Archive for the 'feeding' Category

Helping Hummers After Hurricane Harvey

Thursday, October 5th, 2017
Hummingbirds are adaptable.

Hummingbirds are adaptable.

This is Passport to Texas

Rockport, hit hard by Hurricane Harvey, is famous as a fall/winter hummingbird migration stopover.

Hummingbirds are equipped to handle all kinds of environmental situations – [including] natural disasters. And, they are opportunistic: they look for opportunities in which to feed.

Urban wildlife biologist, Kelly Simon says residents are rightly focused on recovery, and may not hang nectar filled feeders this season.

Hummingbirds have endured natural disasters like this for as long as there have been hummingbirds. And so, while we’re focusing right now on human needs, the physical needs of hummingbirds will be met by the hummingbirds.

Folks along the migration path might consider hanging a few extra feeders, using a 3:1 ratio to increase energy content. However…

Hummingbirds don’t live by sugar water alone. They actually require spiders and mites that the find in native plants in order to gain the fats and proteins that will help fuel their journey. That may be a thing that’s hard for them to find. But, Corpus Christi is not that far away. And Corpus Christi has an abundance of flowers – they were not hit quite as hard. So, there’s a lot of natural food out there. It may not be in Rockport, but adding about 100 miles on top of the journey, when you’re looking at a 2-thousand mile journey, is probably not significant.

Hummingbirds, like those hit by Harvey, are survivors, but always appreciate help from their friends.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti

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The following is from the TPWD publication about hummingbird gardens:

Food Resources for Hummingbirds
Remember, while sugar is important to these birds, it is not the only food resource. We need to provide for not only their energy needs, but vitamins, minerals, protein and other nutrients as well. This is done with a carefully planned and maintained garden. A good hummingbird garden will include:

  • Nectar producing plants designed for hummingbird attraction
    – Plants with trumpet shaped flowers usually oriented horizontal or downward
  • Insect attracting plants
    – Plants with large, flat flower heads usually oriented vertical or near so
    – These are generally yellow or blue in color Bloom season is important.

In Texas it is possible to have hummingbirds year-round, so you should aim to have plants in bloom as long as possible. In the northern reaches this becomes more difficult because of frost, but careful selection can extend the hummingbird season by weeks. Try to select plants with overlapping bloom periods so that there is always something in bloom.

Plant a food source: Nectar producers and insect attractors   

Shelter Trees and Shrubs

  • Pecans
  • Oaks
  • Elms
  • Cedar
  • Pines
  • Mountain laurel
  • Prairie flame leaf sumac
  • Evergreen sumac
  • Possum haw
  • Agarita Yaupon holly

Food Plants for Texas Hummingbirds

  • Any native sage such as autumn sage (Salvia gregii)
  • Trumpet vine
  • Cross vine
  • Coral honeysuckle
  • Texas lantana (Lantana urticoides)
  • Turk’s cap
  • Yellow bells
  • Flame acanthus
  • Native hibiscus

Layout Tips

  • Try to provide food at multiple levels of the garden
  • Plant islands of color
  •  Be sure to have plants s with overlapping bloom periods in each garden

Landscaping for the Birds

Thursday, September 14th, 2017
Working on a wildscape in San Antonio.

Working on a wildscape in San Antonio.

This is Passport to Texas

Putting out feeders is one way to attract wildlife to your yard. A better way is to create a wildscape.

What a wildscape is, is landscaping for wildlife.

Ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford, says this includes native plants that provide food and shelter; most urban yards, however, traded native habitat for lawns.

So, any little help you can [give] by putting in a wildscape really helps. And even if you don’t have a yard, you can do a wildscape on your patio with pots. I have seen hummingbirds go up to the 6th floor balcony of condos where someone has showy plants that say, “hummingbird come up here.”

A variety of berry and nectar producing plants will draw wildlife to your yard—or balcony.

