Here are answers to commonly asked questions about birds and the exploding of a few myths.
Why does this bird (often a Cardinal) keep crashing into my window?
Cardinals, robins and many other birds are territorial and when they establish territories in the spring they become aggressive and chase off intruders. Unfortunately, they don’t distinguish between their own reflection in a window (or car mirror) and try to chase that off. The solution to the problem is to eliminate the reflection. Misting the outside of the window with a very weak detergent or soda solution will eliminate the reflection but will also impair visibility for you. Awnings, eave extensions, and window screens will eliminate all reflection and stop the collision problem. Hanging ornaments such as wind chimes, wind socks, and potted plants also help. The behavior will stop when nesting begins.
What do I do with a baby bird that fell out of its nest? Baby birds do not usually fall from their nest; they jump. As the young birds grow the nest gets crowded, so they leave before they are capable of flying. This is normal. The BEST thing to do with baby birds is leave them where they are as their parents are likely nearby taking care of the youngster. Do not attempt to put it back in its nest or raise it yourself. If you feel you MUST do something to help a baby bird, call your local wildlife rehabilitation center, wildlife office, department of the environment, fish and game or extension office. More information on caring for birds and for rehabilitation facilities at Ornithology.com.
What do I do with an injured bird? You need to have special permits from the federal or provincial government to handle baby, injured or dead birds. Many vets are unwilling to care for wildlife for free. Often, the best thing to do is to let nature take its course and leave the bird alone. If you feel you MUST do something to help an injured bird, call your local wildlife office, department of the environment, fish and game or extension office. There may be a licensed rehabilitator in your area. More information on caring for birds and for rehabilitation facilities.
Photo from Ohio Bird Sanctuary
What do I do if I find a banded bird? The place to report all birds with bands or tags is the Bird Banding Laboratory at Patuxent Wildlife Center. Check their website for information on bird banding and to electronically submit your find. Or call them at 1-800-327-BAND. They will take the report and pass it on to the bander. They will send you a certificate of appreciation and information on the bird after you send the band in. Learn more about banding.
How can I protect birds from cats? Hang feeders at least five feet above the ground. For ground-feeding birds, Arrange fencing in two or three concentric circles about two feet apart to disrupt a cat’s ability to leap at feeders or to spring on birds. Harass offending cats.Keep your cat indoors.
Is it true that hummingbirds will not migrate if you don’t take your feeder down? No. Birds are genetically programmed to migrate when their internal “clocks” tell them to do so. They will depart when the time is right whether your feeders are up or not.
Is the red dye that is found in premixed hummer solution bad for hummingbirds? Though no conclusive scientific evidence exists showing harmful effects of red food dye on hummingbirds, this additive is certainly not necessary. Brightly colored flowers are nature’s way of attracting a foraging hummingbird. When they feed at a series of flowers, hummers are acting as pollinators. So the red solution in feeders is aimed at attracting hummingbirds as red flowers are. Bright red feeder parts or a bright red ribbon hung near the feeder can be just as attractive as red-dyed solution. In fact, even with no color at all, hummers will find the feeder. See more on Feeding.
How can I stop a woodpecker from drumming on my house? Woodpeckers are only doing what comes naturally to them – drilling into wood in search of food. Woodpeckers also use wood and sometimes metal parts of houses as drumming sites. This drumming noise is a territorial announcement, and a method for attracting a mate. Drumming happens most regularly in the spring. There are several things you can try. 1.Place some sheet metal or heavy aluminum foil over the area the bird is using. 2. Hang some aluminum pie plates around the affected area. Make sure they move in the wind (to scare the bird). 3. Place a rubber snake near the drilling area to scare the bird away. 4. Repeatedly scare the bird when it lands on your house. 5. If nothing works, call your local wildlife official who may come to your house to remove the offending bird. See this site for more information on problem birds.
Are roadrunners real?Roadrunners are in fact real birds. Found in desert-like areas, the roadrunner is New Mexico’s state bird. What is interesting is that they will choose running over flying most of the time and they can certainly move fast. Roadrunners have been found to run faster than 15 miles per hour. That’s faster than squirrels, chickens, mice, and insects. Good for the roadrunner because like many birds they eat mice, insects, and snakes. So yes, roadrunners, are indeed real birds.
How can I get rid of problem birds? Are birds nesting on your porch or in your eaves? Are they defecating on your car? Are there noisy flocks of birds disturbing you? First, be aware that virtually all birds are protected by federal law. You would be violating the law by harassing or harming birds. Second – are they really a problem? Do you want to kill birds or their young just because they leave some dirty spots on your porch or pool deck? Consider the tradeoff. If they are truly a problem, contact your local wildlife official. In serious cases you may be able to get permission to take some action. Otherwise, try to understand that birds are just doing what they evolved to do and you are living in their habitat. Often,the problem is temporary. See this site for more information on problem birds.
Is it true that if you find a baby bird you should not touch it because the parent birds will detect your scent and abandon the nest? No, most birds do not have a very well-developed sense of smell. And they will not abandon their young very easily. Read about birds’ sense of smell in Ornithology.com’s lecture on senses.
What is the best ratio of sugar-to-water to use for feeding hummingbirds? Four parts water to one part sugar (a 4:1 ratio) has been shown to be the closest to the sucrose content of natural flower nectar. Concentrations stronger than this are readily consumed by hummers, but there may be the possibility that stronger solutions crystallize on the bill and attract bacteria. I personally recommend 5:1. See more on Foods and Feeding.
Are hawks, eagles, and owls a danger to my pet cats/dogs? Although I have heard several stories I know of no authenticated cases of birds of prey taking a pet dog or cat. It’s mostly an urban myth, but I have no doubt that it has occurred. It is very possible that small dogs/cats or kittens/puppies have been preyed upon, but it would be extremely unusual.
Care for caged birds. Ornithology.com is a site dedicated to the science of wild birds. I do not have the expertise to provide information on pet or captive birds. Given the great numbers of endangered and threatened birds across the world, I have severe reservations about the keeping of many species of birds as pets-especially those taken from the wild. I much prefer that wildlife be enjoyed in its natural habitat.
MYTHS – these statements are ABSOLUTELY NOT true
•Hummingbirds migrate on the backs of geese.
•The duck’s quack is the only sound that doesn’t make an echo.
•If you touch a baby bird or egg or nest the parents will abandon it or kill it.
•Hawks and eagles will catch their young in mid-air if the young bird falls while trying to fly.
•White bread is bad for birds (true only if that’s the only food they get).
•Don’t throw rice at weddings because birds will eat it and their stomachs will explode.
•Eagles shed their claws and beak when 30 years old and then live for another 30 years.
•If you do not take down your bird feeders in the fall they will keep birds from migrating and will freeze.