Help birds: Join the Christmas Bird Count

This annual tradition provides invaluable scientific data.

For over a hundred years, the Audubon Society has conducted an annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) to create a snapshot of bird numbers and distribution throughout America. The "Christmas" in Christmas Bird Count is something of a misnomer; the count takes place between December 14 and January 5, based on the scheduling of each area's locations. 

This is not to be confused with the Great Backyard Bird Count, a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Audubon Society, which happens in February every year. The Great Backyard Bird Count is specifically aimed at getting bird counts from individual small areas (i.e. back yards), and it is a much more informal event.
 
The Christmas Bird Count is a large, nation-wide coordinated effort that takes place thanks to groups of volunteer birdwatchers. In past years there has been a $5 fee to participate, but the Audubon Society is waiving that fee for this year.
 
Data from the Christmas Bird Count has been invaluable in the past. It has identified declining populations which conservation societies were then able to work to protect, like the American Black Duck. It has demonstrated the effects of climate change on bird migrations, which was used in the recent Audubon & Climate Change presentation. The data from the Christmas Bird Count is used by the EPA and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to help determine policy, as well as by countless independent researchers every year.
 
The Texas Christmas Bird Count results are already in, for example, and the changes over the past few years are astounding. Between the record drought in Texas and the effects of climate change on migratory patterns, this was a tumultuous year for bird populations in Texas. And no one would have been the wiser, if it hadn't been for the Christmas Bird Count!
 
To join a Christmas Bird Count, the first step is to find the one in your area. Each Count takes place inside a specific geographic sampling area. If you are lucky enough to live within the sampling area, you can arrange with the group leader (known as the Count Compiler) to track the birds that visit your back yard during the specified time window. Bird watchers of all experience levels are welcome, but as many counts involve difficult terrain, winter weather, and long hours spent outside waiting for something to happen, it may not be the best event for younger children.

Wild bird care during winter

How to prepare for wild birds when cold weather arrives

Living in the country or the city is a great thing, but when it comes to winter either one of these locations can start to be a pain. However, if you want to keep birds around and know they will be safe all winter, then you should know how to properly prepare for birds to arrive in the winter months and keep them around.

The first thing you can do for your birds outside is get a feeder set up. The feeder should be squirrel-proof, since they will steal your seed, but also in a location the birds can easily get to and exit from in any direction. When you have this set up properly, you will find more and more birds coming to your feeder on a regular basis.

The second thing you need to do to prepare for winter with your outside birds is to purchase the right seed. Often the seed mix you can buy from the stores will work, but depending on your location, the birds may need some additional nutrients. You should carefully look at the nutritional content of each of the seed mixes you are buying.

Taking care of wild birds in the winter can be exciting and educational for kids. However, if you do not have the proper feeder and seed, then your goal of feeding the birds can easily be dashed. By selecting these two items, though, it is easy to care for your birds all winter long and know they will be safe and sound.

Entertain your parrots with toys

Three tips for selecting proper parrot toys

Owning a parrot can be an exciting time, but it can also be a challenge because you have to provide them with entertainment. You may think you are providing them with plenty of entertainment when you are home, which you may be doing. However, you may run into the problem of what you are going to do for them when you are asleep or at work. This is when you may want to have three tips to help you find the perfect parrot toys for your bird. 

The first tip is determining what size of a bird you are buying toys for. When you know this information, you can find the toys meant for them specifically and know you can avoid finding toys that have too large of openings for the beak. If the openings are too large, they can get their beaks stuck in them. Then you will have to try to get the toy off of your bird's beak without getting bitten. So the size of the toy and birds are a great thing for you to evaluate. 

Another tip you need to look for is the coloration of the toys. By identifying the color and pattern of your parrot's toys, you can start to figure out if they are going to be attractive to your bird or not. For example, if the toys are only black and white, the chance of your parrot playing with the toy will be reduced. However, if the toys are multiple colored, they are going to be more attractive to your birds and this can help hold their attention for a longer period of time. 

Something else you may want to look for is the different ways toys are secured to the cage. Typically the toys will not be like those shown in the picture and will be secured to the cage for your birds to play with. So you need to know about how these toys you are selecting for your parrot are going to be secured, to guarantee your birds are not able to take the toys off of the cage on their own and lose them. 

Having a parrot to talk to can be a good thing, but you need to make sure you have your parrot entertained properly when you are not around to talk to them. This may involve finding some great new toys for your parrot to play with. Make sure you have some tips before you go out and buy all the parrot toys in the store for your bird, otherwise you may find out they will not play with them because they are not the proper toys for their needs.

