Friday, March 6, 2009

Bird Questions and Thoughts


As most of you know, I'm a fairly new birder. I never paid much attention to them (how silly is that?) until the bluebirds nested in our backyard this past Summer... I 'caught' the bug then--and my love of birds has just grown and grown. I started reading and looking at photos and information, and learning all I could. I started feeding the birds, added a birdbath ---and then started reading others' blogs about the birds. WELL---everything has gone fine until recently. My problem: the Pine Siskins have taken over the feeders and have almost run off all of my favorite birds.


For awhile I was thrilled to have all of the little siskins... I fed them and fed them and fed them... They were truly eating us out of house and home! We probably had well over 100 of them off and on all day long. AND-- I have noticed fewer and fewer of my other birds. SO I began to read some others' ideas on getting rid of the siskins. Here's some of what I have found out:
-Pine Siskins are supposed to go to Canada SOON (once it gets warm). Will they???????
-Quit feeding them.
-Take away all of the nyger/thistles/mesh feeders/finch blend bird food.


So--this past week, I've been experimenting.. I totally put away ALL of the feeders for about 4 days. I couldn't stand it. The Cardinals would just sit on the deck looking so pitiful. I than began putting out just a little Sunflower seed. I've done that for a couple of days --and there have been a few Siskins, but not many. AND--a few of my old regulars have been coming back.


We are going to be gone all next week. I guess my question is:
--Would it be best to leave all of my birdfeed inside ---to totally eliminate the siskins??
--OR---should I just leave Sunflower seed out --so that the others will have something to eat??? I don't want to lose all of our regulars---so I'm confused as to what to do. Any thoughts would be appreciated from all of you who are birders!!!



A couple of more questions:
--Is there any good way of getting the sunflower seed hulls off of the ground below the feeders???? I tried to rake ---but got everything up except the hulls.
--How often do you totally clean your feeders? I haven't cleaned them very much --and just continue to add more birdfeed to them. I did throw everything out this week and cleaned all of the feeders really well. There's no evidence of any mold or bad food in them. I always take them in during rain and at nights. (Feeders that I have: suet feeder; mesh bag with thistle; seed bell; plate with combo of sunflower seeds and chips, and safflower; a house with the same combo as the plate; and 3 hanging feeders (one with Finch blend, one with sunflower seeds, and one with safflower.)


Thanks for your help, Birders.. If you prefer to email me, that would be fine (betsyadams@mac.com). For you non-birders, IF you are still reading, here are some of my regular birds that I want to see MORE of again --like I had BEFORE the siskins came!!! Above is a beautiful male Bluebird and below are some of the others..







This is one of my fav's, the Carolina Wren. We still have a few, and they love the suet feeder along with our regular woodpeckers. But--I'm hoping that more of these little wrens will return.







We used to have lots of Goldfinches.. I've seen very few recently. Sigh!







I love our Tufted Titmice. We still have them--but not as many as we did. Hopefully, they will start coming back.







This beauty is a White-breasted Nuthatch. We still have a few, but hopefully more soon.







Finally, I LOVE this picture. It was taken on a very foggy afternoon. The little Carolina Chickadee came there and talked to me for awhile (since I was standing out on the deck). Isn't he a Cutie????
Hugs,

49 comments:

Cedar ... said...

The siskens have to GO! I have had more than usual here this year too. Probably been about 10 years since i've had this many siskens. I'd put out ouly the shelled and cracked sunflower seed. then you have no mess afterward. A little more pricey, but worth it. Leave the thistle feeder inside for the week. the other birds will eat the cracked sunflower chips. Good luck!

Kallen305 said...

I agree w/ Cedar! I would leave sunflower for them for next week. I don't know how to get rid of spilled seed aside from raking and am dreading it once the snow melts. I clean my feeders once a month with a dilluted bleach solution.

Jayne said...

Betsy, the cannibals have been here all winter too and they empty my 3.5lb thistle feeder in a little over 24 hours, so I just quit filling it. But, they also will eat the shelled sunflower hearts as well. I am seeing fewer numbers in the last week, so maybe they are starting to head north? I've not had nearly as many goldfinch either. I'd just put out the black oiled sunflower while you all are gone. Soon, the little buggers will all be headed north. :c)

Peggy said...

One thing I learned that surprised me was the little yellow finches I thought left every winter were actually still around. They get brown feathers in the winter to help protect them. Maybe your finches haven't gotten their yellow feathers for the season yet.I have noticed ours are looking almost greenish as the yellow mixes with the brown.

CountryDreaming said...

My best suggestion for the Siskins: Send them on up to Northeast Ohio! We'll be overjoyed watching them as they migrate on through. Siskins are such a rare treat and coveted sight around Cleveland that I've seen birders doubt themselves and their identification skills in a group where we were lucky enough to see just one.

Shellmo said...

