Wednesday, April 25, 2018

27931 389th Ave, Armour, SD 57313 · (605) 680-3224 · info@ymkergreenhouse.com

March 2013

March 29, 2013 by  
Filed under Professor Finch's Fascinating Facts

This past month has found us with some snow falling, and then warm weather where it melted and then more snow falling. If you watch the birds at the bird feeders you can do weather predicting almost as good as the weatherman on TV. Many times before weather is moving in, you will not be able to keep your feeders full as the birds stock up for some cold or blustery weather.

The Red-winged blackbirds that I talked about last month invited their shirt tail relation on the 10th of February snow storm. There were an estimated 300 Red-wings in my yard. (After further examination of pictorial evidence that number could be doubled.) It was one of the strangest things ever seen in our yard but once they decided to leave they all left and did not come back. Maybe there was a family feud?

The Ft. Randall Birding Festival is fast approaching. The dates are set for May 3, 4 & 5 with the events being held at the Lake Andes Wildlife Refuge, Pickstown Rainbow Room, and Wagner Armory along with birding being focused in areas of high concentration. This is a couple weeks earlier than last year, so there should be a fun variety of migratory birds to be seen. The agenda is not finalized yet but preliminary events include seminars Friday night in Pickstown with Dr. Dave Swanson from USD speaking. You don’t want to miss Dave – he will be “owlmazing” with his imitation of bird calls. Pull yourself out of bed bright and early both Saturday and Sunday mornings and join the bird walks and also the bird banding. What a chance to see some beautiful birds up close and personal. (Cameras are fun during this time). There is also a banquet and seminars Saturday night. This is a fantastic festival that is close to our area. I will give you final details next month.

I want to touch base one more time on a topic that has been brought up recently in conversation. This topic is of wild bird seed. As a purchaser of bird seed you need to know what you are buying. Just like in the grocery store you need to read the label. A fair amount of bird seed that is sold under “wild bird” mix has ingredients in them that are known as cheap fillers to bring the price down. The sad part is that most of those fillers are not seeds that the birds will eat. So then the seed is not so “cheep” anymore. If you look under the ingredient list and the first ingredient is milo, red millet, golden millet, or grain products then walk away. Majority of birds do not like milo and will waste the seed by tossing on the ground. Red millet and Golden millet are hay millets, these too are not desirable to birds and they waste them. White millet (Proso) is grain millet and is desirable to birds. It is larger, rounder and a real pale yellow color compared to hay millets. Grain products can be anything and usually undesirable to birds. You will want to be extra diligent on label reading due to the fact that millet (hay and grain) prices have sky rocketed due to the drought. This will cause companies to readjust their formulas to cut costs.

This month’s spot light bird is the Baltimore oriole. These birds are medium-sized, sturdy bodied songbird that belongs to the blackbird family. The adult male is flame-orange and black with a solid black head and one white bar on their black wings. The female and immature males are yellow-orange on the breast and grayish on the head and back, with 2 bold white wing bars. These birds are more often heard than seen. They spend much of their time in the high tree tops while they search the branches for insects, flowers and fruit. They are not a deep forest type of bird – they enjoy open woodland, orchards and stands of trees along rivers, in parks and backyards.

The Baltimore Orioles nest is truly remarkable. It is a sock-like hanging nest woven together from slender fibers that takes about a week to build unless windy or rainy weather hampers the female. The nest is 3-4 inches deep with an opening in the top 2-3 inches wide and a bulging bottom chamber where the eggs are laid. Now is the time of the year to look for last year’s nest when there are no leaves. You will see them hanging down towards the tops of elm, cottonwood or maple trees (which are some of their favorite). The females usually lay between 3-7 eggs and have one brood a year with incubation being 11-14 days and the nesting period of 11-14 days.

The oriole’s diet consists of insects, fruits and nectar. This will vary by season – while breeding and feeding their young insects is the main source of food and in spring and fall nectar and ripe fruits composes more of diet. The sugary diet converts readily into fat which supplies energy for migration. One interesting tidbit is their wide variety of insect consumption does include pest species such as tent caterpillars and gypsy moth caterpillars.

Attracting Orioles to your yard is very exciting. They love oranges; take an orange and cut in half and place the halves cut side up on a special oriole feeder or on top of a post with a blunt spike like object to hold it in place. Also they have a fondness for jelly especially blackberry or grape. There are specialized feeders for the jelly or some people will attach a tuna can onto a deck or post for the jelly. Use a container that can be removed and cleaned easily. I have found in my yard that it is best not to place feeders in areas that are under trees. Place them in the open where the Orioles who hang out at the top of trees can see.

Last summer was my best year for orioles of all ages with an estimated 15-20 that came to the feeders. There are special nectar feeders for orioles but they have not been very popular in my yard. These beautiful birds that spend the winters in northern South American and Central America will start arriving as early as the beginning of April. So aim your eyes high in the trees to spot these birds and especially listen for their distinctive chatter. That will be the easier way to know they are in your yard.

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