Into The Air

The Official Blog of Backyard Chirper

Featured: Coveside Convertible Winter Roost

With winter right around the corner, birds are increasingly in need of a place to roost when temperatures get low.

If you have a nesting box, you’ve probably put it away for the next few months. If you have a roosting box, you might be taking it out of storage.

With the Convertible Winter Roost from Coveside Conservation Products, you can provide a warm place for birds in the winter and a safe place for nesting in the spring all in one item.

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How to Winterize a Birdhouse

Now that nesting season is over and temperatures are dipping quite a bit, it’s time to put away those birdhouses, right? Not exactly.

Instead of putting away your birdhouses, convert them into winter roosting boxes.

Winter is a tough time for birds and finding shelter is a tall task for many species; however, with a few modifications, you can provide your local birds with a place to stay when the weather gets rough.

Clean it out and repair any damage

The first and most important thing you should do is clean it out. You’ll want to completely remove all the nesting material left in the house. This needs to be done to make room for visitors, but it also removes any mites or bacteria from previous occupants.

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Once it’s sanitized, you should repair any damage and unclog every drainage hole. By taking some time to get it back into tip-top shape, this will extend the life of the birdhouse and ensure your birds are safe and sound.

Make sure the birdhouse is dry before putting it back up.

Flip the front panel upside (if applicable)

Along with cleaning and general repair, you should make sure the birdhouse is optimized for roosting. Some birdhouses and nesting boxes have front panels that flip upside down, moving the entrance to the lower part.

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How to Attract Wild Turkeys

It’s that time of year when we take a moment to admire the great turkey. Even though our relationship with these interesting birds tends to be of the vulturine variety, many people enjoy having them visit their yards.

Before we relay some tips for attracting wild turkeys to your property, it’s important to note that turkeys aren’t always the easiest guests. Wild turkeys can be loud, messy, gluttonous, territorial, and even dangerous. If you haven’t heard that great This American Life story about a turkey wreaking havoc on Martha’s Vineyard by literally attacking people, you should take a listen.

Live in a wooded area where turkeys frequent and still interested in getting these rambunctious birds into your yard? Read on.

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Offer seeds, cracked corn, nuts, and berries

Turkeys eat a wide variety of foods, including everything from insects to crabapples. One way to attract wild turkeys is to set up a ground feeding station or use a platform feeder with cracked corn, nuts, and mixed birdseed. You may not want to encourage turkeys to go to the feeding stations you use for other species because turkeys can be territorial and drive away songbirds.

Plant native oaks and nut/berry producing plants

Even better than offering food to turkeys is to provide them with natural food sources. Not only will this make it easier on you and your wallet (feeding turkeys can be expensive) but it’s also great for the general ecosystem.

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Featured Item: Songbird Essentials Mealworm Dish

Not all birds eat the same thing.

You can attract a much wider variety of species to your yard if you offer different types of food, and the Songbird Essentials Hanging Mealworm Dish is a great way to start.

The hanging feeder features a 6 by 6 inch plastic dish with drainage holes to keep the dish from filling with water during rainy weather. Four green cords connect to the corners of the dish to provide stability when hanging.

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Bird Myths: Penguins Fall Over When Airplanes Fly Over Their Heads

Urban legends about birds abound, but one of the most bizarre stories involves penguin and planes.

According to some pilots who were stationed in the Falkland Islands during the Falklands War, they devised a game in which they would slowly fly over a group of penguins. The penguins—fascinated by the large, loud plane—would watch it fly over, follow the plane with their heads, and topple over onto their backs.

Wait, what?

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That’s right. Many people actually claim this happened. Even the Audubon Society Magazine apparently talked to someone about the phenomenon. Here’s the widely spread excerpt from Audubon Magazine:

A Mexican newspaper reports that bored Royal Air Force pilots stationed on the Falkland Islands have devised what they consider a marvelous new game. Noting that the local penguins are fascinated by airplanes, the pilots search out a beach where the birds are gathered and fly slowly along it at the water’s edge. Perhaps ten thousand penguins turn their heads in unison watching the planes go by, and when the pilots turn around and fly back, the birds turn their heads in the opposite direction, like spectators at a slow-motion tennis match. Then, the paper reports, “The pilots fly out to sea and directly to the penguin colony and overfly it. Heads go up, up, up, and ten thousand penguins fall over gently onto their backs.

