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Birds of North America, Vagrant Visitors, Introduced Birds and Possibilities

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Have you ever noticed how birdfeeders put out the welcome mat for our fine-feathered friends?

Picture yourself, walking or driving past a house and you see an assortment of birds gathering in its backyard. This may very well be the result of a carefully chosen birdfeeder. There is no other sure way to attract birds quite like, a well-placed birdfeeder or birdfeeders, depending on the amount or variety of birds you wish to attract. You will likely see a greater variety of birds by putting out more than one birdfeeder filled with different types of birdseed.

There are many different models of birdfeeders and choosing one model over the other will help in the type of birds you will attract. Here is a list of the more common birdfeeders to be found on the market today or constructed at home, with some helpful notes specific to each.

Birdfeeders with Weight Sensitive Perches:

Birdfeeders with Weight Sensitive Perches

These models of feeders use the principles of weight or leverage to prevent the larger birds and squirrels from accessing the food. Some models, such as the one pictured, use an adjustable spring unit to close the ports to the bird food when a certain size bird or squirrel attempts to rest on the perch and access the feed.

Another model has a teetering perch which works by the same principle. When a heavier bird or squirrel tries to rest on the platform, the platform will teeter, closing access to the food.

These feeder styles work best only when the unwanted guest uses the perches. The birdfeeders must be hung in a manner that will not allow it access to the food through another make-do perch.

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Caged Birdfeeders:

Caged Birdfeeder

Caged Birdfeeders

The caged birdfeeder design has a wire mesh surrounding the entrances to the feeding stations, preventing larger birds, squirrels and even deer from accessing the bird food.

Although these cage designs do work to a certain degree, each aforementioned animal's ingenuities and determination often result accessing a portion of the feed. At best, these cages will make it difficult for larger animals to reach the feed, giving the smaller birds more opportunities to feed at the station.

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Suet Birdfeeders:

Suet Birdfeeder

Suet Birdfeeder Birdfeeders

Suet Feeders are available in stores or can be a simple homemade product. Suet cakes can be purchased commercially with their size and dimensions already calculated to fit in standard size wire mesh suet birdfeeders. Suet cakes can be purchased at any store that sells birding supplies. Suet cakes can also be created from recycled onion sacks or store-bought plastic bags, filled with homemade suet made from beef fat. When making homemade suet, you can mix in your own ingredients by adding different types of birdseeds, peanuts, cracked corn kernels along with the fat before it hardens.

Whether store-bought or homemade, by hanging the suet from a tree limb or pole, woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, jays, titmice and the ever so aggressive starlings will be attracted to it and become a regular everyday guest at your feeders.

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Tube Birdfeeders:

Tube Birdfeeder

Tube Birdfeeder Birdfeeders

Whether in the shape of a tube or square, these bird feeders are designed with multiple access points and perches often placed one above the other. The small holes in the sides of the bird feeder, allow birds to easily access the seed. These holes can be small enough for millet and niger seeds or made larger to accommodate larger seeds such as sunflower or possibly cracked corn and shelled peanuts. This style of feeder attracts finches, redpolls, siskins, goldfinches and Chipping Sparrows.

Unfortunately, this style also has its faults due to the birds on the upper perches becoming gradually unable to reach the feed due to the birds below lowering the feed volume of feed. This results in the birds on the lowest perches to be the only ones able to eat.

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Hummingbird Feeders:

Hummingbird Feeder

As opposed to most bird feeders, which have bird visitors in the Spring and Fall, the hummingbird feeders get their highest traffic, starting in late Spring and lasting throughout the summer.

Homemade syrup can be readily made, by mixing 1 cup of white sugar with 4 cups of water. It is not recommended, that a red food colouring be added to the mix. It is however better to purchase a feeder that has a coloured body, red being the better choice. The amount of syrup that is placed within a birdfeeder depends on the temperature and the location of the feeder(s). The syrup should be changed every few days or when the contents turn cloudy. Hanging the feeder in a shady area will preserve the syrup longer as opposed to direct sunlight. It is said that hummingbirds will not use a feeder with older or cloudy looking syrup.

The feeder should be cleaned every week or less, again depending on the temperatures. If a black mold should become present, it can be removed by the use of bleach, though make sure to rinse the feeder properly with water before refilling it with syrup.

Selecting a hummingbird feeder, that has red plastic flowers spouts, seems to work best in attracting the birds. The hummingbirds are very protective of their feeders and will not share with other hummingbirds. Installing more feeders in different areas of your property will attract a greater number of hummingbirds.

With every hummingbird feeder, comes the ants. These determined little creatures will find the feeder and do their utmost to find a way to reach the syrup. There are specially designed bowls that can be attached to the supporting wire of the feeder that will not allow the ants to travel any farther down the wire. Another uninvited guest will be the hornet in August. With a sufficient number of hornets, the hummingbird may very well stop visiting the feeder. A posible solution might include relocating the feeder, unless the hornets should then find the new location.

