Archive for Birdscaping

Robins are Struggling to Find Food with Earthworms Buried Deep under the Snow

This was the scene at our American Highbush Cranberry Bush on Monday.

This was the scene at our American Highbush Cranberry Bush on Monday.

These seven Robins and one Cedar Waxwing were a small part of a large flock that stripped our American Highbush Cranberry shrub border clean in a single day.  Many of us are seeing flocks of Robins returning to find the ground snow covered, frozen and the earthworms unreachable far below the surface.  Our Connecticut Birder’s List   has some suggestions as to how we can help them, thanks to the expertise of some of our contributors.  Here are some of the ideas:

  • Water soaked raisins
  • Bluebird Food
  • Mealworms (many on-line sources available)
  • And this from Meredith Sampson, a local wildlife rehabilitator and Director Wild Wings, Inc.:

“I recommend using high protein, low or no carbohydrate dry cat food – kitten food would be better as it’s higher in protein,which most birds need.  Best to use high quality brands usually found at Petsmart or Petco e.g.  Blue Buffalo, Wilderness, Wellness.  Avoid brands sold in supermarkets as they are often loaded with soy (usually GMO), food dyes and other questionable ingredients.  Birds lack the ability to process and assimilate carbohydrates especially those from grains which are often used as cheap fillers in lesser quality pet foods.  Soak the food in hot water to soften, then serve.  Soaking raisins helps to soften them, making them easier to eat and providing some much needed water.  Be sure what you put out for the birds is gone by day’s end to avoid attracting unwanted dinner guests like:  cats, racoons, etc. Happy feeding! ”

These will provide immediate relief but for long term solutions, try and landscape with native bird friendly plants.  For a few suggestions see this previous post: https://naturaliststable.wordpress.com/2013/10/30/birdscaping-a-few-native-plants-appropriate-to-the-northeast/

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Birdscaping: A Few Native Plants Appropriate to the Northeast

Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum):  This bush grows to about 12 feet and has pretty fall color with blue bird-friendly berries.  Zone 2-8

Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum): This bush grows to about 12 feet and has pretty fall color with blue bird-friendly berries. Zone 2-8

As nurseries and landscapers begin to notice that we bird lovers spend many, many millions of dollars (billions?) on birding each year, some have begun to carry native, bird-friendly plants.  We have gradually been replacing the non-native deer fodder in our yard (e.g., Rhododendron, Hosta and evergreen Azaleas native to Asia) with attractive, low maintenance native plants that bear fruit to attract birds and butterflies.  Our local birds and butterflies evolved with these plants and they thrive when they feed on the food sources they evolved with.  There are many great sources of information and plant suggestions.  My “Bible” has been C. Colston Burrell’s Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants” .  Another good, more comprehensive one is  Steve Kress’ Audubon Society Guide to Attracting Birds, but more and more books are available on the subject.  I looked around the yard with my camera and here are just a few good candidates:

Winterberry (Ilex verticulata):  In the winter, the red berries brighten the landscape until the birds eat them all.  This bush grows to about 12 feet and is hardy from Maine to Florida.

Winterberry (Ilex verticulata): In the winter, the red berries brighten the landscape until the birds eat them all. This bush grows to about 12 feet and is hardy from Maine to Florida.  Be sure to get one male plant to go with the females.

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida):  Many birds enjoy the fruit of this lovely small tree.  It is hardy as far north as Zone 5, has pretty fall color and very showy flowers in the spring.

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida): Many birds enjoy the fruit of this lovely small tree. It is hardy as far north as Zone 5, has pretty fall color and very showy flowers in the spring.

American Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum):  This large handsome shrub makes a great summer screen for the patio.  The flowers resemble the non-native lace cap Hydrangeas and have bright red berries in the fall.  I have seen only Cedar Waxwings on mine but (according to Steve Kress' Audubon Society Guide to Attracting Birds, Brown Thrashers and Ruffed Grouse also favor them and 29 other bird species will eat them.  Hardy in Zones 2 to 7.

American Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum): This large handsome shrub makes a great summer screen for the patio. The flowers resemble the non-native lace cap Hydrangeas and have bright red berries in the fall. I have seen only Cedar Waxwings on mine but according to Steve Kress’ Audubon Society Guide to Attracting Birds, Brown Thrashers and Ruffed Grouse also favor them and 29 other bird species will eat them. Hardy in Zones 2 to 7.

Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia):  This shrub grows to about 8 feet and has red berries beloved by birds.  We have to move these because it doesn't like to be near our Black Walnut trees but it will be a great one after we do that.  Zones 5 to 9.

Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia): This shrub grows to about 8 feet and has red berries beloved by birds. We have to move these because it doesn’t like to be near our Black Walnut trees but it will be a great one after we do that. Zones 5 to 9.

American Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana):  You get butterflies galore when you plant this 4' bush which has pretty blue flowers in late summer.  These are followed by the purple berries which provide food and moisture to the birds for several months.  Zone 7 and south.

American Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana): You get butterflies galore when you plant this 4′ bush which has pretty blue flowers in late summer. These are followed by the purple berries which provide food and moisture to the birds for several months. Zone 7 and south.

Northern Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica):  These fruits don't last long once the Yellow-rumped Warblers are done with them.  Be sure to get female bushes along with one male!  Zones 2-6.

Northern Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica): These fruits don’t last long once the Yellow-rumped Warblers are done with them. Be sure to get female bushes along with one male! Zones 2-6.

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