Welcome to my Bird Blog!

Welcome to all my fellow bird lovers and gardeners! I'm so glad you stopped by.

Migratory bird populations have taken a nose dive in the past 40 years. But you can help bring their numbers back by creating beneficial, beautiful and fun habitats in your own backyard. Discover favorite plants and environments that shelter and feed colorful songbirds, as well as how to make them feel welcome by offering their preferred natural foods.

Grandma Pearl
(Connie Smith)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Top 5 Best Foods to Help Birds Stay Warm

These beautiful blue jays are suckers for pieces of bread crust, or day old bakery items like rolls, whole grain bread, etc.  My chickadees and juncos also enjoy smaller pieces of the same items.  Fat and starches help birds maintain their metabolic rates.  Bakery products should not be offered exclusively, though.  Here’s a list of the top five foods to help wild birds stay warm even in the coldest weather:
1.  Black oil sunflower seed
2.  Suet
3.  Peanut Butter, offered on a special feeder, or slathered on barkdowny woodpecker enjoying peanut butter log
4.  Bacon grease soaked up by pieces of white or whole grain bread
5.  Fruit & Nut blend available commercially
Because many birds can easily assimilate black oil sunflower seeds, I have listed it first.  It contains all kinds of good fats, and vitamins and minerals to help maintain birds flight feathers as well as their metabolism.
gold finches feeding on ground resized
The above image shows some of my Goldfinches in their winter plumage.  On top of the fresh snow I often toss sunflower seeds, which they seem to relish!
You can make your own suet, or buy it at your local big box hardware store, garden center or wild bird food center.  I have also found it in my grocery store and at large discount retail stores.  It isn’t hard to make your own, though.  And I find it more cost effective.  Here’s How
If you wish to offer peanut butter, you need to remember that it is oily and will leave a residue on any surfaces it contacts.  Slather it on tree bark that you don’t mind becoming a little discolored.  Keep in mind that other critters can easily find it, like my persistent red and grey squirrels, flying squirrels, raccoons, possums and mice.  Any tree-climbing animal will adore you!
Every now and then I crave bacon—real bacon, not the turkey kind!  When I do, I break up pieces of bread into the still warm grease.  Once it has cooled completely, I serve it to my birds on a platform feeder.  It doesn’t last long!  Birds love bacon just as much as people.
The fruit and nut blend I buy includes unsalted shelled peanuts, canary seed, grit (which is essential for bird digestion), pieces of dried cherries, raisins, white proso millet**, black oil and grey striped sunflower seeds, dried pumpkin seeds and bits of shelled walnuts.  A little goes a long way, so I offer a small amount each day in my basket feeder.  Blue jays, finches, chickadees, tufted titmice and woodpeckers all stop by many times during the day for this special treat.
**White Proso Millet is a favorite with my Dark-Eyed Juncos.DSCF0012  female junco resized
bird feeder basket attracts its first visitor a chickadee but out of focus
This basket feeder is easy to make, and it attracts a variety of wild birds all day long. 
How to Make an Easy Basket Feederchickadee perched on bird feeder basket excellent
Grandma Pearl

How to Make Suet
How to Make an Easy Bird Feeder Basket

Peanut Butter Feeder
Fruit & Nut Blend
White Proso Millet

The Juncos I Have Come to Know
Beautiful Blue Jays

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Make an Easy Basket Bird Feeder

another view of chickadee on bird feeder basket excellent

The snow was falling hard and fast.  Accumulations were predicted to reach an inch per hour, if not more.  Apparently my birds knew about this ahead of time, because there were dozens of them lining the tree branches awaiting their turn at the feeders.finches on feeders and in trees

I needed to add another place for them to eat, but I had no more feeders handy.  Keep in mind that there are 8 more feeders in other parts of my yard that were also filled with woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, blue jays, juncos and more finches, among others!close up of basket to use for bird feeder

