Bird FAQ

In addition to the historically-popular topics shown below, try the Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds FAQs with this link:

For an easy reference book on a variety of bird subjects, consider Audubon North American Birdfeeder Guide or The Birder’s Handbook.

You may click on a particular question and go directly to the answer or
page down through all questions and answers.

Should you feed birds year around?
Where should you place feeders?
What can be done for successsful nesting?
Should I use traps for pests?
What should I plant to attract birds?
What information can you give me about Bluebirds?
What information can you give me about Martin Houses?
What information can you give me about Mockingbirds?
What should I do with an injured bird?
What kinds of bird feed should I use?
How should I feed Hummingbirds?
What should I feed injured Robins?
How can I reduce Blackbirds and Starlings?
Where are the Eurasian Tree Sparrows?
Should I put out water for the birds in the winter?
Is there anything I can do about birds flying into windows?
What can be done with Woodpecker problems?
Who leads the flock?
How are owls related to other birds?
Why are owls nocturnal?
How do owls see?
How do owls hear?

Should you feed birds year around?

Its OK if you enjoy it, but you must remember not to stop in the Fall
or Winter. When May comes, the birds usually find other food.
If you continue to feed during the summer, it is best to use a lighter
mix instead of the sunflower seed. Sunflower seed gives the
extra nutrition birds need during winter, helps keep them warm,
and this is not needed during the summer.

Where should you place feeders?

If you want your bird guests safe from dogs and cats, hang your
feeder from a pole at least 5 feet or more above the ground.
Another feeder can be placed a little higher. The feeders
should be near a natural or artificial source of water and about
10 feet from a source of shelter. If squirrels are a problem,
place a baffle under the lower feeder.

What can be done for successsful nesting?

Old nest boxes should be thoroughly cleaned by February and
put back up. This should also be done between the first and
second broods. This is very important, as there may be lice
from the previous brood, which could make the second nesting
a total disaster.

Should I use traps for pests?

Be careful with this. Traps need to be checked every hour or
two and a suitable place for the release of the victim(s) needs
to be planned before placing the trap. It is a stressful situation
for the trapped (being without food or water) and it has been
known that several birds in one trap for only one day pecked
each other to death.

What should I plant to attract birds?

Bee Balm (oswego tea) perennials
Jewel weed perennials
Cardinal Flower Perennials
Hibiscus perennials
Trumpet Creepter
Morning Glory

Chickadees & Titmice:

Other songbirds:
Possum Haw
Shadbush (service berry)

What information can you give me about Bluebirds?

They generally return to the same territory and to the same
box if their previous breeding was a success. Arriving in the breeding
areas from late February through late June, they lay 1-6 eggs (blue)
a day apart and these are not incubated until the last egg has been laid.
It is common for them to have three broods
in one season.

Bluebird nest boxes:

Entrance, 1 1/2 inches
No perch (this discourages undesirables such as sparrows)
Must have ventilation holes or gaps between roof and sides.
Roof should overhang two inches for shade and to keep out rain.
Use 3/4 inch thick wood to provide adequate insulation from sun.
chemicals in it. Keep the color light (for coolness).
Use only linseed oil on the outside only. Better yet, don't use
any finish/stain. Any box reaching a temperature over 102 degrees
can harm the eggs or nestlings. For further protection from predators,
such as raccoons, snakes, wrens, and other birds,
add a 2" x 4" wood nest hole extension.

What information can you give me about Martin Houses?

Martin house should be approximately 15 feet high in an open
area by March 15. In many areas, Martins prefer living in gourds.

What information can you give me about Mockingbirds?

These birds produce the most lovely songs, singing from morning to night,
and even during the night. Many people do not like them because they defend
their territory so strongly, especially during the breeding season.
There have been reports of them dive bombing people and pets.
The latter is true of the Barn Swallows. Help people to get along with
these birds by offering them craberries and raisins, especially in winter when
their food source is low. Try to assure people there isn't any danger to their
getting hurt. Suggest wearing a hat, keeping the pets indoors more,
and it will all come to an end in a few days or weeks.

What should I do with an injured bird?

Wild Bird Rehabilitation, Inc. is one of four private wildlife rehabilitation organizations in the St. Louis metropolitan area and the only one dedicated entirely to songbirds. Their mission is to give the best possible care to injured, sick and orphaned wild birds and to release those birds back into their natural habitat. Staffed by volunteers, Wild Bird Rehabilitation, Inc. assists in helping over 2,500 birds a year, representing some 100 different native bird species. WBR receives referrals from St. Louis city, county and state animal agencies as well as from many veterinarians and other animal welfare organizations.

Please visit their online 911 Bird Help page for detailed guidance on sick/injured birds:


What kinds of bird feed should I use?