So, it this just a silly myth or is it based in reality? As of right now, all signs point to myth.

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Featured: Allied Precision Heated Deck Bird Bath

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It’s been a long hot summer (and fall depending on where you live), but temperatures are slowly but surely dropping. This means valuable resources like food and water are becoming scarcer.

The Allied Precision Heated Deck Mount Bird Bath is the perfect present for the active winter birds in your ecosystem, combining a sturdy easy-mounting bath with a thermostat and 150-watt heating element to keep the bath from freezing, no matter how cold it gets!

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How Releasing Balloons Can Hurt Birds

Releasing balloons, as they go fluttering into the deep blue sky, is an old tradition used to celebrate a happy occasion like a wedding or commemorate a sad event like a death.

It’s fun to watch the balloons sail away until you can’t see them anymore, but what goes up must come down.

And when those balloons do come down, scientists say they are killing birds.

“Balloons are a huge threat, not only to birds, but turtles and other marine life,” said Fiona Maxwell, campaigner with the Australian Marine Conservation Society, in an article back in May.

So how are balloons a danger to birds? Read on.

Blocks digestive system

One of the biggest dangers to birds occurs when they accidentally ingest a balloon. It’s hard to know exactly what’s going through a bird’s head when it sees a latex balloon scrap (or whole balloon) but apparently it can look pretty delicious. And when the balloon does find its way into the digestive tract, it’s nothing but trouble.

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Here’s another quote from the article (though it’s not clear who said it): “When its mixed in with stomach juices, the stuff becomes horrible, almost like chewing gum, and it just blocks them up.”

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Why Birds of Prey Make Great Backyard Birds

When you’re outside and you see a hawk hovering over your bird feeders, what’s the first thing that pops into your mind? It’s probably something along the lines of Shoo! Get out of here!

Why do we think that? It’s mostly due to the fact that hawks and other raptors prey on the backyard birds we’ve come to know and love. We feed small songbirds to enjoy them, not to fatten them up for birds of prey to gobble them down.

Despite their propensity of eating our favorite birds, having raptors around your yard can actually be a good thing.

Here’s why.

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Rodent control

Probably the best reason to have raptors hanging around your property is rodent control. Depending on your property, you could have a fair amount of rodents running about, even if you don’t see them very often. Most birds of prey will take care of these critters.

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Where Do Birds Sleep at Night?

The quintessential sound of the morning (aside from the awful cry of an alarm clock) is the pleasant chirp of birds. Since we commonly associate birds with the morning, very few of us consider where birds go at night.

During the day, you see birds nearly everywhere, soaring through the sky, standing on ledges and foraging for food. But once the sun sets, they seem to completely vanish. Sure, occasionally you’ll see an owl fly by or hear a Northern Mockingbird singing all night, but for the most part birds are nowhere to be found.

A question we frequently get from bird lovers is “where do birds sleep at night?” There’s no simple one-word answer to that question because it varies widely among species. We’ll break down a few of the most common places.

Trees and Branches

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We’ll start with a pretty common place for birds to sleep: in the trees. Those that choose to sleep in the trees will typically find a dense tree and/or perch themselves up really high. This keeps them sheltered and far away from predators. If a predator does try to sneak up on the bird, the vibrations of it climbing will rouse the bird.

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What Do Birds See?

It’s not crazy to assume birds see the world the same way we do. Except for sharper vision and spectacular views (like the one in our header image, which is from a team of Russian photographers), birds appear to see the same world as us, right? Well, not exactly.

In order to understand what the world looks like through a bird’s eyes, we must first break things down into a few categories.

UV Light

A rough approximation on how birds may see with UV light.

A rough approximation on how birds may see with UV light.

Most birds that are active during the day detect ultraviolet light (that means this section doesn’t really apply to many nocturnal species). Whereas we have three kinds of cone cells in our eyes (which are receptors used to detect red, green, and blue), birds have four. This fourth cone cell is particularly receptive to UV wavelengths.

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