Parker County Today July 2017 - Page 74

Inviting Someone New BY THE WILD BIRD CENTER, WEATHERFORD, TX We all have birds that visit our yards regularly. Chickadees, doves, jays, sparrows: It doesn’t really matter who they are, just that we have grown accustomed to them. We delight in their behaviors, are captivated by their songs, and miss them dreadfully when they disappear for a day or two. But no matter how diverse your back- yard feeding efforts, and no matter how satisfactory the results, there will come a time when you find yourself wishing you had something new –a new song, a new color – to add to your garden. Getting “new” birds at your feed- ing station isn’t impossible, but it does require specific invitations and patience. From straightforward to exotic, here are some things you can offer in order to encourage newcom- ers in your yard. 72 Bluebird feeding mealworms As you can imagine, fresh fruit spoils quickly, especially in the spring and summer sunshine. Make sure to clean your fruit feeders every few days, remove moldy remains and replace with a fresh batch. To attract even more attention, try planting shrubs, nectar plants and fruit-bearing trees to your backyard. Try crabapple, raspberries, native honeysuckle and trumpet vine. Fruit Some species, such as orioles, tana- gers, and thrushes, will take fruit if it is offered in a way that gets their attention. Orioles are particularly good about coming for oranges, apples or various tropical fruits that they routinely eat during their winter migra- tion. Orange halves spiked to a tree or offered on a specially designed feeder may get their attention as they return from the tropics. Tanagers are less common but will respond often enough to make it worth the try. Bugs, Bugs, Bugs Many birds feed in part or exclusively on insects, but few birds will come to backyard feeders looking for them. With a little effort, however, birds can be persuaded to have a quick snack of mealworms quite regularly. Whether fresh or dried, these insects will be a nutritious snack that will be especially appreciated by summer birds with hungry nestlings to feed. Certain birds, such as bluebirds are hard to attract with food alone, but they can be encouraged to extend their stay with a regular supply of meal- worms. Wrens, titmice, chickadees, warblers, mockingbirds and robins all may respond positively to a mealworm feeder. Live mealworms should be offered in a shallow dish with straight, smooth sides, such as a special mealworm feeder with a solid bottom and high enough sides to contain the insects. Dried or roasted mealworms can either be offered in separate containers or mixed in with seed, suet or fruit for more balanced nutrition. Thrushes and mockingbirds also depend on fruit for part of their diet, especially in winter, and have been known to take raisins, grapes, currants, apples and oranges if presented in a way that makes them look like an apparent food source. Chopped fruit placed near routine foraging spots may give them pause. Don’t make the presentation too complicated. Fruit-eating birds are not used to associating man-made struc- tures with food. Supplements Unlike humans, birds usually eat a diet well-balanced for their needs; but, at certain times of year, a little mineral supplement can be helpful. During the breeding season for example, a little extra calcium can be a good thing. Swallows, such as Purple Martins, seem to be particularly grate- ful for a little help in the supplement department, as are titmice, jays and some sparrows. Eggshells provide a good source of calcium and are easy to prepare and offer. Wash them thoroughly, then put them on a flat pan in the oven at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes (until they turn slightly brown). Take them from the oven, cool slightly, and crush the shells into