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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Go Natural in Bird Housing with Gourds




Returning birds are scoping out the areas for ideal nesting sites.
If you planted birdhouse gourds last year and have them drying somewhere, March (we are in zone 6)
is the time to clean them up and get them hung.


Gourd houses for wild birds are the oldest bird houses used by man. They make excellent bird homes. Native North Americans were the first to craft gourds into bird houses to attract wild birds. - See more at: http://www.the-scoop-on-wild-birds-and-feeders.com/gourdhouses.html#sthash.qF3iepda.dpuf
Gourd houses for wild birds are the oldest bird houses used by man. They make excellent bird homes. Native North Americans were the first to craft gourds into bird houses to attract wild birds. - See more at: http://www.the-scoop-on-wild-birds-and-feeders.com/gourdhouses.html#sthash.qF3iepda.dpuf
Gourd houses for wild birds are the oldest bird houses used by man. They make excellent bird homes. Native North Americans were the first to craft gourds into bird houses to attract wild birds. - See more at: http://www.the-scoop-on-wild-birds-and-feeders.com/gourdhouses.html#sthash.qF3iepda.dpuf
Gourd houses for birds are the oldest bird houses used by man, and it is said that Native Americans were the first to provide such a craft to attract the wild birds.

Birds that are cavity nesters are the types who are most likely to use gourds for their nesting sites. Swallows, wrens, chickadees, woodpeckers finches and bluebirds are all types who will  take up residents.
Wrens, in particular, like a swaying birdhouse and most likely will check out several of these gourds before choosing one.

Tree Swallows

Purple Martin
Purple Martins prefer gourds over most other nesting materials. Being social creatures, swallows prefer to nest within close proximity to one another of their own species, so it will work to hang the gourds along a line or around a pole system.  Other cavity nesters are often territorial and will chase away other birds of their own kind while being tolerant of a different species nesting nearby.







Gourds have many advantages over a typical box type bird house.
Being this type of gourd us usually 8 to 10 inches across, this provides a very roomy area for the young, avoiding any crowding.
There is more depth from the entrance hole to the bottom, so it is much safer from predators. Sparrows are known to invade the nesting areas of other birds, much to the aggravation of people trying to encourage Bluebirds and Purple Martins to take up residence. Sparrows can be a problem with Bluebird boxes but don't seem to like swinging gourds.
Metal Purple Martin houses are often made of metal. Though lightweight and easier to hoist up on the pole, metal is a poor insulator from heat and cold. Natural materials such as wood and gourds are much better at protecting the young from temperatures that could prove fatal, such as a cold snap in June or unusual heat.
Last, the natural color of gourds seems to be preferred by wild birds than those houses that are brightly decorated.

Gourd houses for wild birds are the oldest bird houses used by man. They make excellent bird homes. Native North Americans were the first to craft gourds into bird houses to attract wild birds. - See more at: http://www.the-scoop-on-wild-birds-and-feeders.com/gourdhouses.html#sthash.qF3iepda.dpuf
Gourd houses for wild birds are the oldest bird houses used by man. They make excellent bird homes. Native North Americans were the first to craft gourds into bird houses to attract wild birds. - See more at: http://www.the-scoop-on-wild-birds-and-feeders.com/gourdhouses.html#sthash.qF3iepda.dpuf
Gourd houses for wild birds are the oldest bird houses used by man. They make excellent bird homes. Native North Americans were the first to craft gourds into bird houses to attract wild birds. - See more at: http://www.the-scoop-on-wild-birds-and-feeders.com/gourdhouses.html#sthash.qF3iepda.dpuf

wallows, Purple Martins and other social species of birds. These species like to raise their young in close proximity to one another of the same species. To accommodate these types of birds, gourds can be strung up on a line or a pole system with arms that provide a place to hang the gourds. Hanging the gourds in clusters like this will support the setting these social birds thrive on.
Wrens, Chickadees, Woodpeckers, House Sparrows, Bluebirds, and some Finches are all cavity nesters who will use a gourd house. (Don't be surprised if some birds use your gourd for a place to roost and not bother to build a nest in it.
- See more at: http://www.the-scoop-on-wild-birds-and-feeders.com/gourdhouses.html#sthash.qF3iepda.dpuf
By early spring, your gourds have been drying for about 5 - 6 months and if they made it through without rotting they should look like the picture on the left.

They will be very light in weight, the seeds inside will rattle, and the outside appearance will look like dried, flaky mold spots.
Just take a wire brush or sandpaper and brush this off till it is nice and smooth.