Three tips for selecting your chicken breed

Why it's important to select the right one

Chicken breeds are easily one of the most commonly confused topics. The reason this is a confusing topic is because so many people think there are only a couple of breeds of chickens. However, this is far from the truth and if you look through any of the hatchery catalogs, you will be amazed by the selection of birds available. To help you decide, you should utilize these three tips to help you in finding the best chicken breed for your needs. 

The first tip to help you in finding the proper birds for your flock is to determine what you want the birds for. If you want to get birds mainly for eggs, then you want a breed which is known for their laying ability. However, if you want a bird for meat, then you may want to get a hybrid chicken. So you need to determine first what you plan on using your bird for to determine which kind you need to look for. You may also want to consider a dual-purpose bird as if you are not sure if you want a specific bird. 

A second tip to use for your selection of birds is to read more about the temperament of the birds. Normally your chicken hatchery will let you know about the temperament of your birds before you order them. When you do this research, you can determine if the bird has the proper temperament for your needs or area. Without this research you may have a great looking bird, but not be able to handle the bird because of the temper they have.

Something else you should consider is the amount of noise the birds will produce. This is really important for you to know if you live in a city or residential area. So you can look at the hatchery site or other resources to find out how much noise you should expect to find with your chickens. Then you can determine if the chickens will be quiet enough for you to keep in your area. 

Raising chickens can be a fun and exciting thing to do. However, if you do not have the proper tips, it can be impossible to select the breed you want to have for your chicken experience. With the tips which I mentioned above, though, it is rather easy for you to select the best breed of chicken around for your needs. Then you can happily raise your birds and not have to be concerned about them hurting you or the neighbors complaining about them. 

 

Specie Profile: Cockatoo

"Know that cockatoos need a great deal of your time and attention."

Cockatoos live in the far east on continents such as Australia and sport feather colors ranging from white to gray to black. This type of bird prefers three distinct habitat types: tropical rainforests, dry savannas and plains made up of grass. Specie types include the Mullucan (Cacatus moluccensis) and the Greater Sulpher-crested cockatoo (Cacatua galerita galerit.) Cockatoos make a good fit for the bird owner that knows his or her stuff when it comes to this type of parrot and is ready to give their pet a good amount of attention.

Cockatoos can live up to 60 years or more depending on their habitat, size and health. These birds are intelligent and learn tricks, some good and some bad. You may even wake up one morning to find your bird's door open. Feats this type of bird accomplishes includes how to take toys apart, talking in a human voice and showing capabilities similar to a 2-year-old child. These parrots are affectionate creatures that will want to sit and cuddle with you for hours. I once heard a cockatoo refereed to as the “velcro bird” by an expert because the parrot wanted to go everywhere with its owner.

 

Know that cockatoos need a great deal of your time and attention. Your bird may develop unsightly habits such as screaming, feather picking or chewing if it doesn't receive enough attention. The trick to cockatoos is achieving a balancing act between what you think is right and what your bird wants. Train them early and young and you'll wind up with a well-behaved bird.

 

How to Pick the Perfect Type of Toy for Your Parrot

Bored pet parrots equal destructive pet parrots, which is never a good thing. Purchasing or making the right type of bird toy for your beloved bird saves you from having to deal with the result of your favorite book, clothing item or piece of furniture from getting chewed up. Picking the perfect bird toy comes down to knowing what type of pet you have and what they tend to do while left alone.

Larger birds such as macaws, cockatoos or African greys benefit from complex toys. Pet stores and flea markets often carry a selection of play items suitable for the parrot in your life. Toys that large, exotic parrots enjoy include those that offer food as a reward for opening the box or other enclosure, dangling rope toys that it can chew or swing from and jungle gyms that fit on top of your parrot's cage. Smaller birds gravitate towards small hanging mirrors, bells and tiny material they can chew up. Think food toys where the bird has to chew through paper material that's similar to a pinata before it can reach the treat inside.

 

One factor to keep in mind when it comes to your pet parrot is that your bird may not want to play with a toy when they first get it. In fact, some parrots act afraid of toys for the first couple of weeks after you place it inside the bird's cage. Avoid getting discouraged if you find yourself in this situation because most birds wind up playing with their toys after some time has gone past. They need time to feel a sense of familiarity with the play toy.

Tips for Hatching Baby Ducklings

People who have streams or lakes on wooded sections of their property may want to start a population of wood ducks. There are many retailers that sell wood duck eggs or pairs of male and female ducks. Buying eggs can allow homeowners to hatch baby ducks and then place them in a safe location so they can populate nearby wetlands. When buying pairs of ducks, this may take a bit longer since the couple will need to find a suitable location and then lay and hatch their young.

