees and wasps at hummingbird feeders.

Tray- (or flat-) style feeders seem to be the best option. They usually don’t have yellow; which is more attractive to bees then red. The tray-style keeps the nectar below the ports so it doesn’t drip out and is difficult for insects to physically reach the nectar. For smaller bees that can crawl through the ports, some feeders accommodate bee guards that can be fitted from the inside of the lid to deny bees access. With most bottle-style feeders, the sun expands the air pocket at the top and pushes the nectar to the top of the port allowing them to drip and providing easy access by bees and wasps. Some bottle feeders can also get air locked.

Try not to let the sugar solution splash on the outside of the feeder when refilling. That coating is a further attractant to bees and wasps. Also, try moving the feeder even if it is only a couple feet from the original location. When a bee scout finds food it tells the others exactly where to find the source. If the source is not in the right location the others don’t look around for it. The feeder will be bee free until another scout comes across it. The birds will not have an issue with the feeder being moved.

There are bee and wasp traps available that trap the bees and wasps and reduce the number at your feeder. I have had people tell me they place a dish with nectar close to the feeder and the bees and wasps have easier access to the nectar and don’t go to the feeder. It has been said that pure almond extract around the ports has anecdotally worked. The extract does not seem to bother or harm the birds.

There are ways to feed the hummingbirds and not the bees and wasps. You just have to find the one that works for you.

Local bird expert Larry Collins owns Wild Birds Unlimited, 2454 Hwy. 6&50. Email your birdfeeding and birding questions to lcollins1@bresnan.net and he’ll answer them in his bi-weekly Q&A column in the Free Press.

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