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bird fountain with New Mexico birds

10 Plants for a Bird-Friendly Yard

Choose native plants like these to beautify your real estate and provide food for birds.

By National Audubon Society

Looking to spruce up your yard this spring? Try growing more native plants – plants that naturally occur in the area where you live. Gardening with native plants has many benefits: They’re beautiful, they’re already adapted to your precipitation and soil conditions, and they don’t need artificial fertilizers or pesticides. Of course the biggest benefit might be that native plants are great for birds and other wildlife.

Native plants provide nectar for hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. They provide nourishing seeds and irresistible fruits for your feathered neighbors, and they offer places to nest and shelter from harm. They’re also a critical part of the food chain—native insects evolved to feed on native plants, and by and large, backyard birds raise their young on insects, explains Douglas Tallamy, the author of Bringing Nature Home. Take the Carolina Chickadee: A single clutch of four to six chicks will gobble up more than 9,000 caterpillars in the 16 days between when they hatch and when they leave the nest. So thriving insects mean thriving birds.

The key is to pick the right plants for your area. Here are 10 great plants to get you thinking about the possibilities—but remember, there are thousands of native plants out there. Search Audubon's native plants database to create a list of plants native to your area and get connected to local native plant resources. You'll also find even more resources listed further down the page.

Native Flowering Plants:

Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea spp.)

Coneflowers are a tried-and-true garden staple, and wildlife are drawn to them, too.

  • Birds that love them: These beautiful blooms attract butterflies and other pollinators during the summer and provide seeds for goldfinches and other birds in the fall.
  • Where they’re native: Some of these species, like Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea pallida, are great native plants to grow in the plains states. Coneflowers grow well most places, so check for the species native to your region.

Sunflowers (Helianthus spp.)

Sunflowers may signify loyalty and longevity for people, but they mean food for many birds.

  • Birds that love them: Birds often use the sunflower seeds to fuel their long migrations.
  • Where they’re native: Helianthus ciliaris in the Southwest and central United States and Helianthus angustifolius in the eastern United States produce seeds in bulk.  

Milkweed (Asclepias spp.)

Milkweed is best known for hosting monarch butterfly caterpillars, but they attract loads of insects that are great for birds, too. Bonus: the flowers are gorgeous.

  • Birds that love them: Some birds, like the American Goldfinch, use the fiber from the milkweed to spin nests for its chicks. Goldfinches, and other birds, also use the downy part of the seed to line their nests.
  • Where they’re native: It's likely one or more species of milkweed is native to your area—try butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) in hot dry areas, while swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is great in wet areas or gardens.

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

The cardinal flower’s bright red petals resemble the flowing robes worn by Roman Catholic cardinals, after which it was named.

  • Birds that love them: While few insects can navigate the long tubular flowers, hummingbirds feast on the cardinal flower’s nectar with their elongated beaks.
  • Where they’re native: This moisture-loving plant is native across large portions of the country, including the East, Midwest, and Southwest.

Native Vines:

Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)

One of the top most well-behaved vines to plant in your garden, the multitudes of red tubular flowers are magnets for hummingbirds.

  • Birds that love them: This vine’s nectar attracts hummingbirds while many birds like Purple Finches and Hermit Thrushes eat their fruit. During migration, Baltimore Orioles get to the nectar by eating the flowers.
  • Where they’re native: Trumpet honeysuckle grows natively in the northeast, southeast, and midwest portions of the United States. The sweetly scented Japanese honeysuckle is actually an exotic invasive—but if you swap it with native trumpet honeysuckle, you’ll attract plenty of birds.

Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinqefolia)

The Virginia creeper, also known as woodvine, may be best known for its similarity to poison ivy, but its leaves are harmless to your skin. While people may intentionally avoid it, many birds rely on its fruit during the winter.

  • Birds that love them: It’s a key food source for fruit-eating birds, such as mockingbirds, nuthatches, woodpeckers and blue jays.
  • Where they’re native: Parthenocissus vitacea, a related species known as thicket creeper, is native to the American West while Parthenocissus quinqefolia can be found in the Great Plains and eastern United States.

Native Shrubs:

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

Showy flowers and fruit make buttonbush a popular choice in native gardens and along pond shores.

  • Birds that love them: In addition to beautifying a pond, they also provide seeds for ducks and other waterfowl. Their magnificent flowers also attract butterflies—and other pollinators.
  • Where they’re native: The buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis, is native to the wetlands of California and the eastern half of the United States.  

Elderberry (Sambucus spp.)

Elderberry is a versatile plant that has been used to make dye and medicine by people across the United States, as well as being a showy shrub for the landscape.