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Platform Birdfeeders:

Platform Birdfeeders

Platform Birdfeeders

This is a style of birdfeeder that allows many options as to the design and size of the feeder. These feeders work by constantly replenishing the openings at the base of the feeder as the birds eat. This "hopper method" works quite well and in the case in some public areas, the feeder may have a holding capacity of 20 liters or more of birdseed, which only requires refilling once a week or less.

The platform birdfeeder can be supported on a post or hung on a wire. No matter the choice, precautions will have to be made to keep squirrels away. Metal sheeting on the post will make it difficult for animals to fasten their claws into the post, while flattened cones placed on the wires above the birdfeeder, prevent the animals access to the feeders from above.

Platform birdfeeders can be purchased in most stores, with prices starting at reasonable rates to very expensive models. From personal observations of the many styles I have and currently use, birds tend to prefer feeding through portholes as opposed to feeding at the base of the feeders. Many times birds have been seen quarrelling over a tube feeder, when there are no birds feeding at the hopper feeder, even though both feeders have the same type of bird seed.

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References to Other Bird Sites:

These are links to websites pertaining to the different birding institutions, societies and organizations here in North America. Some of these same sites are a great asset to seeking out knowledge on birds in other regions of the world. Each of these links offer the user different methods to identify birds, whether it be by regions, habitat, appearance or maybe colour. Knowledge on the possibilities of where and what birds might be present are included.

Hinterland Who's Who Welcome to the Web site for Hinterland Who's Who It all started in 1963, with black-and-white vignettes about the loon, the moose, the gannet and the beaver. For more than 50 years, Hinterland Who’s Who has proudly been bringing Canada’s iconic wildlife directly into Canadians’ homes. Re-launched in 2003, the new series serves to rebuild the connection thousands of viewers made with wildlife through the original series. Welcome to our new website! Have a look around, and learn how you can help ensure that the wildlife remains part of what it means to be Canadian.

Avibase - the world bird database This site provides the user with a complete list of bird species, broken down per country, or in the example of the US or Canada, per state and province. Here, bird species names are available in other languages, a great asset to be used as a translation of foreign bird names.

ABA - American Birding Association This site represents an organization that maintains official records of all birds species that have been proven to have been seen inside the perimeters of the North American Continent and the surrounding bodies of water. Regular revised versions are posted to keep the bird list current at all times. This is the list used by all serious birders over their lifetime. You may be aware of the movie called the "Big Year". It was with this list that all the competing birders used in an attempt to set a new record as to how many bird species that could be seen by an individual birder in one calendar year.

The description to follow is taken from the AOS Home Page.

AOS - The American Ornitholgy Society is an international society devoted to advancing the scientific understanding of birds, enriching ornithology as a profession, and promoting a rigorous scientific basis for the conservation of birds. As one of the world's oldest and largest ornithological societies, AOS produces scientific publications of the highest quality, hosts intellectually engaging and professionally vital meetings, serves ornithologists at every career stage, pursues a global perspective, and informs public policy on all issues important to ornithology and ornithological collections. AOS is distinguished by its tremendous collective expertise, including eminent scientists, conservation practitioners, early career innovators, and students.

ABC - American Bird Conservancy This is an organization started in Europe and is now formed in North America in the 1990's. It bases its goal on four approaches, Halt extinctions, Protect habitat, Eliminate threats and to Build capacity. One of their ways of achieving these goals, is by purchasing and leasing lands around already protected lands and creating larger safe zones for all its habitants.

eBird - TheCornellLab of Ornithology eBird is a must for any individual, who has an interest in birds. This site allows users to sign up and participate in recording birds seen on a daily basis as well as the location, for any bird species seen in the world. In addition, users can use the existing data to search out the location of bird species throughout the year. By using filters, information as to the movements can be determined. Photos can be added to identify individual birds. Migration pattern can be calculated using information by months or years as needed. Range maps can be verified, allowing the users to see where the presence of individual bird species are expected to be at certain times of the year.

NA - National Geographic The Society of National Geographic provides some of the best books available for those who have an interest in birds. The book called "The Complete Birds of North America", is a book recommended to be part of any birders library. This book covers all the native and vagrant species of birds seen on the North American Continent. It provides information on all the birds listed on the ABA bird list. This book goes into great details, describing the individual species and their races. That aside, their website provides wonderful information pertaining to many articles regarding nature.

NAC - National Audubon Society The National Audubon Society is the oldest organization in North America. It was initially formed for the preservation of egrets and herons as well as waders, who were being hunted and killed, so their feathers could be used in the clothing industry. Today, there are many chapters of the NAS all over the continent and all individual groups have a common goal, to educate the public. In doing so, creating awareness of the birds and their plights. They were the driving force in promoting the original international laws, protecting migratory birds. Today, their website has made information available on articles, images and sounds, relating to all the native birds seen in North America.

I hope you will take advantage of these suggested websites. I have used each of them, in one way or another, throughout the years in my quest to better identify and understand our fine feathered friends.

Classic Collection of North American Birds