IS THERE A NEED TO FEED BLUEBIRDS?
(REVISED JANUARY, 1994)
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.
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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