This depends on what kind of birds you want to attract to your feeder.
Do you want finches only, then you use Niger (thistle). Its not cheap.
Try letting a patch of thistle grow in a corner of the backyard and
enjoy seeing the Goldfinch bring their young to it. Sunflower seed
(oily or stripped) seems to be the best loved by most birds such as
Tufted Titmouse, Chickadees, Cardinals, Bluejays, Finch, Grosbeaks,
Doves, Sparrows (Song, White Crowned, etc) and Pine Siskin.

Orioles: Try half of an orange in your suet cage. This will also
attract Hummingbirds.

Seed: Be sure it is fresh and has not been chemically treated to
prolong shelf life. The fresher the feed, the more the birds will like it.
Store in a covered metal or plastic container. Old seed should be disposed
of regularly. Keep feeders clean and be sure they are thoroughly
dry before putting in the new seed.

How should I feed Hummingbirds?

A solution of four parts water and one part sugar.
Boiling keeps it from fermenting in the hot weather.
This does not need the red coloring in it, as the feeders have
enough red to attract the birds. Do not use honey or sugar substitutes
because honey ferments quickly. The feeders should be hung 5 feet high
early to mid April and is most effective near a flower bed.

What should I feed injured Robins?

Try shredded cheese, raisins, or cranberries. Mockingbirds also
love cranberries and raisins.

How can I reduce Blackbirds and Starlings?

Don't throw bread crumbs, etc. on the ground and discontinue use of
table feeders. Try the tube type feeders. These make it difficult for large
birds, as there is not enough perching area.

Where are the Eurasian Tree Sparrows?

Good spots to look for these birds are: Dogtown and the Hill in the
city of St Louis, North Riverfront Park and Little Creve Coeur Lake in
St Louis County, Riverlands and St Charles County at intersection
of Hwy 94 and B. Also in Illinois at Horseshow Lake State Park and
Frank Holten State Park. Click here to see photograph of these birds.

Should I put out water for the birds in the winter?

Do not use glycerine or anything else that can harm the birds.
Bird baths are not of much use in winter unless they have heaters.
The best alternative for drinking water is to use an inverted pet food
bowl, since the ring of ice comes out easily and can be changed
twice a day with little or no trouble. The smaller birds like sitting
on the edge. The larger birds also do well with this. Set the bowl on a
ledge or window sill.

Is there anything I can do about birds flying into windows?

This is caused from reflections of trees and usually very clean
windows. It's best to leave screens up year-round (if they are on
the outside). Also, solid medium shade draperies or curtains can
help, and when they are open, a light on in the room can also
stop the birds from having window accidents. Sometimes the bird
is stunned and recovers in a few minutes, however, many die from
these accidents. Place feeders away from windows with reflections
(usually East and West windows have the most reflections).

What can be done with Woodpecker problems?

Leave snags (dead trees). They contain the insects you don't want
getting into the exterior of your home. If you don't have any, erect a
snag or two eight feet tall, six inches in diameter. Contact public works
department for one or find something similar laying on the ground.
Do not remove one from their natural system. Place the snag against
the area of your home where the Woodpeckers are boring with wire at two
contact points. Maybe the following year you will have Bluebirds.

Who leads the flock?

It can be either a male or female. However, it is always the strongest bird.
When it gets tired, it falls back and a new bird takes its place.

How are owls related to other birds?

Birds of prey, owls along with hawks, eagles and falcons, constitute
a group called "raptors" whose members are distinguished because
they have talons (sharp claws) on their feet for catching prey
and hooked beaks for tearing it apart. Owls, however, are only
distantly related to their daytime counterparts. They are much more
closely related to other nightime (nocturnal) birds like whip-poor-wills.

Why are owls nocturnal?

The predator life style requires very special refinements, and owls
display a variety of fascinating features and behaviors. Their nighttime
existence, for example, make it easier for them to hunt the mice
and other small mammals that are also active at that time.

How do owls see?

An owl's eyes are huge so that they can gather more light, thus
providing them excellent night vision. In fact, a Great Horned Owl's
eyes are nearly as large as a man's. Unlike other birds, owl eyes look
forward and therefore each eye sees the same object from two
different angles. This produces three-dimensional perception,
similar to humans, making it easier to detect the distance of prey,
perches and branches as they fly about in the dark. Unlike a human,
an owl's eyes are fixed in their sockets and cannot turn. To focus on
another object, an owl must swivel its head. It can do this with
amazing quickness.

How do owls hear?

The ear openings are also directed forward and are shielded beneath
downy feathers within the owl's familar facial disk. (The ear tufts of some
owls have nothing to do with hearing.) The facial disk itself serves to
focus sound waves into the ears. Strangely, the ear opening on the
right is higher than the one on the left. Each ear therefore receives sound
from a slightly different angle. This provides owls 3-D hearing in addition
to 3-D seeing, thus doing us humans one better. Experiments have shown
this sense to be so effective that Barn Owls can locate prey in total
darkness by hearing alone.

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