5 Tips to Attracting Birds to Your Backyard Nesting Boxes

This post first published on Care2.com

We are always so excited when spring arrives and wrens and chickadees start checking out our backyard nesting boxes. It’s such an honor when they finally decide to raise a brood inside the boxes that we built ourselves from leftover wood.

Providing nesting boxes is important, say experts at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, because for many species of birds there’s a shortage of great places to nest. Spring is already underway, and many birds have already chosen their nesting locations, but it’s never too late to hang a birdhouse, say the experts.

Many birds have more than one brood per season and may switch to a new box to raise their second or third broods. In addition, if a bird is unsuccessful in raising its first brood due to a predator, it may be very happy to take advantage of a new box hanging somewhere else on your property.

HERE ARE FIVE TIPS TO HELP ATTRACT BIRDS TO YOUR BACKYARD NESTING BOXES.

1. Location, location, location

Every species of birds has a different habitat requirement. If you choose the right location, you will have the best chance of attracting the type of bird you’re hoping for.

Experts at Birds and Blooms Magazine say that the best location for a bluebird house is an area facing or surrounded by open fields where insects they eat and feed to their young are plentiful. Chickadees, on the other hand, prefer their houses to be located in a cluster of small trees or in a shrubbery.

House wrens are attracted to boxes hanging from small trees in an open yard, and purple martins prefer housing to be placed in open fields or lawns with clear flyways.

If you want to attract tree swallows, and you have a body of water in or near your yard, then you’re in luck. These birds like to nest close to water where they can find aquatic insects to feed to their young.

2. Consider the style of your nesting box

In general, say Birds and Blooms experts, small birds need small houses and big birds will look to the larger backyard nesting boxes, but each species have desires beyond the size.

For example, purple martins like to nest in groups and are attracted to condo-style housing. These community homes should have at least four cavities with between six and 12 being ideal.

Bluebirds look for single room nest boxes, which can be about 50 to 75 yards apart. Unlike the bluebirds, house wrens prefer to live in small single houses away from other nesting boxes.

While commercial nesting boxes come in a wide variety of colors and designs, bird experts caution that it’s best to keep the boxes simple, not stylish.

In addition, experts at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology say that a perch is unnecessary for the birds. In fact, perches can help predators gain access to the nest. We learned this the hard way when last year a blue jay used the perch on one of our boxes to attack the babies inside. We removed all of the perches on our nest boxes and the birds still use them.

Blue tit bird brings caterpillar in nest box

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What Renting Baby Chicks for Easter Really Teaches Kids

This post first published on Care2.com.

Excited that he won a blue chick in a church raffle, a young child ran to show his mom. Like thousands of chicks every year, this baby bird was dyed as an Easter novelty to be sold or raffled off to families.

Thankfully this boy’s mother valued the tiny chick’s life and asked Woodstock Farm Sanctuary in High Falls, NY to give him a home. Picasso has grown into a handsome rooster who loves his life at the sanctuary.

Not all chicks are so lucky. Easter is a time of rejoicing and renewal for Christians, but for thousands of innocent chicks, this season is nothing to chirp about.

Every Easter, families across the country purchase chicks for their children only to drop them off at shelters a few weeks later when the novelty wears off or they can’t commit to caring for the animal. A more recent trend is rent-a-chick programs promoted by retailers and farmers throughout the country in the weeks leading up to Easter.

RENTING BABY CHICKS DOESN’T TEACH CHILDREN RESPONSIBILITY

The rental program is popular because children can enjoy the novelty of caring for a chick without the long-term commitment.

One farmer in New Jersey who rents chicks to families promotes the program as “… teaching kids to appreciate animals and to better understand the responsibility of caring for them.” The farms Facebook Page promotes the rental chick program as a “… great educational way to introduce children to caring for a live animal without a long-term commitment!”

Another farmer in Maryland said his rent-a-chick program allows parents to “…give their children a fluffy surprise on Easter without getting stuck with a new pet.”

picassotheroosterPicasso started out life dyed blue and raffled off as an Easter novelty, but today he is enjoying life at the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary.
Photo courtesy of Woodstock Farm Sanctuary.

Caring for pets has long been credited with teaching children responsibility, trust, compassion, understanding, empathy and respect for animals and by extension other people. Parents who adopt pets from shelters  teach children about the importance of saving a life and committing to the care of that animal for his or her lifetime.

Despite the promotions, renting chicks for Easter does not teach children responsibility, respect or compassion for animals.

“By renting animals for a few weeks and then just sending them back to eventually be slaughtered children are being taught—even if unintentionally—that these animals are disposable,” said Andrea Springirth, animal caretaker and humane educator at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary.

Many farmers and retailers say they started the rent-a-chick program to help cut down on the numbers of chicks being released to the shelters. But what these rental programs actually represent is the further exploitation of animals for profit with little or no concern for the welfare or interests of the animal, said Springirth.

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7 Common Food Items Not Good for Backyard Birds

 


Image by Nancy Buron from Pixabay

We keep our backyard birds supplied with sunflower seed and suet throughout the cold winter months. Recently my husband started to toss old bread to the birds but I was concerned that this might not be helping our little friends.

As it turns out I was right. According to avian experts, throwing bread to the birds on a regular basis can negatively impact their health.

THE FOLLOWING FOODS ARE NOT GOOD FOR WILD BIRDS

Bread

Bread is one of the biggest no-no’s when it comes to feeding backyard birds said Don Torino, president of the Bergen County Audubon Society, NJ.

