I am taking time today to share with you some questions that have come up repeatedly from our customers recently. As summer fades out quickly in Nebraska (it was 48 degrees overnight on Monday! BBRRRR) we have a lot of birds already returning to your feeders – and bringing their babies with them! It is a good time to reevaluate what you are feeding your birds as well as a chance to enjoy the different and changing birds you get coming to your yard. Below are a few of our lastest questions:
All of my cardinals look mangy and diseased lately. Is something going around?
Those aren’t mangy cardinals. They’re cardinal teenagers. These guys don’t get the acne and the braces but they do go through a really awkward looking molting period. For a couple of weeks following summer they will lose their fledgling feathers and grow in their adult coats. A good way to tell if a patchy cardinal is a juvenile is to look at the color of their beak. It will usually be brown still. It may take a while longer for the beak to change to the bright orange color of their parents. This isn’t always the case though, like the example below:
If you give them some time they will be as beautiful as their parents and will share the feeder with them through the winter!
When do the goldfinches leave for the winter?
I get this a lot and the answer is two part.
First, if you live in the continental United States, goldfinches are around all year long. They just might not be the same goldfinches. Goldfinches range all across the US and up into Canada but come winter their range shifts south. Most everyone in the lower 48 will continue to have these guys in their yards while Canada will lose them until spring comes around.
The second part is what really applies to the customers I get here in Bellevue. The bright yellow male that is so eye catching in the spring and summer loses his color and fades to a very sparrow like olive brown for the fall and winter. It helps him blend in during the drab cold months. He can be especially hidden from the people that love to feed him during the summer. Don’t worry they are still around. Here is a shot of one on my Yankee Whipper last December:
Goldfinches are prevalent winter feeders and will amass at any well stocked feeder. Remember they like small seeds like nyjer and finely crushed sunflower hearts.
Why do I need to feed a different bird seed? My birds empty my bird feeder in just a couple days. They must like the bird seed I am giving them.
This question may take a little explaining. We provide a lot of different kinds of bird seed and bird seed mixes at our store but they all serve different purposes and are preferred by different birds. A few of our lower priced mixes have ingredients in them that aren’t as desirable to birds, as say, a bag of black oil sunflower would be. The tricky part for people that love to feed birds is that they see their feeders empty rather quickly and think the birds must really be feasting. Nope. Watch closely. You will see the birds actually kicking and throwing filler seed out of the feeder onto the ground. A quick investigation will show that seed is sitting on the ground waiting to sprout, get eaten by doves, or worse, attracting mice and voles.
I find this often happens to people who want to feed cardinals. I recommend a seed called safflower for them because cardinals eat it up! Other birds that like it include house finches and doves but almost as important are those that hate it: grackles AND squirrels. Safflower isn’t too much more expensive but you will find that even with more birds eating, that it will last longer because they aren’t throwing any out. A good quality seed is worth it in the long run, especially when attracting some backyard favorites like the cardinal, blue jays, nuthatches and chickadees.
I seriously love answering questions about birding and bird feeding. Please leave any questions you have in the comments or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org