Betsy - Cedar is right! Just a few sunflower seeds will be fine - they'll be moving on soon. Also - I clean my bird feeders about once a month - more if it looks really dirty. In the summer I am cleaning my birdbath weekly (using vinegar and warm water.) Glad to see you enjoying your feathered friends!!

Rose said...

I just have to tell you that the Carolina wren is probably my favorite bird...I love their personality and don't they have the biggest song for such a little bird?

Maybe by the time you get back, the siskins will be gone

Susie said...

Hi Betsy all these photos are precious! If I were you I would take all the feed inside while I was gone. These birds will come back, it may just take a little while. Your bluebirds don't eat seed so it doesn't matter to them. As far as cleaning my feeder, well lets just say I'm not real good at that. The sunflower hulls just stay where they lay. That's why I have my feeder at the back where it doesn't interfere with my grass or flowers.

The Incredible Woody said...

Beautiful pictures!!

I am absolutely no help. I have one pitiful little finch feeder in my yard:(

fishing guy said...

Betsy: It won't be long and all your regulars will return. You have a great group of bird friends.

karin said...

Just thinking out loud here - would a shop vac pick up the sunflower seed husks? I love all your beautiful birds and didn't know that siskins can be such a nuisance. We have magpies at the nursing home in the spring that keep our pretty birds away. Besides that, when they have babies in their nests they actually attacks any of our residents who come too close. Thanks for sharing your hobby with us!

Diane C. said...

I love your bird photos. The only one of those I have seen here is the goldfinch. I heard there is a finch disease in east Tennessee affecting pine siskins and goldfinches. You might want to check out:
http://vickiehenderson.blogspot.com/2009/03/year-for-finch-disease.html

Busy Bee Suz said...

I love all the pictures...but I know very little about birding.
I put out seed and they eat it.
:)
Not much help huh???
Send all your cleaning questions to me though...that I do know. ;)

Smilingsal said...

I am not a birder, so take this advice with a grain of salt. Don't put anything out. God has provided for "the birds of the air" and they will be fine.

Diane said...

Dear Betsy, There are much more experienced birders than me so I'll let them give you advice. I think that with enjoying something always comes problems. Blackbirds, squirrels, peanut hulls. Seems to just be the way. Hope you get it figured out.

Richard said...

Looks like all your questions are answered except the sunflower shell one. I just wait till spring. First I rake them a few times not to pick them up but to stir them to dry and then just run my mower over the area with the bagger on. Cleans them right up.

Janie said...

I assumed you were a lifelong birder, Betsy. You certainly have learned a lot in a short time.
We don't get siskens, but the bluebirds are coming back, and I'm excited about that.
You have some great photos of your favorites. I like that last one, too.

Cicero Sings said...

Hi Betsy,

My feeders are out in the back yard, which is left wild so I don't worry about scraping up the shells and mess! However, when I did live in the city, I had a big sieve tray that hung under my feeder to catch some of the mess. Then I went to hulled sunflower seeds.

I'd leave a feeder out with the sunflower seeds while you are gone.

I had my share of pine siskins in the spring and then in the fall last year. Pigs pure and simple. The chickadees could work around them ... they'd almost use team work. Some siskins are miserable souls. One in particular wouldn't let anyone eat if it was eating ... would spend more energy chasing fellow birds away than eating. We would laugh at the greedy gus. So I'd chase it away. Usually they only hang around for 2-3 weeks when they come by here.

Jen said...

I'm newer at this than you--all good questions, so I will pay attention to the advice you get.

Ruth's Photo Blog said...

I don't have any ideas on getting rid of Siskins,because I really want them around.I happen to enjoy them and have not found that thay keep other birds away.I am not too frequent in cleaning the feedres and have had no problems with disease yet.
Blessings,Ruth

Beth said...

I love your photos, Betsy! Especially that sweet little Carolina wren. You certainly know a lot about birds---I never would have guessed that you were new at it! I wish I could help you, but all we feed are the hummingbirds, though I do plant a lot of things that I know my bird friends will like to eat!

Pat - Arkansas said...

Wonderful photos of your little birds, Betsy. Looks like you've already received some good advice about the Pine Siskins. I don't put food out regularly, mostly just when the Goldfinches arrive, and that's because I love to see them! Currently, my back yard is full of grackles, who scratch through the fallen leaves looking for spring bugs. They must be finding some, because they keep coming back. I need to rake the back yard, too!

Mary Isabella and Kiley too! said...

I love all your Bird Pictures. I am so glad you share them with us. Have a great weekend...m...

Dave's Bird Watching Blog said...

Hmmmm....I'd still put the seed out and not risk losing some of your other birds since you'll be gone for a week. I think I'd stop the thistle seed all together for a while and just do the sunflower types and some peanuts. About the seed hulls, I've seen people hanging some type of catcher under their feeders...something like a plastic flower pot that can catch the hulls. Hope this helps!

ramblingwoods.com said...