Scratching my head, I finally came up with a solution that I had stashed in my sunroom—an old basket with a long handle, and not too deep.  The perfect bird feeder because it was rather loosely woven, and provided plenty of holes for drainage.

closeup of bird feeder basket with aluminum plate filled with seedsBut the holes in the basket were obviously way too big to keep my bird seed from falling through.  Aha!  Also in my sunroom was an aluminum pie pan I had used under a large pot at one time.  I washed the pie pan thoroughly and dried it so that the seeds would not mold.  The pie pan needed drainage holes, so I hunted up my trusty hammer and a small nail.  I punched several holes in the aluminum pan, and filled the bottom with black oil sunflower seeds and a little bit of fruit and nut seed mixture.

basket bird feeder hanging from clothesline with weather shield

I looped a flexible piece of wire under the handle and up through the hole in a weather shield I had used before for other open bird feeders.  That shield works very well to keep snow and rain from soaking the seeds.  Then I finished the loop over my clothesline.  If I had had another bird feeder pole, I would have used that instead, but the clothesline was very handy and easy to see from my living room window.

An alternative to the weather shield might be another larger aluminum pie pan with a hole punched in the middle, or even an old aluminum pizza pan.  Anything that will keep the seeds dry so the birds can enjoy them will work.

gold finches enjoying their basket bird feeder

I was very pleased to see some of my goldfinches taking advantage of their new food source.  I have even had woodpeckers jump in for a seed or nut and then take off to the nearest tree with its treat.  I spent a lot of time that day watching my birds out the window.  There were breaks in the snowfall at times, but it snowed heavily other times.  The birds didn’t seem to mind, and continued to visit all the feeders.  It tickled me to see that I had provided yet another good spot for them to eat.

So if you have a basket, an aluminum pie plate, hammer, nail, pizza pan and a bit of wire, you have the makings for a fun bird feeder!


Grandma Pearl

How to Make a Bird Nesting Basket

Make a Bird Feeder Wreath

Are Your Bird Feeders Ready for Winter?

How to Feed Birds Without Going Broke

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Dark-Eyed Slate-colored Junco


DSCF0011Meet my Juncos from the Northeast U.S.!  These energetic ground feeding birds are with me year round.  They are most comfortable on the ground; juncos even prefer to nest on the ground, although they won’t turn down any opportunity.  A star decoration at my front door area makes a fine home for my juncos, even though it is roughly 7 feet off the ground. Juncos have a cool defense mechanism should a predator venture too close.  They flash their tails, which have bright white edges on either side, as they take flight.  It is enough to momentarily confuse the interloper so the junco can fly away safely.

goldfinches and juncos picking up seeds in the snow

Juncos devour black oil sunflower seeds when I toss them on the ground.  They mingle easily with the goldfinches, who sport darker plumage this time of year.  Notice that juncos (6”) are a little larger than the finches (4.5”).



You can plainly see the brown on this female’s back, which distinguishes her from the male, whose coloration is a darker gray without the brown.  Both she and he have very white bellies, helping them to blend in with the snowy background.  Birds fluff up their feathers as a way to fend off the cold.  This action creates air pockets that efficiently act as a thermal barrier, keeping their body heat in and the cold air out.

Listen for a distinctive ‘smack, smack’ interspersed with little twittering sounds, as they socialize with one another.  I love their songs, which remind me of lyrical sparrows, with lovely musical notes.

My juncos perch in smaller trees and shrubs, under bushes, and in open areas of grass.  They love insects as well as seeds, and seem to be especially fond of small juicy caterpillars.  Their beaks are strong enough to crack the seeds they love, as well as manage almost any insect that comes along.

male junco on branch

This male junco likes to patrol my garden for insects.  Because it is a fenced area, he often uses the posts to survey the territory.  There is no need for pesticides because my friendly and beneficial birds are always on the case.  I rely on them to keep my gardens pest free, which also keeps them well fed—it’s a win-win!

Learn more about:

The Juncos I Have Come to Know

Best Ground Feeder for Juncos

Grandma Pearl