Home | Wild Birds (page 9)

Category Archives: Wild Birds

Feed Subscription

Preparing Your Wild Bird Feeders for Autumn and Winter

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. Early September is late summer in our world, but our avian neighbors are already well into their preparations for the upcoming winter. By mid-August in the USA’s northern states, insect-eaters such as Hooded Warblers, Flycatchers and Scarlet Tanagers have already begun to work their way south. Vireos, Redstarts and a host of others join them in September, after which hundreds of species begin to migrate in earnest. By preparing early, birders can enjoy the spectacle to its fullest while making life a bit easier for their favorite creatures…the following suggestions should help start you on your way.



Dendroica fuscaKnowing what types of birds you can expect to see year-round and during the migration season will assist you in attracting them to your feeders. Field guides and your local chapter of the National Audubon Society are both very useful in this regard. Don’t forget to check for lists of unusual visitors and “strays” (please see Rare Bird Alerts, below). Fall and winter bring many surprise guests…winter birding in NYC has rewarded me with Snowy Owls, Crossbills, Northern Shrikes, Snow Buntings and a host of other unexpected species.


Clean Your Feeders

Prepare your feeders for the busy season by giving them a thorough cleaning. I prefer Nolvasan (6 tablespoons/gallon water), but many rely on diluted household bleach. It is effective, but should only be mixed and used in an open area, as toxic fumes may accumulate indoors (zookeeper co-workers of mine have reported becoming dizzy while using bleach to clean cages). Hummingbird feeders are particularly difficult to clean, so be sure to use a good feeder brush.


Add/Upgrade Feeders

Keeping seed and other foods dry in bad weather can be a major headache. Steel feeders with wide, overhanging roofs that keep out rain and snow are ideal. Locating feeders below fir trees, porches or other cover will help as well. Window feeders will bring birds very close and allow for great photos; these are more likely to be visited during winter, when hunger may overwhelm caution. Don’t forget the resident Hummingbirds. In recent years, several species have been staying in their summer ranges well into autumn. As their high metabolisms demand lots of food, feeders will be especially critical as flowers die off. Water is hard to come by when all is frozen solid; you can help out by pouring hot water into iced-over birdbaths or using a birdbath de-icer.


Choose Appropriate Foods

You can increase your chances of attracting specific types o
f birds by learning their preferences and then providing favored foods. Freeze-dried mealworms may attract Bluebirds and other insectivorous species that ignore seeds. Also useful are seed mixes specifically formulated for Quails, Doves, Finches, and other birds. Fat and protein packed suet cakes are a vital winter food for almost all feeder visitors.


Prepare for Furry Visitors

Chipmunks, squirrels and other mammals are likely to be drawn to feeders during the fall and winter, especially during early cold spells. Gray Squirrels can sometimes be dissuaded by specially-designed feeders or cayenne-infused seeds, but many folks just set up a squirrel feeder and enjoy the show. Flying Squirrels are a great favorite of mine, and a real treat to observe…please check out this video:

Black Bears and White-Tailed Deer are becoming increasingly accustomed to people, and may be drawn by even very small amounts of food. You should not encourage or approach either (Deer can be dangerously aggressive at times); please contact your state wildlife authority for assistance and advice. Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook. Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable. I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible. Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly. Thanks, until next time, Frank Indiviglio.


Further Reading

More articles on feeding wild birds – Feeding Wild Birds Bird Migration Chart – Attractwildbirds.com Rare Bird Alerts: state-by-state notices of unusual sightings – Birder.com

Image referenced from Wikipedia and originally posted by Mdf.

Parrot Conservation – USA Protects 3 Cockatoos under the Endangered Species Act

Cockatoo in treeThe US Fish and Wildlife Service has taken action on a proposal originally filed by Friends of Animals in 2008.  Three of the affected species are popular in the pet trade – the Umbrella or White Cockatoo (Cacatua alba), the Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo (C. sulphurea) and the Red-Vented or Philippine Cockatoo (C. haematuropygia).  The Crimson Shining Parrot (Prosopeia splendens) was denied Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection.

ESA Protection Denied for 8 Parrot Species

The original application filed by Friends of Animals sought ESA protection for 8 additional species, including the Military, Scarlet, Blue-Headed, Great Green and Hyacinth Macaws, the Yellow-Billed and Red-Crowned Parrots and the Grey-Cheeked Parakeet.  Of these, only the 3 cockatoos listed above and the Crimson Shining Parrot were selected by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as warranting further consideration. Read More »

Using Flowers as Food for Parrots, Finches and other Birds

Plain-throated SunbirdSending flowers is a time-honored way of showing affection and concern, but did you know that your parrots and other feathered pets might appreciate a bouquet as well?  I’m not suggesting actually having flowers delivered to your parrot (although I know several who have done that!), but rather that you consider edible flowers as a source of bird food and behavioral enrichment.