With a serrated knife cut out a hole about midway from the bottom with a diameter hole size of about 3/4 - 1 inch. If you want to attract Purple Martins in particular, make the hole about 2 inches and in the shape of a crescent. This shape is easy for the Martins to get in and out, but deters Blackbirds and Starlings. Poke additional little holes or small slits into the bottom of the gourd for drainage.

Using an ice pick poke holes through the top near the stem so that you have two holes, one on each side. Now take a crochet hook and poke through both of these holes. Loop a length of about 12 inches of weatherproof cord rope around the hook and pull back through these holes. Now your cord rope is through the birdhouse and it is ready to hang.

Be sure to hang these bird house gourds at least five feet off of the ground to be out of the reach of nosy predators, such as cats. They can be hung in groups to attract the social types or spaced out around your area to attract those species who are more territorial.

It is difficult to clean these types of birdhouses after the season is over, so I don't even bother. Usually by winter's end, they either have fallen, have woodpecker holes in them, or they become a home to a mouse or a bees nest. I never cared since I try to have a fresh batch of gourds each spring.



Need to know how to grow birdhouse gourds?



Tuesday, March 4, 2014

An Orange Belly, a Flash of Blue, Spring is Not Far Behind


There are many who believe it is only a hobby when we feed the birds. That it is nature's way for them to survive without the need for our interference. Very true if the natural habitat of our wild animals hadn't been so tampered with by the effects of suburban sprawl and the destruction of their sources of food, water and shelter.

The cost of bird seed is definitely a worthwhile expense worked into the budget of many people. Never knowing if there really is enough available food and water, it is very satisfying to know that perhaps the birds in one's own backyard are surviving because of a little help.

Bird stations attract the many seed eating birds at the feeders and clinging type birds at the suet feeders. But what about when we notice the early return of the insect eating birds such as the robins and bluebirds?

During the warm season when there is an abundance of all kinds of food, the adult bird's diet is usually about 60% plant (mostly fruit) and 40% animal (mostly worms and insects). But during cold weather, robins must switch to eating almost nothing but fruit. Birds keep warm by shivering, and the sugar from berries give them the energy to shiver. A source of fruit trees, shrubs and vines also helps fuel them for the remainder of their migrations.

During the winter the cold weather keeps hanging fruit fresh, but eventually the old fruit starts to ferment, which means the sugars turn to alcohol. If robins eat too many fermented berries, they get clumsy and are at risk for accidents and predators. As soon as the weather warms up and insects emerge, robins ignore the old berries and concentrate on worms and the early bugs.

A berry favored by the bluebird is that of the Flowering Dogwood (Cornus Flordia). Dogwood berries are higher in fat content than many other berries. However, these trees are usually stripped bare by mid-winter. Bluebirds can also feed on Pokeweed berries, Virginia creeper, Sumac, Rose hips, Mistletoe, Hackberry, Cedar, and Holly.
The female Holly provides an abundance of berries for late winter and early spring.

Winter weary bird lovers are thrilled when we get our first glimpse of a robin or the flash of a bluebird. Spring cannot be far behind once we see the return of these creatures.

Once we see the swallows, we can rest assured that the bleak, cold weather is behind us.


To make life easier for these flying friends of ours we can offer the mealworms and raisins, but better yet, if you have the space, we can plan ahead and add berry supplying trees, shrubs and vines to our lawns and naturalized landscaping.

A list of good berry sources include:
Ash,  Chokecherry, Chokeberry, Dogwood, Hackberry, Hawthorne, Holly, Magnolia, Mulberry, Serviceberry, Viburnums, Autumn Olive (this one is now considered an invasive but the birds do love the berries), American plum, Wild cherry, Wild crabapple, Barberry (also considered an invasive).

These three bushes pictured below usually have berries still on them by March.

Viburnum

Winterberry Holly

Barberry bush

Most of these berry bushes are very manageable for smaller landscapes. They are beautiful in the spring with either white or pink blossoms, therefore add interest to your yard throughout all the four seasons.
Check your garden supply centers as a source for native trees and shrubs for your area. However, be aware that many sold at the typical nursery are for ornamental purposes and may not be what you want if your goal is for late season berries. An example is the Bradford Pear. Though beautiful in the spring with its white flowers, the resulting berry is too large and hard and not really a desired food source.
Check the Extension Office for your county to learn where you can find native trees and shrubs for your zone.

Welcome Spring!
Flowering Dogwood

Washington Hawthorne

Wild Crabapple