You want to always stick to natives because they’re acclimated to the soil and the weather and the rainfall that you’re going to give them. And then, you want to make sure that they have some value to wildlife: that they’re going to give you the nectar to attract butterflies; they’re going to have berries at the right time when the cedar waxwings come, and so forth.

Fall is the best time to plant native trees, woody shrubs and perennial flowering plants. Find a list of native species that do well in your area on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Watch the Birdie (at the Feeder)

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016
Project Feeder Watch

Project Feeder Watch

This is Passport to Texas

The Christmas Bird Count, a project of the National Audubon Society, is December 14 through January 5. Volunteers count birds during a 24-hour period inside defined 15-mile diameter circles throughout the state.

But there aren’t any on December 25th—you can’t compete with family time and ripping open presents.

Nongame ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford says if you’re unable to participate in a Bird Count circle, you can still contribute to the count as a feeder watcher.

That’s someone that just merely watches out their back window and looks at the birds coming to the feeder and just counting those things. It’s a really good niche for someone that’s not able to get out if it’s too cold, or you’re just not physically able to get out, or maybe you have a newborn at the house, These are people that might have their eyes open watching the feeder and can contribute.

Get in touch with your area Audubon Christmas Bird Count Compiler through the Audubon website.

Contribute to the world of citizen science all year long as a feeder watcher. Just go to feederwatch.org for details.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series and funds diverse conservation programs in Texas.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

Some RGV Residents Have Backyard Parrots

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016
Red-crowned Parrot

Red-crowned Parrot

This is Passport to Texas

It may surprise no one that the Rio Grande Valley is home to a native parrot species. What may astound you, though, is to find one in your yard.

They’re going to come to fruiting trees. When acorns are in season in the fall, they’ll really hit those. If you have a platform bird feeder, you might get parrots coming to your platform bird feeder for sunflower seeds.

Cliff Shackelford, non-game ornithologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife, says the native Red-crowned Parrot makes itself at home in urban settings; readily building nests in abandoned “real estate.”

They really like dead palm trees. The kind that there’s just a trunk standing, they’re no more green fronds, and it’s very brittle. The golden fronted woodpecker comes in and excavates a cavity and uses it to raise a family; well the next year, a parrot might use it. A parrot can’t really excavate like a woodpecker, but he says,’hey, I just need to make this a little bigger, and I’ll use it.’

If you live in the Rio Grande Valley and have a dead or dying palm in your yard (that doesn’t pose a safety threat), leave it for the birds. It’s good for them and nature tourism.

Brownsville, Harlingen, Weslaco and McAllen–all have city ordinances where you cannot mess with the birds. And one reason is the nature tourists from all over the world come to the valley to see several unique birds, and the red-crowned parrot is usually near the top
of the list.

Learn more about Texas birding opportunities on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Use Caution When Feeding Backyard Birds

Monday, July 25th, 2016
Birds at backyard feeder.

Birds at backyard feeder.

This is Passport to Texas

Texans like to place seed feeders in their yards to entice nearby birds to venture even closer.

There are things to consider when putting out a bird feeder.

Cliff Shackelford is a non-game ornithologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. He says to carefully consider feeder placement.

You don’t want to put it too close to the window, where a bird might fly into the window. You don’t want to put it too close to the shrubs, where the neighbor’s cat might be very attracted to the Grand central Station that you’ve created.

As nature provides plenty of food this time of year, and hot humid weather plays foul with feeders, Cliff recommends using them during less abundant times.

There’s a fungus that can grow on the seeds and create something called aflatoxin that’s deadly to birds. And, there’s also Mother Nature giving birds a lot of food in the warmer months. So, we often tend to gauge bird activity by what is at our feeder. And when we don’t see birds at the feeder, we think oh the sky is falling—there’s are no birds. Well, the birds are there, they’re just up high ion the tree, eating what mother nature provided. It’s a homemade buffet versus pre-packaged stuff we call seeds.

If you do put out feeders, clean them every two weeks—more often during times of heavy use and wet weather.

That’s our show… Funding provided in part by Ram Trucks. Guts. Glory. Ram

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.