Bluebird Home Drawing

IS THERE A NEED TO FEED BLUEBIRDS?

BY JACK FINCH

(REVISED JANUARY, 1994)




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Most bluebird enthusiasts would probably admit that the main reason they feed bluebirds is for the sheer enjoyment of watching them.


In the southern states, bluebirds often fail to find sufficient food during late winter and early spring when wild and ornamental berries are gone and there is a scarcity of insects. The critical period for birds is from February into April, although earlier snows or sleet can be devastating. At that time of year, there may be sufficient food, but when covered with snow or ice, the birds can simply not get to it.
 

The blizzard of March 1, 1927; a sleet and snowstorm of March 1-2, 1980; and the late winter storm of March 13-14, 1993 created havoc for all wildlife. With the possible exception of some sumac, all the berries were gone by the time the storms hit and thousands of birds of different species perished. At times like these, bluebird feeding becomes more than just an enjoyable pastime but a necessity, even though supplemental feeding can help only a small percentage of the total population. The planting of Fosteri holly could supply some late berries.
 

Bluebirds that winter in the northern winter range have greater need and visit feeders more often. In the northern states and Canada, however, no feeding should be done in the early winter because it might delay some birds that migrate South. When the migrating birds return in the spring, late snows can cause heavy losses, so supplemental feedings at these times will help them survive. Most of us know that bluebirds do not regularly visit standard feeders. Firms that promote

promote feeders and the sale of birdseed make little mention of bluebirds and, in fact, few commercial bird feed mixes contain anything that bluebirds will take. It is obvious that we must use a feed that bluebird prefer, but will come back to for seconds.
 

A choice or favored berry of the bluebird is the Flowering Dogwood berry (Cornus Flordia). The berry of the dogwood is higher in lipid or fat content than many other berries. (This subject is explored in the August, 1984 issue of Natural History). Dogwood berries do not stay on the tree as long as other fruits and berries. By mid-winter, dogwood trees are usually bare. Bluebirds do feed on other berries such as pokeberries, Virginia creeper, sumac, rose hips, mistletoe, hackberry, cedar, holly and many other wild and ornamental dried fruits and berries. The Fosteri #2 (Female) holly is an excellent ornamental tree that provides an abundance of berries for late winter and early spring. There are reports of bluebirds feeding on pecan pieces, coconut, bread crumbs, cake, shelled sunflower, suet, prepared cornmeal and flour mixes, peanut butter, hamburger, cat food, etc. Actually, if you mix other berries with the dogwood in the top feed tray, the birds will take the dogwood first.
 

Dogwood berries are not always available, so they are mixed with raisins and currants. These currants are small raisins dried from the Black Corinth grape. Although some people cut the raisins in half, bluebirds will swallow these and the dogwood berries whole. The main purpose for

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