Over the last few weeks I have heard a few reports of individuals finding deceased pine siskins at their feeders. From time to time we receive reports of dead birds, which is always a concern. It is not unusual for birds to spread diseases at feeders — after all they aren’t very good at social distancing, and they certainly don’t wear masks!
If you are experiencing a problem where you are finding a dead bird or two in your bird feeding area, you might consider taking down your feeders and emptying your birdbath for seven to 10 days. The birds will disperse, thus reducing the risk of transmitting diseases at your feeders.
Prior to resuming bird feeding and refilling your bird bath, I would recommend a deep cleaning of your feeders and water containers. Use a mild bleach solution — nine parts water to one part bleach. After cleaning, rinse them thoroughly and let them air-dry before filling them again.
It is a good idea to think of the hobby of backyard bird feeding as similar to feeding and caring for a pet. Even though these are wild birds, not pets, we need to think and act like a pet owner. If you own a cat or a dog, you clean out their food dish and water bowls regularly, and you should do the same for your feathered friends.
On another subject, I’ve had several people comment to me that they are seeing hummingbirds in their yard. I saw a beautiful male Anna’s hummingbird at my neighbor’s home on New Year’s Day. Last week, when I was over at KAHM Radio, (off of 6th St. near Granite Creek) I heard and saw a male Anna’s hummingbird sitting up in a tree singing its characteristic screechy-scratchy song.
While it not unusual to sometimes have a male Anna’s hummingbird winter over in residential areas where there are human-provided food sources (hummingbird feeders,) it seems really unusual to see one out in nature where no feeder is present. In spite of how cold it has been at night and in the morning, our daytime temperatures have been mild and pleasant.
Anna’s hummingbirds are hardy little birds and are capable of enduring our long, cold winter nights. If you start to see hummingbird activity in your yard where you had your feeder hung up last year, it is probably a good idea to get one feeder out right away. If you are not seeing any hummingbird activity, then I would wait to put your feeders out until they start coming back.
This past week I’ve had more than one customer seeking identification help with a bird they’ve seen in their yard. It was easy to identify when they mentioned it had bright red feathers on the top of its head. What they saw were ruby-crowned kinglets. These are very active birds — they rarely sit still for very long. They have the unique behavior of constantly flicking their wing and tail feathers. They are a foliage gleaner, and move through trees and shrubs in search of insects, insect eggs and larvae.
When agitated, the male will flair the red feathers on the crown of his head, which is a diagnostic field marking. These are winter visitors, and they often travel in mixed flocks with other small songbirds such as titmice, bushtits, chickadees and nuthatches. They love suet, so you might see them on your suet feeder from time to time as well.
Until next week, Happy Birding!
Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with two locations in northern Arizona—Prescott and Flagstaff. Eric has been an avid birder for more than 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at email@example.com.