I would leave the seed out as this can be a challenging time to find any other food to eat. If you want take the thistle down and the siskins will eat the black-oil sunflower seed or BOSS. Most all of the birds except for house sparrows will eat BOSS.

It is important to clean up under the feeders to prevent disease. I use mulch and then clean up the old mulch and put down fresh. Some people do use a shop vac.

It is important to clean the feeders. I do it once a month or more often if I see illness with a 10% bleach solution.

Seed needs to be kept dry so that it doesn't mold and cause illness. I just posted some info on sick birds.

Cornell had lots of good info that you can google...Michelle

The Whites said...

I don't know much about birds, but I do love to watch them and feed them! Good luck in finding answers to tour questions!

Mandy

Carla said...

I've only been putting out sunflower seeds, so I haven't even noticed the Siskins. Of course, everything is welcome in my yard. And so far, I only have a platform feeder that I keep where the woods begin at the back of my yard, so the hull mess falls in the woods.(Thanks to cataract surgeries, I can see the birds back there.)

ramblingwoods.com said...

BOSS is black-oil sunflower seeds Betsy... Michelle

Pigeon said...

I too am relatively new at birding, so I have read all the advice you have gotten with much appreciation for the wisdom there.

ShabbyInTheCity said...

Haha! You "caught the bug"...I think you might be a birdie!
I can't speak intelligently about them...but my mother can! One day we were walking and I said to her that I was hearing a lot of semi-trucks down shifing ...that "waaahhh" sound...she said it was a BIRD. Finally I saw it too...these kind do this dive from the sky and their wings sound like a semi-truck!!! Was I ever shocked!

Deborah Godin said...

I think your idea of selective feeding is good. Don't leave an all-you-can-eat situation for the siskins. I clean my feeders once a season, and also if the seed get wet. Also stopped using platform feeders, as they let birds who "eat in place" (as opposed to birds like chickadees who take a seed and fly off to eat at another location) wade into the exposed food and then they defecate in it. Good way to spread comtanimation and disease. Hopper-type feeders are better, in my opinion.

Vickie said...

Hi Betsy,
I'm glad you've gotten hooked on birds! Thanks for leaving a note on my blog. Bluebirds nesting... how wonderful! I lived in a rural area of east TN for nine years and enjoyed delightful bluebird families year round.

I have a slightly different perspective on feeding after my recent experience. First, our year round residents, which include goldfinches, titmice, chickadees and white-breasted nuthatches, will hang around whether you feed them or not. And they will return to your feeders when you fill them again. Your climate is much the same as mine in east TN and there is plenty of seed and berries around, as well as, with the recent warm spells, insects.

Since you are in one of the regions that has been reporting dead birds and you have found one dead bird, I would recommend that you take down all your feeders until you return from your trip. Then you can keep a close eye on them. All your local birds will return to feed when you offer food again and will be safer from disease.

Raymonty said...

Betsy ~ I like your bird photos and your website. . . . . . P.S. 'Side Bar': I don't know how to make links yet and someday I will have to learn how to. -Ray.

Robert V. Sobczak said...

Ahh, the selective feeder conundrum. Wait until the squirrels enter into the picture!!!

Leedra said...

Maybe the Goldfinch are there, just mingled in with the Pine Siskins and you can't see them. I think just feeding the Sunflower and Safflower would be good for starters. Maybe while you are gone just put out Sunflower seeds. You think the Pine Siskins ran off my other birds?

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Jessica said...

The pine siskins will leave and it should be soon. I was talking to someone at my local nature center the other day and he said that some years you hardly see siskins at all and this year was the year of the invasion of them! We've had a lot too but not near as many as you've had.

I'm sure your other birds will come back. I've noticed that since the warmer weather has started to come and the snow has melted that my birds are not coming near as much to the feeders.

I've decided to change my direction with the birds this spring. I'm still going to feed my birds but I'm going to way scale down my seed feeders, maybe only have one or two still out (now I have 7 out) and instead concentrate on my bird houses (I really want to attract blue birds!!!). Also, I'll concentrate on my hummingbirds and orioles (I can't wait for the return of my orioles!!!). And I'm really excited that Craig is making me an owl house too. A friend of mine has an owl in her owl house and I am so envious, I want an owl!

Yea, I understand the seed hull mess. I have the same issue. For me that is the only bad thing about feeding them, it makes a mess. The best thing I can do is rake them up. I get a lot of dirt up when I do it but I can't figure a better way. I've read that some people lay down screen under the feeders and use that to lift it up but I've never tried it

Sounds like you are doing a fine job of keeping your feeders clean. As long as you have no mold or rotten seed they should be fine. I let mine run empty every few weeks and give them a good cleaning.

