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)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Secrets to Attracting Flocks of Happy Finches to Your Yard

Male Purple Finch (a/k/a Raspberry Finch)

Such energy and color!  I love finches: goldfinches, house finches, purple finches, crossbills, red polls, evening grosbeaks, and pine siskins.  They range from greens, to yellows, to oranges to raspberry red, and they have wonderful liquid songs that uplift the spirit.  You cannot help but be happy when finches are around.

On top of that, they eat a ton of weed seeds!  Their favorite seeds come from the thistle, also purple cone flowers, iron weed, dandelions, asters, cosmos, zinnias, and of course, sunflowers.  Once in a while they will eat a bug, but they are granivorous as a rule.

People so enjoyed their color and lovely songs that purple finches and house finches were once sold as caged birds!   To please either of these finches, plant cherry trees.  House finches in particular have a sweet tooth.  When hummingbirds aren't looking, they will steal some of their nectar! 

American Goldfinches Male and Female, Mourning Doves in the foreground.
by Grandma Pearl

American goldfinches delay raising a family until late summer to coincide with the ripening of the seeds they love.  They feed only seeds to their young, rather than any bugs or protein.  Their song and color is so beautiful that they are known as 'wild canaries'.  In the wintertime, they burrow under the snow for insulation against the cold.

This winter I have had mixed flocks of finches that have numbered in the hundreds!  I know because I participated in the annual Great Backyard Bird Count, as I do every year.  I'm sharing my secrets for finch success so that you may enjoy the colors and music of these awesome little birds.
Goldfinches in their winter plumage, lining the tree branches, waiting their turn at the feeders.
by Grandma Pearl

The Best Feeders for Attracting Colorful Finches:

Male House Finch enjoying a sunflower seed.
by Grandma Pearl

These little finches love to swing as they pluck seeds from this easy-to-make Basket Feeder
by Grandma Pearl

Best Foods for Attracting Finches:

  • Nyjer (Thistle) seed
  • Black Oil Sunflower seed
  • Peanut Hearts
  • Suet
  • White Proso Millet
  • Fruit
  • Cracked Corn
  • Rock Salt or Salt Block
  • Sugar Water (hummingbird nectar)

If you only have room for one or two feeders, or your bird feeding budget is small, choose the tube-style feeders:  one for thistle seed and one for black oil sunflower seed.  You may also wish to add a heavy dish in which to put a few small pieces of apples that have been coated in sugar water.  What a treat for your finches to enjoy when it's cold outside!

A block of salt placed on the ground, or a handful of rock salt scattered under the feeders, will also please your chatty little finches.  You can also toss handfuls of sunflower seed over the snow.  As they forage, they will pick up water from the snow to help with their digestion.

American Goldfinches foraging for sunflower seeds in the snow.
by Grandma Pearl

All birds need a source of grit, or tiny stones that they use in their crops to help grind up their food.  They don't have the stomach acids we do, so that is how their food is broken down for use in their bodies.  You can find a small bag of bird sand or grit at the pet store.  It's an inexpensive way to help out all your birds, especially in the wintertime when snow covers the ground where they would normally find the fine grit they need.

Make sure to keep your tube feeders very clean.  If you should find mold in the seed tubes, dump them out immediately.  Then clean your feeders with a solution of 9 parts of warm water to 1 part of household bleach.  This will kill any bacteria that would otherwise cause harm to your birds.  Make sure the tube feeder is thoroughly dry before refilling and re-hanging.  By the way, a long-handled narrow brush is useful for cleaning tube feeders.

Mold is also a sign that birds are not eating as much seed as you have put out.  Try starting with a smaller amount of seeds in a tube feeder until your finch flock expands as the word gets out around the neighborhood!

Also, don't allow seeds to accumulate under the feeders.  Mold and bacteria from droppings can develop.  Finches love to forage on the ground, and you don't want them to get sick or worse.  I use a leaf vacuum to suck up all those spent bird seeds shells; then I toss them into the garbage.  It isn't wise to use them as compost because sunflower seeds in particular do not get along well with other plants.  In short, they poison them, which can cause some nearby plants to be deformed or die altogether

Enjoy your fascinating flocks of finches.  I guarantee they will put a smile on your face!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Do Birds Get Angry?

Barn Owl is Angry!
from Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife

Have you ever been dive-bombed by an angry bird?   Were you ever a witness to one bird attacking another?  You better believe birds get angry!  They become agitated in several different situations, and to diverse degrees; most notably in defense of their:

  • Territory
  • Family
  • Food Source or Sources

A tufted titmouse has defined his territory by declaring his claim from the treetops of that area.  In doing so, he’s attracted the attention of a potential mate.  She likes his vocalizations, and the cut of his jib.  Then in flies another male tufted titmouse; this will never do!  Our intrepid little friend got there first . . .   Find out what happens 
Tufted Titmouse


Friday, February 21, 2014

Don't Toss Those Egg Shells--Give Them to Your Wild Birds!

Birds Need Calcium Just Like Humans

Chicken Egg Shells that have been rinsed and dried.
This important mineral is essential for normal bone growth, muscle, nerve and brain function.  Low levels of calcium in a female's body can lead to problems as the eggs form.  This deficiency can also lead to smaller clutches, beak deformities and other skeletal problems.  Spring is a critical time for sufficient calcium in a female bird's body.  Also, as her newly-hatched baby birds begin to develop, they need the calcium for growth spurts.  Powerful flight muscles develop well when enough dietary calcium is present.

But as my wonderful blue jays can attest, autumn is a time when calcium reserves need to be at the ready.  I regularly add my egg shells to my wheelbarrow herbgarden, and have spied at least 6 blue jays taking turns grabbing the egg shells from that garden!  I'm guessing they need the calcium to fortify them for the colder months. I know that blue jays love to rob eggs from other birds' nests; perhaps they thought that it was just a huge 'nest' full of eggs!

It helps if you put a kitchen towel under the baggie.  Some tiny small pieces may pop through the bag!

  • Zip-type baggie
  • Rolling pin
  • Kitchen towel
  • Empty, dry chicken eggs


  1. Rinse each egg shell inside, then set aside to dry.
  2. Once the egg shells are dry, add them to a large plastic zip bag.
  3. Use a rolling pin to crush the egg shells, turning the bag over several times.  You're looking for tiny pieces the birds can easily ingest.
  4. Store the baggie in the fridge until you are ready to serve the shells to your birds.
Crushed egg shells are now ready to give to your wild birds.

Here's a quick video from youtube.com/user/SmellLikeDirt, which also shows how to easily prepare the egg shells for your wild birds.  

The shells can be added to a platform or tray-type feeder.  

If you like scrambled eggs, hard-boiled, or even eggs over easy, remember your wild birds this spring.  Cook an egg for them.  Chop up the egg and add some of your crushed shells to the mixture, then stand back and enjoy watching the birds gobble them up!  You will be ensuring that the next generation of backyard birds has enough calcium, as well as protein, to start out right.

Grandma Pearl
Want more fun ideas for helping your backyard birds?  Check out Pearl's Backporch Scrapbook
Free Bird Identification Apps
Fun Homemade Bird Treat Recipes
How to Make a Bird Nesting Ball!