  • Birds that love them: Its bright dark blue fruits (which we use for jam) provide food for many birds within its range, including the Brown Thrasher and Red-eyed Vireo, and dozens of other birds.
  • Where they’re native: Sambucus canadensis is native to most of the eastern United States, while red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) is found in most states except for those south of Nebraska and those along the Gulf of Mexico.

Native Trees:

Oak (Quercus spp.)

From southern live oaks to California black oaks, these large beautiful trees are a favorite for many people across the country—not to mention the great summer shade they provide. These trees are also an integral part of the food chain, so planting just one really helps your yard’s diversity.

  • Birds that love them: Similarly, many species of birds use the cavities and crooks of these trees for nesting and shelter. Birds are also drawn to the abundance of insects and acorns that are found on oaks—to learn more, check out Doug Tallamy’s work.
  • Where they’re native: If you want to plant an oak, be sure to plant one native to your area, such as the shumard oak in the Southeast or the Oregon white oak in the Pacific Northwest.

Dogwoods (Cornus spp.)

Nothing says spring quite like a dogwood full of newly-bloomed flowers.

  • Birds that love them: Cardinals, titmice, and bluebirds all dine on the fleshy fruit of dogwood trees.
  • Where they’re native: If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you can grow native Cornus nuttallii and for those in the eastern United States, choose either the Cornus alternifolia or the Cornus florida.

By incorporating native plants into your landscape, you’re creating a sanctuary that benefits wildlife.

The 10 plants listed are a great starting point—they’re easy to grow, they’re great for birds, and most can be found at nurseries. To find species that are native to right where you live, search Audubon's native plants database. You can create a list of plants native to your area and get connected to local native plant resources. Explore the Plants for Birds pages to learn more.  

Other Online Resources

How to Buy Native Plants: http://www.audubon.org/news/how-buy-native-plants

Bringing Nature Home: http://www.bringingnaturehome.net/

Books:

Bringing Nature Home…Doug Tallamy

The Living Landscape….Doug Tallamy and Rick Darke

The American Woodland Garden….Rick Darke

Gardening and Propagating Wildflowers, Growing and Propagating Native Trees and Shrubs….William Cullina

Additional reporting by Shannon Palus and Tessa Stuart.

Reference:

Audubon Website: https://www.audubon.org/news/10-plants-bird-friendly-yard

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Birds of New Mexico

Birds of New Mexico

Check out the great diversity of birds  that soar overhead in New Mexico!

All bird content is credited to the following resources. Check out their direct websites for more detailed information about each bird. 

https://www.audubon.org/bird-guide

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/news/

https://www.nps.gov/subjects/birds/index.htm

Yellow-billed Cuckoo  (Coccyzus americanus)
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
(Coccyzus americanus)
Bell’s Vireo (Vireo bellii)
Bell’s Vireo
(Vireo bellii)
Scaled Quail (Callipepla squamata)
Scaled Quail
(Callipepla squamata)
Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum)
Grasshopper Sparrow
(Ammodramus savannarum)
Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)
Burrowing Owl
(Athene cunicularia)
Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis)
Spotted Owl
(Strix occidentalis)
Bendire’s Thrasher (Toxostoma bendirei)
Bendire’s Thrasher
(Toxostoma bendirei)
Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis)
Sandhill Crane
(Antigone canadensis)
Flammulated Owl (Psiloscops flammeolus)
Flammulated Owl
(Psiloscops flammeolus)
Lewis’s Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis)
Lewis’s Woodpecker
(Melanerpes lewis)
Juniper Titmouse (Baeolophus ridgway)
Juniper Titmouse
(Baeolophus ridgway)
Cedar Waxwing  (Bombycilla cedrorum)
Cedar Waxwing
(Bombycilla cedrorum)
Western Bluebird  (Sialia mexicana)
Western Bluebird
(Sialia mexicana)
Mountain Bluebird  (Sialia currucoides)
Mountain Bluebird
(Sialia currucoides)
Western Scrub-Jay  (Aphelocoma californica)
Western Scrub-Jay
(Aphelocoma californica)
Pinyon Jay  (Gymnorhimus cyanocephalus)
Pinyon Jay
(Gymnorhimus cyanocephalus)
Canyon Towhee  (Pipilo fuscus)
Canyon Towhee
(Pipilo fuscus)
Spotted Towhee  (Pipilo maculatus)
Spotted Towhee
(Pipilo maculatus)
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet  (Regulus calendula)
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet
(Regulus calendula)
American Kestrel  (Falco sparverius)
American Kestrel
(Falco sparverius)
Dark-Eyed Junco  (Junco hyemalis)
Dark-Eyed Junco
(Junco hyemalis)
Common Raven  (Corvus corax)
Common Raven
(Corvus corax)
Northern Pygmy-Owl  (Glaucidium gnoma)
Northern Pygmy-Owl
(Glaucidium gnoma)
Western Screech Owl  (Otus kennicottii)
Western Screech Owl
(Otus kennicottii)
Pygmy Nuthatch  (Sitta pygmaea)
Pygmy Nuthatch
(Sitta pygmaea)
Mountain Chickadee  (Poecile gambeli)
Mountain Chickadee
(Poecile gambeli)
American Robin  (Turdus migratorius)
American Robin
(Turdus migratorius)
House Finch  (Carpodacus mexicanus)
House Finch
(Carpodacus mexicanus)
Black-Billed Magpie  (Pica hudsonia)
Black-Billed Magpie
(Pica hudsonia)
Northern Flicker  (Colaptes auratus)
Northern Flicker
(Colaptes auratus)
Great Horned Owl  (Bubo virginianus)
Great Horned Owl
(Bubo virginianus)
Mourning Dove  (Zenaida macroura)
Mourning Dove
(Zenaida macroura)
Red-Tailed Hawk  (Buteo jamaicensis)
Red-Tailed Hawk
(Buteo jamaicensis)

