For Mom…

Looking for a gift that Mom will truly appreciate? Forget the chocolates. Forget the kitchen appliances. Mother’s Day is a great opportunity to introduce a new hobby: backyard birding.

A birdfeeder is an original gift idea and one than can fit every budget, location and taste. You can find feeders that are utilitarian or very decorative.  An inexpensive hummingbird feeder requires only a water and sugar combination. A feeder that dispenses seed blends will attract a wide variety of birds including cardinals, finches and nuthatches. Suet feeders will attract songbirds as well as the larger woodpeckers and jays. Create a nice gift basket that includes a bag of seed, a bird guide or identifier and some cleaning tools.

If Mom is already a birding enthusiast, you can add to her set up by offering roosting and nesting boxes, heated birdbaths and a pole system. Shrubs and flowers are also a great addition that draw birds and offer shelter.

On May 8th, spoil Mom by setting up her new birding products. Then encourage her to sit with her feet up and enjoy the show.

Happy Mother’s Day!!

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The Colour of Birds

Birds have two basic sources of colour. Colours in the feathers are formed from pigments or from light refraction caused by the structure of the feather. The colours that birds exhibit, whether bright or drab are caused by the wavelengths of light reflected from feathers to the viewer’s eyes.

Pigments, which are chemical compounds found in the feathers are the more common source of colour. Pigment colorizations come from three different groups: melanins, carotenoids and porphyrins.  Melanins produce colours ranging from black to reddish browns and yellows. Besides providing color, melanin also strengthens the feathers and makes them more resilient to wear and tear.

Carotenoids are produced by plants and are acquired by eating plants. They are absorbed by the birds digestive system and then by the cells of the follicles of the feather. Carotenoids are responsible for the bright yellow of goldfinch and the vibrant red of the Northern Cardinal. A male cardinal is red because its feathers reflect red light and absorb other wavelengths of light.

Porphyrins are red and green pigments that are produced by cells in the feather follicle.   Porphyrins produce a range of colours including pink browns, reds and greens. Porphyrins are found in some owls, and pigeons.

Structural colours are the result of the refraction of light caused by the structure of the feather. This works like a prism, splitting the light into rich colours. At certain angles little or no light is reflected so the resulting colour is black. Tiny air pockets in some feathers can scatter incoming light, resulting in a solid colour such as the blue of the Indigo Bunting and the Mountain Bluebird.

Colour is very important to birds because they rely heavily on their vision. Birds use colour to identify themselves to other members of their flock. Males use their vibrant plumage to attract a mate and to be noticed so that they can stake their territory.

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A sure sign of Spring…

A sure sign of spring is the return of migratory birds. What a welcome sight… and sound!

Birds travel thousands of kilometres, arriving from Mexico, Central America and South America. The springtime migration is usually quicker than the fall migration south. In the fall, birds do not face such an important deadline. However, in spring, it is imperative that they arrive at the optimal time for breeding. For each species there is a select arrival time. Often males arrive before the females, the strongest of the males arriving first. They quickly stake out their breeding territories, usually the same place as the previous year. Then the females select those males with the most favourable territory.  Together they proceed to build a nest, incubate the eggs and raise their young. All this must be accomplished early enough in the season so that the young are strong enough for the long flight south in the fall.

Due to global warming, many bird species are arriving earlier each year and move farther north to breed as the climate changes. Farther north, birds can find more food in their natural environment and less fragmented forests.  

For information on the Migratory Bird Program, please visit:http://my.nature.org/birds/about/

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Finch, nyjer seed and squirrels…

If squirrels aren’t supposed to like nyjer seed, why would I need a squirrel proof and chew proof Finch feeder?

Squirrels belong to the rodent family and like all rodents, their teeth grow continuously throughout their lives. In order to keep their teeth both sharp at an appropriate length, they must gnaw continuously. If they didn’t, their teeth would become so long they would no longer be able to eat. Often damage is done to feeders, to relieve this need to chew and not because squirrels are exploring a possible food source.

Squirrels don’t typically eat nyjer seed but are attracted by the smell of the oil in the nyjer seed. They will damage the feeder to find out what is inside. Finch feeders, which feature small feeding ports, are attractive safe havens for small song birds that are often pushed away from other feeders by larger birds. To attract a variety of songbirds, many blends also contain small sunflower chips, which will also attract squirrels.

Investing in a squirrel proof Finch feeder will definitely provide you with a pleasing, less frustrating birding experience.

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A sure sign of spring…

Hummingbirds are now on their northern migration route from Central America and Mexico. They average about 20 miles per day.

To track Ruby-throated hummingbird migration in North America and to report your first sighting, please visit this website:

http://www.hummingbirds.net/map.html

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National Bird Feeding Month

February is a difficult month for wild birds. There is little food in their environment; the temperatures can be severe and there is little water available. In order to promote wild bird feeding and bird watching as a hobby, February was designated National Bird Feeding Month.

Mr. John Porter said it best when he presented a resolution in the Congressional Record proclaiming February as National Bird Feeding Month:

Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize February, one of the most difficult months in the United States for wild birds, as National Bird-Feeding Month. During this month, individuals are encouraged to provide food, water, and shelter to help wild birds survive. This assistance benefits the environment by supplementing wild bird’s natural diet of weed seeds and insects. Currently, one third of the U.S. adult population feeds wild birds in their backyards.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, backyard bird feeding is an entertaining, educational, and inexpensive pastime enjoyed by children and adults. Bird feeding provides a needed break from today’s frantic lifestyles. Adults enjoy the relaxation and peacefulness afforded by watching birds — nature serves to relieve the stress and can get one’s day going on a tranquil note.