The Role of Flowers in Bird Diets

Flowers, buds and nectar figure heavily in the natural diets of many parrots, finches and softbills.  In fact, lories and lorikeets are actually “floral specialists” (please see drawing of lorikeet tongue, adapted for nectar feeding).  However, with the exception of nectar-mixes, flowers have largely been ignored by most pet keepers.

Flowers are also a major food item of several less commonly-kept softbills, including hummingbirds, sunbirds and the aptly-named flower-peckers. Ornithologists speculate that the brilliant colors of some species may have evolved to provide camouflage during feeding sessions in flowering trees.

Behavioral Stimulation

In addition to their nutritional value, flowers can provide important behavioral stimulation for parrots and other birds.  Most parrots delight in tearing them to bits, and bud-covered fruit tree branches (apple, pear, plum etc.) will provide hours of entertainment for both pet and pet-owner.  Finches, White-Eyes, Pekin Robins and other small birds will also poke about in flowers for insect treats, real or “imagined”, and may consume petals and nectar as well.

Purchasing Flowers

Lorikeet tongueFortunately, it’s quite simple to incorporate flowers into your birds’ diets.  Many bird-safe flowers are relished by people, and are available in food stores.  In NYC markets, I’ve come across squash, zucchini, rose and daylily flowers (note: not all daylilies are safe for people or birds, so do not pick your own), as well as a number that I did not recognize.  Korean, Chinese and Indian neighborhoods have proven especially rich flower-hunting grounds.

Do not buy edible flowers from garden supply outlets or florists, as these will not have been slated for human consumption and would likely have been exposed to toxic chemicals.

Dried flowers specifically marketed as bird food are also a useful option.  Goldenfeast’s Hibiscus and Chamomile

may be offered to a variety of parrots, finches and softbills.

Growing and Collecting Flowers for Your Birds

If the option is available to you, growing your own edible flowers is a great alternative to shopping.

Harvesting wild flowers is also possible, but you must be confident in your ability to identify the various species and have access to a pesticide-free collecting site.  A field guide will be useful in this regard.

Common, Easy-to-Grow Edible Flowers

The following common flowers are readily accepted by many birds and can easily be grown or, in some cases, purchased at food markets.  Do not buy flowers intended as food anywhere other than at a food market; please see above.


Daisy                                                   Marigold

LorikeetsDandelion                                           Rose

Carnation                                            Sunflower

Violet                                                  Zucchini Blossoms

Tulip                                                    Squash Blossoms

Elderberry                                           Hibiscus

Impatiens                                            Apple,Plum and Pear Blossoms




Further Reading

Further information on edible and poisonous flowers; written with people in mind but applicable to birds.

Gardening for Pet Birds

Eat Your Roses: a guide to 50+ edible flowers



Lorikeets image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Tatiana Gerus

Plain-Throated Sunbird image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Ltshears



The Bald Ibis – Working with the Middle East’s Rarest Bird

Bald IbisIn the early 1980’s I had the good fortune to work with the critically endangered Northern Bald Ibis, Geronticus eremita.  Also known as the Waldrapp, the group I cared for at the Bronx Zoo provided a unique opportunity to refine breeding techniques and observe complex social behavior.  Today Bald Ibis are secure in captivity, but their future in the wild remains uncertain. Read More »

Understanding Parrots – “Bad” Pet Behavior may be Perfectly-Normal

MacawsParrots are complicated, social animals, and as such can be very confusing to owners.  What is perceived as “bad” or “destructive” behavior has roots in millions of years of evolution.  Understanding your parrot’s natural history – how it lives in the wild – is key to your pet’s welfare, and a rewarding relationship with it.

Understanding Your Bird’s “Wild Side”

Good parrot care begins with a thorough understanding of parrot natural history.  Parrot ancestors arose 100 million years ago…your own intentions, however well-meaning, will never overpower the instincts that have evolved since then.  This is a very important point to keep in mind – parrots are wild creatures, driven by instinct, and, even after many generations in captivity, are in no sense domesticated (i.e. as are dogs or sheep).  They do have remarkable learning abilities that often enable them to modify their instinctual responses.  However, when considering parrot care and training, it is paramount that their true natures be considered. Read More »

Scroll To Top