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Feeding backyard birds

11 Tips for Feeding Backyard Birds

Follow this advice to attract the most feathered friends to your feeders.

By Steve Kress

1) Locate bird feeders at different levels

  •  Sparrows, juncos, and towhees usually feed on the ground, while finches and cardinals feed in shrubs, and chickadees, titmice, and woodpeckers feed in trees. To avoid crowding and to attract the greatest variety of species, provide table-like feeders for ground-feeding birds, hopper or tube feeders for shrub and treetop feeders, and suet feeders well off the ground for woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees.>

2) Offer a variety of seeds in separate feeders

  • A diverse mix of seeds will attract the greatest variety of birds. To avoid waste, offer different seeds in different feeders. Black oil sunflower seed appeals to the greatest number of birds. Offer sunflower seeds, nyjer (thistle) seeds, and peanuts in separate feeders. When using blends, choose mixtures containing sunflower seeds, millet, and cracked corn—the three most popular types of birdseed. Birds that are sunflower specialists will readily eat the sunflower seed and toss the millet and corn to the ground, to be eaten by ground-feeding birds such as sparrows and juncos. Mixtures of peanuts, nuts, and dried fruit attract woodpeckers, nuthatches, and titmice. A relatively few species prefer milo, wheat, and oats, which are featured in less expensive blends.>

3) Provide suet during cool weather only

  • Suet (beef fat) attracts insect-eating birds such as woodpeckers, wrens, chickadees, nuthatches, and titmice. Place the suet in special feeders or net onion bags at least five feet from the ground to keep it out of the reach of dogs. Do not put out suet during hot weather as it can turn rancid; also, dripping fat can damage natural waterproofing on bird feathers.>

4) Mix peanut butter and corn meal

  • Peanut butter is a good substitute for suet in the summer. Mix one part peanut butter with five parts corn meal and stuff the mixture into holes drilled in a hanging log or into the crevices of a large pinecone. This all-season mixture attracts woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, and occasionally warblers.>

5) Provide fruit for berry-eating birds

  • Fruit specialists such as robins, waxwings, bluebirds, and mockingbirds rarely eat birdseed. To attract these birds, soak raisins and currants in water overnight, then place them on a table feeder, or purchase blends with a dried fruit mixture. To attract orioles and tanagers, skewer halved oranges onto a spike near other feeders, or supply nectar feeders.>

6) Provide nectar for hummingbirds

  • Make a sugar solution of one part white sugar to four parts water. Boil briefly to sterilize and dissolve sugar crystals; no need to add red food coloring. Feeders must be washed every few days with very hot water and kept scrupulously clean to prevent the growth of mold.>

7) Store seed in secure metal containers 

  • Store seed in metal garbage cans with secure lids to protect it from squirrels and mice. Keep the cans in a cool, dry location; avoid storing in the heat. Damp seeds may grow mold that can be fatal to birds. Overheating can destroy the nutrition and taste of sunflower seeds. For these reasons, it’s best not to keep seed from one winter to the next.>

8) Discourage squirrels from consuming feeder foods

  • Squirrels are best excluded by placing feeders on a pole in an open area. Pole-mounted feeders should be about five feet off the ground and protected by a cone-shaped baffle (at least 17 inches diameter) or similar obstacle below the feeder. Locate pole-mounted feeders at least 10 feet from the nearest shrub, tree, or other tall structure. Squirrel feeders stocked with blends that are especially attractive to squirrels and chipmunks can reduce competition for high-priced foods offered at bird feeders. Place squirrel feeders far from bird feeders to further reduce competition.>