I'm a lot like you Betsy, in the fact that I just starting this fascination with birds in the last year and a half. I have taught myself so much in the last. It's amazing how much joy it brings!

Michele said...

You have some delightful bird photos and obviously some wonderful bird information from some very important bird bloggers out there!!

I just want to say thank you for your wonderful comments and encouragement in my blogs. It means a lot to me.
It has been an exhausting life journey lately but your words have smoothed out the bumps somewhat and I do appreciate that...

Hugs to the both of you...♥

Janie said...

Betsy, I hereby present you with the Butterfly Award! Details are on my blog.

Tina said...

Wow you sure got some great suggestions...let me know which ones worked...

i took down my thistle feeder..tooooo costly..will put it up again later.

lola said...

Great pics Betsy. I don't know what to tell you. I have very few birds here. I love to see my cardinals return. And of course there are the doves. So what seed falls to the ground the ground feeders eat it. No problem there.
You & George have a wonderful & safe trip next week. Hope you take lots of pics to share.

Mary said...

Most of the birds you show love sunflower seeds, so just feed that for awhile. I'm sure the siskins will move on eventually. I usually let the wind take care of a lot of the sunflower mess for me :-) I also have a leaf rake that you can adjust how far apart the prongs are and have used it to rake away the heavy mess areas. I'm a very messy feeder, so I'm a bad one to ask. I even let the sunflower seeds grow under the feeder in the summer. I've wondered if they could be vacumned with an outdoor vac, but haven't tried it. A lot of my mess gets cleaned up by the nighttime varmints...raccoon, possum, skunk.

Daisy said...

I'm sorry I have no advice for you about your siskins, Betsy. I enjoyed your photos though. I especially like the bluebirds and goldfinches. :)

A Brit in Tennessee said...

Betsy, sorry I don't know enough about the Siskins to advice you, but after reading all these comments, a lot of people DO know the answer to your questions.
I love the variety of birds that visit my feeders everyday, my problem is the squirrels...they are such greedy beggars, and literally destroy the bird feeders, getting to the food.
I hate to stop feeding, then all the birds will leave for greener pastures..

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Thanks SO SO much for all of your comments. And to you non-birders, I hope you at least enjoyed the photos.

I've spent most of the day reading your comments, searching the internet and reading about Pine Siskins. Apparently, there is ALOT of Pine Siskin sickness this year--and much of it is in Tennessee. It is Salmonella. We have only seen one dead siskin--and I thought it had hit my window. But I don't know that.

SO---after fretting about this all day long, I have decided to err on the side of caution --and put all of my bird feeders inside while we are gone next week. That way, hopefully all of the siskins will LEAVE. AND--from what I've read, the other birds WILL come back... (I hope!)

I know that even if I only leave the Sunflower seeds out, the siskins will eat them also. SO---my problem won't be solved.

I pray that I'm doing the correct thing. BUT--I would be SO upset if any bird got sick because a sick bird had been at my feeders.

Thanks again SO MUCH.. You all are the BEST.
Hugs to all,
Betsy

Cedar ... said...

Ok,... my feeders are empty here right now,...rather than fill I will leave them empty for a few days. The weather here is milder now and snow is melting,.... I won't feel too guilty. But I want the siskens that are here to move along too. Let's compare notes in a week or so....

amelia said...

I have flocks of redpolls and siskins, probably over three hundred and they are here all day. We use a fify pound bad of black oil sunflower seed a week which is very expensive but I figure they are only doing what they were put here to do which is to eat and survive the best way they can. We also have evening and pine grosbeaks, crossbills, rose breasted grosbeaks just one or two, many of the usual winter birds, chickadees, white and red breasted nuthatches and downy and hairy woodpeckers.
I will be glad when the redpolls and siskins leave for the arctid because of the expense but I do enjoy watching them. I keep the feeders clean with a bleach solution to try to avoid salmonella but as for the seed hull, we just leave them and they compost back in to the earth. we do get a lot of sunflowers from uneaten seed as well

Mary Isabella and Kiley too! said...

I love Birds but am not very experienced. We do feed them but have not put any out in a few days We are clenaing everything and will begin again in a few days....Have great fun this week...m..

Your EG Tour Guide said...

The siskins are eating sunflower seeds at my feeders. I think they'll eat anything.

HappyWifeHappyLife said...

I really should have Hubster (my husband) read this post - he LOVES birds! In fact, he buys this very special bird seed that has dried cherries and dried cranberries, and all sorts of special seeds in in. He also makes sure to sprinkle plenty on the ground so the "groundlings" (as he calls them) - squirrels, chipmunks, etc. - get food too.

I must say, I've never considered myself an ornithologist, but I have really enjoyed sitting on the deck with my binoculars in the early morning hours watching our fine feathered visitors. There are some really BEAUTIFUL birds that God has populated the skies with, aren't there?