“Just because they eat bread, that doesn’t mean it’s healthy for them,” Torino said. “The problem is they fill up on bread and get really weak because it has no nutritional value for them.”

When eaten excessively, bread will cause health problems for birds, including malnutrition and obesity. This is particularly prominent among young waterfowl in urban and suburban areas where ducklings and goslings may be fed large amounts of bread. As a result, these young birds fail to get proper nutrients for healthy growth and can develop deformed wings—known as Angel Wing. Feeding bread to waterfowl is illegal in many states for the protection of the birds.

Salt or Salty food like chips or crackers

According to the nonprofit Nature Forever birds differ greatly in their ability to cope with salty food and water. For example, seabirds are able to eat marine animals and drink seawater without a problem, while many songbirds can die if they take in large quantities of salt. Most backyard birds cannot cope with too much salt intake so it’s important not to offer them salty food.

“Salted peanuts are not a good choice for backyard birds,” Torino said. “People should choose unsalted or roasted peanuts instead. The same goes for other types of nuts.”

Moldy or stale food

While it’s true many molds are harmless, some can cause respiratory infections in birds. For this reason, avian experts recommend not feeding moldy or stale foods to backyard birds. It’s also important to remove any stale or moldy seed or other food from feeders. Stale food provides a breeding ground for salmonella bacteria, which can cause food poisoning and even death.

Torino said it’s important to keep bird feeders clean and he recommends periodically washing them with a 10 percent bleach solution. In addition, dropped seed should be raked up from under the feeders.

“It’s also a good idea to move the feeders around so all the droppings aren’t collecting in one place,” Torino said. “That helps to prevent avian diseases being passed around from one bird to another.”

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Tips for House Hunting as a Pet Owner

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I will never forget how nervous I was the day Solas, my late German shepherd mix, and I headed out to meet the landlord of a studio apartment that I was hoping to rent. The apartment was at the back of the landlord’s home and he and his wife were hesitant to rent to a tenant with a dog. I convinced them to meet my dog before turning us down.

Solas had been bathed and was wearing a cute bandana when we walked up to the landlord’s door. I also brought along her Canine Good Citizen certificate and references from my veterinarian. She made a great impression and we got the apartment. In fact, Solas and the landlord’s granddaughter became great buddies.

Not all tenants with pets fare so well. In an American Humane survey of 93 shelters, “landlord won’t allow pets” was the fourth most common reason pets were surrendered to shelters. And according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), finding and keeping rental housing lead to the surrender of half a million pets to shelters each year. While the rental housing industry claims to be pet-friendly, HSUS representatives say that it is discriminating about the types of pets allowed. Often there are weight limits or breed restrictions when it comes to renting with dogs.

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Why You Should Never Release Pets Into the Wild

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While it’s illegal to release non-native species into the wild, many pet owners who no longer want their pets will turn them loose. Releasing unwanted pets into the wild is both cruel and bad for the environment. Domestic rabbits, ferrets, rats and mice and aquarium fish have all been released to fend for themselves — often leading to either their death or disastrous environmental consequences.

The release of exotic pets in Florida is such a huge problem that the Department of Fish Game and Wildlife created an Exotic Pet Amnesty Day where pet owners can surrender unwanted pets without penalty.

Here’s a list of popular pets that people often consider releasing into the wild and why they shouldn’t: 

Ferrets

There’s a common misconception that domesticated ferrets are wild animals and can fend for themselves if turned loose. That’s not true. According to the American Ferret Association, Inc., ferrets were domesticated by humans as early as 63 BCE and shouldn’t be confused with the black-footed wild ferret. If a domesticated ferret is turned loose into the wild he or she will rarely survive more than a few days.

What to do instead: Reach out to a local shelter to see if it will accept and rehome your ferret. The Ferrets Rescue Shelter Directory provides a global list of shelters and rescues dedicated to finding new homes for ferrets.


Image credit: Thinkstock

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Saving the Wild Parrots of New Jersey

 

This post first appeared on Care2.com

Alison Evans-Fragale was dumbfounded when she got a call from Lonely Grey Rescue bird sanctuary to say that PSE&G had dropped off 27 baby parrots who had been living in nests removed from utility poles in Englewood, NJ. Six of the babies were dead.

For the past decade Evans-Fragale, a nurse practitioner and founder of the Edgewater Parrots Society, a group that works to protect the birds, has had an amicable relationship with the power company. She said that she was always alerted before a nest teardown either in her town or in neighboring communities so that she could be on site to monitor the removal and safe handling of any babies.

“I just don’t understand why I wasn’t called in to help this time,” Evans-Fragale said. “This was such a needless and violent death for these little birds and it breaks my heart.”

In a June 2 Facebook post PSE&G wrote  “The nests atop our transformers and wires were affecting power at Englewood Hospital. We took every precaution to carefully rescue as many of the birds and eggs as possible.”

Power Companies Seeking a Way to Co-Exist with Parrots

While most local residents enjoy having these exotic birds in their backyards, the parrots clash with the power company because they build their nests on utility poles. Utility companies say that the nests can cause fires and power outages and for years have sought ways to co-exist with the parrots. Some companies felt that euthanizing the birds was the best option but that led to outrage from animal welfare groups.

“In my view killing is the first response of a limited mind,” Evans-Fragale said. “There’s always a humane way to deal with a problem – it may not be the easiest or the cheapest –but it’s the right thing to do.”

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