9) Locate feeders to reduce window collisions

  • In the United States, approximately one billion birds die each year from flying into windows. Protect birds from collisions by placing feeders within three feet of windows, if possible. Mobiles and opaque decorations hanging outside windows also help to prevent bird strikes. Or attach fruit tree netting outside windows to deflect birds from the glass.>

10) Keep cats indoors

  • Cats kill hundreds of millions of birds annually in the United States, often pouncing on ground-feeding birds and those dazed by window collisions. Responsible and caring cat owners keep their cats indoors, where they are also safer from traffic, disease, and fights with other animals. Outdoor cats are especially dangerous to birds in the spring when fledglings are on the ground. Bells on cat collars are usually ineffective for deterring predation.>

11) Clean feeders and rake up spilled grain and hulls

  • Uneaten seed can become soggy and grow deadly mold. Empty and clean feeders twice a year (spring and fall), or more often if feeders are used during humid summers. Using a long-handled bottlebrush, scrub with dish detergent and rinse with a powerful hose; then soak in a bucket of 10 percent non-chlorine bleach solution, rinse well, and dry in the sun. In early spring, rake up spilled grain and sunflower hulls.>

Reference:

https://www.audubon.org/news/11-tips-feeding-backyard-birds>

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Finding the right mix of birdseed

Finding the right mix of birdseed

 By Anne Schmauss for The New Mexican

 Feb 23, 2020

All birdseed is not created equal.

Birds know the difference. Have you ever seen birds knock most of the seed in feeders to the ground where it lies mostly uneaten? If this happens at your house, then you are likely feeding birds a diet they don’t like.

Most seed-eating birds eat black-oil sunflower, sunflower chips (sunflower without shells), millet and peanut pieces. Those are the favorites of house finches, grosbeaks, chickadees, nuthatches and almost all seed-eaters. If your mix contains millet, then it is perfectly natural for birds at your feeder to kick the millet to the ground while they search for sunflower, chips and nuts.

The millet that ends up on the ground should be eaten by ground-feeding birds, like juncos, dove and towhees, who prefer to eat on the ground and prefer millet. But if you see a lot of seed not eaten on the ground, then you are not feeding the right birdseed blend.

It’s likely the mess under your feeder is milo and other grains birds don’t eat. Milo is a round, reddish brown seed and a common filler grain in many commercial birdseed blends. The funny thing about this “birdseed” is that birds don’t eat it. Milo is a very low-cost grain, so bird-food mix makers can load up a bag with a little sunflower, some millet, and a lot of milo and charge a very low price. If most of your seed ends up uneaten on the ground, then it’s clearly not a good value.

Check the birdseed label. You don’t want to see milo, “grain products,” wheat or rapeseed. These are low-cost fillers that birds don’t eat. You want to see sunflower or sunflower chips listed first, then maybe peanut pieces or other nut pieces, and some white millet.

Millet is also a lower-cost grain, so sometimes you’ll see a high percentage of it in a mix. If you’re using a high-millet mix as a ground feeding mix, that’s fine because ground feeding birds love millet. But if you are putting that mix in an elevated feeder, then the millet should be lower on the ingredient list than sunflower or sunflower chips.

If you are feeding a quality blend and still end up with too much millet on the ground, switch to a low-millet or no-millet mix. Some more open habitats like parts of Eldorado have more ground-feeding birds, so it’s good to have a bit more millet. Heavily treed areas have fewer ground-feeding birds, so a low or no-millet mix loaded with sunflower or chips is best.

Sometimes folks tell us they have lots of uneaten sunflower seed on the ground. Sometimes they are actually seeing only the sunflower shells. If your sunflower goes uneaten, you might consider switching to a no-mess blend. No-mess blends usually contain mostly easy-to-eat sunflower chips, peanut pieces, suet nuggets and hulled white millet. These ingredients are liked by birds and are easy to eat so rarely end up under a feeder making a mess.

We’re all price sensitive when we shop, but I think we all want to buy good food for ourselves, our family, our pets and our birds. Like other commodities such as oil, grain prices go up and down depending upon supply, demand, weather, acres planted, etc.

Birdseed grain prices have recently increased, so your favorite blend may have gone up a bit in price. Watch out for some bird food manufacturers to increase the percentage of fillers in their mixes to offset this increase.