Before buying wood duck pairs or their eggs, it is important to do some research on the companies that are offering them. This is especially true if you plan to buy wood ducks or their eggs online. Some of the things you may want to know are how long the company has been in business, where their supplies come from, and how the animals are treated. Since ducks and their eggs may sometimes expire during shipment, it is also important to know what the company’s return or refund policy is.

If you plan to buy wood ducks or eggs, it is imperative that you have all the necessary supplies before doing so. This includes an incubator and duck food for hatching new ducklings and a nesting box if you plan to keep pairs. You should also make sure you have a suitable habitat and plenty of water for your new waterfowl. With careful planning, you can begin your own wood duck population that members of your family can enjoy for generations to come.

Willow Ptarmigan-An Alaskan Wonder

The Willow Ptarmigan is the official state bird of Alaska. Many people have never heard of this bird, primarily because it is not found in the lower 48. In fact, there are only three species of ptarmigan in the world, and all of them are native to the Land of the Midnight Sun.

Willow Ptarmigan somewhat resembles a quail or grouse, and in fact is somewhat related to the grouse. It is a mostly brown bird that has speckles of gray and dark brown on its wings and back. During the winter, the bird loses its brown feathers and replaces them with white ones all over its body. This allows it to blend in with its surroundings, thereby keeping it safe from predators.

 Alaska’s state bird is also a rather large one. It stands around two feet tall and weighs about the same as an average chicken does. It may have a wingspan that is around two feet wide as well.

Although it is a common bird in Alaska, it can also be found in Canada, Russia, and Great Britain. In Great Britain, it is known as the Red Grouse. This bird does not migrate but remains in the area it was born in for its entire life. This is another reason why the bird’s white feathers are helpful to it during the winter months.

Both males and females are responsible for raising their young. A female may lay between four and fourteen eggs in her clutch, and the eggs are laid and hatched in a nest placed directly on the ground. The father and mother bird remain together until their young have fled the nest, at which time the male and female often part ways as well.

Virginia is Pulling for the Wood Duck

The Virginia Cooperative Extension office is encouraging private land owners to help increase the population of wood ducks in this state. The agency asks people to refrain from cutting timber which is close to the shoreline or overharvesting woodlands. They also recommend homeowners put up nesting boxes for these ducks to breed in. According to the extension office, these boxes should be either placed in the water or covered with a predator guard so that snakes and raccoons cannot eat the eggs.

Virginia has realized a decline in wood ducks during the 20th century. As more and more development took place, these birds were faced with nowhere to call home. Overdevelopment has also led to the decline of beaver populations, and this directly reflects in the number of wood ducks in Virginia. This is because beaver often gnaw trees, thereby creating a natural habitat for this waterfowl to nest in.

The Cooperative Extension Office suggests that abandoned farmlands are often potential areas for wood ducks to relocate. Once the green pastures become forested, wood ducks are likely to take up residence near farm ponds or rivers. Reforesting also leads to the increase of beaver population in certain areas, thereby making these locations even more attractive to the wood duck.

Another way Virginia has worked to preserve the population of wood ducks is to decrease the bag limit for them during hunting season. Previously, this limit was very high so hunters were often encouraged to shoot large numbers of these birds. By placing limits on this game and providing natural habitat for the wood duck, this bird is sure to be found in the state of Virginia for many generations to come.

Yellowhammer-Alabama's Official State Bird

The yellowhammer is the official state bird of Alabama. Related to the woodpecker, this bird also hammers or drills into trees with its very long beak.  The reason why this bird was chosen as the state bird is because many believe its markings resemble clothing worn by confederate soldiers during the Civil War. Another reason is that these confederate soldiers would sometimes place the feathers of the birds in the brim of their hats while they were marching.

The bird is a light greenish-gray color on the head and back. It also has a speckled chest and brown and black striped wings. Splashes of bright yellow are visible on either side of the bird’s face, the underside of its wings, and along the throat area.

Yellowhammers live year-round in Alabama and are found in every part of the state. Part of the reason why they do not migrate is because of the moderate winters found here. Another is because there is an abundance of food during the winter months, as the yellowhammer dines primarily on pine nuts and a number of different berries when it’s cold outside. During the summer months, it also consumes insects such as grasshoppers and ants.

These birds do not appear to be threatened or endangered in their natural habitat. This is likely because they have few predators and are also not frequently hunted. These birds are not only attractive to watch, but also have a sweet warble, making them enjoyable to listen to as well.

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