Young children are naturally drawn to the activities involved in feeding wild birds, which can serve as excellent educational tools. Children can identify different species of birds with a field guide and can learn about the birds’ feeding and living habits. These observations can then provide excellent research opportunities for school projects and reports.

Feeding wild birds in the backyard is an easy hobby to start and need not overtax the family budget. It can be as simple as mounting a single feeder outside a window and filling it with bird seed mix. For many people, the hobby progresses from there. They discover the relationship between the type and location of feeders, and the seeds offered in them, and the number and varieties of birds attracted. Parents can challenge an inquisitive child’s mind as they explore together these factors in trying to encourage visits by their favorite birds.”

Throughout the month the National Bird-feeding Society sponsors events to encourage this ever growing hobby. Visit www.birdfeeding.org for more information.

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Winning her over…

In a ritual that humans can relate to, the male of the bird species will primp, dress, sing and generally show off to impress a member of the opposite sex.

Singing is the most common way for adult male song birds to attract a mate. First they sing to establish their territory. Then the mating process begins. If the male can show that his songs are intricate and that he has a wide variety, he will demonstrate that he is both intelligent and mature. The more elaborate the repertoire and the more complex each song, the greater his chances of securing a mate.

Bright colours and a prominent display of feathers are also very attractive to a female. The male bird will posture himself to display his form and advertise his good health and strength. Primping his feathers and then spreading them will allow the most colourful patches to be displayed. Showing that he is in “good shape” should ensure that any offspring will also be strong.

Building a sturdy nest allows the male bird to show off his architectural and contracting skills and bringing food to a potential mate will demonstrate that he is a good provider. The female will inspect the nest and if it is well built and placed in a secure place, the male stands a chance. It is important that the nest will safely hold the young nestlings and not fall from the tree. Often the female prefers that the nest be perched near the tip of a branch so that it is out of reach of any climbing predators. Some species will decorate the nest to draw attention to it and further impress their potential mate. With any luck, the nest will pass inspection but if enough females reject it, the male bird might have to start from scratch.

The male bird puts a lot of time and energy into attracting a female.  Hopefully all these impressive moves will win over the one he desires…

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Brome Bird Care wishes all our Squirrel Buster fans a Happy, Healthy Holiday Season. To our dealers and distributors, we thank you for your ongoing support and to all the squirrels out there…so sorry for the frustration we have caused you.

Watch for new Squirrel Buster products in 2011!

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More than just a decoration…

Your Christmas tree has brought joy and cheer to your home over the holiday season but you can give it a second life…one that is arguably even more valuable than as Yuletide decor-with these tips from organicgardening.com:

Give it to the birds: Move the tree-in its stand or leaning again a fence- outdoors for the winter, where it can provide food and shelter for wildbirds. Even better, put the tree near a bird feeder or hang bird treats from the tree. Bags of suet (animal fat you can get at most grocery stores) or a small piece of wood or thick cardboard smeared with a mix of bird seed and peanut butter will not only attract birds but will nourish them too. 

Make sure your tree is free of tinsel, decorations and hooks. It can provide an extra perching area that offers protection from the wind and cold to birds waiting to eat from a nearby feeder or it can provide more long term shelter.

You can even use your tree to make bird feeders. Cut the branches back and then cut the trunk into 12” lengths. Leave some branches on the trunk that will allow smaller birds to perch, an inch or two in length is adequate. Woodpeckers will cling to the trunk and the length of the feeder will allow a tail brace. Drill holes in the trunk and fill the holes with suet or peanut butter. These foods provide protein, fat and the extra calories essential to birds in cold winter months.

You can use wood chips from your tree as mulch and add it to your garden or flowerbed. The insects that will eventfully inhabit the mulch provide food for ground feeding birds such as sparrows and towhees.

Before discarding your Christmas tree, consider its many uses for our backyard friends.

Happy Holidays!

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T’is the Season…for Birding!

Looking for a gift for that person who has everything? You have a limited budget? You can’t bear to buy another product that will lose its appeal after a few days??

How about introducing a new activity…backyard birding? Bird watching is a hobby that crosses all economic and age brackets and is one of the fastest growing outdoor activities in North America. It is the perfect solution for that hard-to-buy-for person on your list. With the purchase of a basic feeder that can attract a wide variety of birds, you can give a gift that will be enjoyable throughout the seasons. There are birdfeeders and accessories to suit all tastes, budgets and locations. If you make a small gift basket that also includes a quality bag of seed, a brush for cleaning and a book or CD that identifies birds by sight or sound, your novice “birder” will have all the necessary components to get started. You could even include a coupon for your time which can be redeemed to help set up the new feeder.  

For experienced birding enthusiasts, adding a speciality feeder might increase traffic to their backyard. Consider a suet feeder, peanut feeder or one especially made to attract orioles, finch or hummingbirds. A heated bird bath and speciality plants and shrubs would also be a good gift choice to attract more birds. Gift certificates for a seed buying program or a donation made in the recipients’ name to a local Nature Center or Audubon Society are other options.

Shopping for birding products couldn’t be easier. Basic models and some accessories are available in big box stores. Speciality stores carry a wider variety of feeders and high quality items such as binoculars. Their staff are usually very knowledge and helpful and as a rule, service is their motto. If you want the convenience of shopping from home, there are lots of online dealers that carry birding products. It is also an easy way to have your birding gift shipped to their door.

Whatever birding product you happen to choose, you can take pride in knowing that it is a gift that keeps on giving…

Happy Birding and Happy Holidays!

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