Quality bird food costs more. Birds can tell the difference. If you feed high-quality food, you’ll attract more birds and a wider variety of birds. Low-cost mixes loaded with milo tend to attract mostly sparrows, doves and pigeons. These birds will eat high-end food too, but if you’ve chosen the right mix for your habitat you can welcome all sorts of other birds.

Migration is right around the corner, so it’s a great time to start feeding a birdseed blend that will attract the widest variety of birds. It’s also a good time to add suet or bark butter (spreadable suet) to your bird buffet. Bark butter attracts more birds than any other food and is a wonderful companion to a quality bird food blend.

Anne Schmauss is the co-owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Santa Fe and she loves to hear your bird stories. She is the author of “For the Birds: A Month by Month Guide to Attracting Birds to Your Backyard and Birdhouses of the World.”


Reference:

https://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/finding-the-right-mix-of-birdseed/article_29be99d8-5677-11ea-90c0-bf408e2c3f61.html

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Bird who struck window

Bird Window Strikes and how to prevent it

Up to about 1 billion birds die from window strikes in the U.S. each year and almost 50% of these hit home windows (Loss et al. 2014). Sadly, even when the bird seems to be temporarily stunned and manages to fly away it often dies later from internal bleeding or head injuries.

Window collisions can happen during the daytime and nighttime. In daylight, birds fly into windows because they see reflections of vegetation or see through the glass to potted plants or vegetation on the other side. Most birds that migrate will do so at night so these nocturnal migrants crash because they fly into lighted windows of large building. For reasons not completely understood by scientists, lights divert nocturnal migrants from their original path, especially in foggy conditions.

Addressing bird window collisions at home makes a huge difference for birds, and there are many bird window deterrents you can choose to fix your glass.

The first step is to start by identifying priority windows including 

  • any window where you have heard a bird hit or where you have found a dead bird, 
  • large windows, especially those that reflect habitat (including sky) or through which you can see sky or greenery on the other side of the building, 
  • and windows near bird feeders and bird baths.

Then implement strategies to prevent birds from hitting these high priority windows:

  • Create horizontal or vertical stripes. Most birds will avoid glass with vertical or horizontal stripes (or other markings) spaced 2” apart. Stripes should be at least 1/8” wide. A good rule of thumb — you should be able to see the pattern clearly from ten feet away. White stripes tend to perform better because they reflect most light and so are visible against more types of background reflections. A translucent line won't show up as well. Patterns of dots can also work if the diameter of the dots is at least ¼”.
  • Vertical lines spaced 4” apart would stop a lot of collisions for most birds species while two-inch spacing, vertically and horizontally (or at an angle), is enough to dissuade almost all species.
  • Window decals can work too but they need to be spaced appropriately.
  • Place bird feeders Place feeders closer than 3 feet to a picture window (or even affixed to the glass or window frame), or farther than 30 feet from a window.
  • There are some options for bird friendly glass that has been shown to reduce bird collisions. Look for products with Threat Factors (TFs) to indicate the relative ability of materials to reduce collisions. Products with lower TFs are considered more effective at preventing collisions. A TF of 30 should reduce collisions by at least 50 percent.
Western Tanager
Western Tanager – a migratory bird species that we see passing through northern New Mexico in the spring.

References:

American Bird Conservancy. 2021. Glass Collisions: Products and Solutions Database. https://abcbirds.org/glass-collisions/products-database/

Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2021. Why birds hit windows and how you can prevent it. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/news/why-birds-hit-windows-and-how-you-can-help-prevent-it/

Loss, S.R., T. Will, S.S. Loss, P.P. Marra. 2014. Bird–building collisions in the United States: Estimates of annual mortality and species vulnerability. The Condor 116:8-23.

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New Mexico bird songs

Guess The New Mexico Bird Song

Birds will tell you who they are by the song they are singing. Once you know the song it can be obvious what species they are.

Listen to each of the following New Mexican birds sing. At the end, see if you can guess the bird by their song.

Step 1 : Listen to the bird songs

#1 #2
#3 #4
#5 #6

Step 2 : Guess which bird sang each song

Western Bluebird
Western Bluebird
Black-Capped Chickaee
Black-Capped Chickaee
Mountain Chickadee
Mountain Chickadee
Spotted Towhee
Spotted Towhee
Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird
White-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch

  Step 3: How did you do? Click here to reveal your answers:

  1. White-breasted Nuthatch
  2. Mountain Chickadee
  3. Red-winged Blackbird
  4. Western Bluebird
  5. Black-Capped Chickaee
  6. Spotted Towhee

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Bird banding in Los Alamos Wetlands at Los Alamos National Laboratory

You tube video showing bird banding in Los Alamos Wetlands at Los Alamos National Laboratory

Produced by Peter Hyde

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