Here in wildlife enquiries we occasionally get sent some rather interesting finds including pictures of unsual garden visitors, feathers and occasionally dead birds. We are more than happy to take a look at feathers and pictures but we are not too keen on the dead birds, they don't travel well in the post and rarely arrive in one piece and make for a pretty unpleasant surprise first thing in the morning!!! So if you come across something that has died and you want to know more about it, get in touch first before popping the unfortunate critter in the post!
I thought i'd share with you all some pictures I took of something that was sent into us recently that might be of interest, have a look below and see if you can guess what species of bird this plumage belongs to?
Here is the wing with some of the feathers removed for illustrative purposes, as Rolf Harris would say, 'can you tell what it is yet?'
I am of course talking about nesting boxes! Putting up nesting boxes in gardens at this time of the year has got to be one of the best ways to help give our feathered friends a great chance of finding a top spot for raising the next generation when the spring arrives. In this blog i'll talk about boxes with small entrance holes.
Your standard small nesting box with a 32 mm entrance hole is potentially a nest site for house sparrows, great tits, blue tits and possibly coal tits in gardens, also pied flycatchers if you are in the right areas with the right habitat. You can limit the variety of species that can use the box by fitting a nesting plate over the hole, blue tits can squeeze into a 25 mm opening, but 32 mm is usually a good size hole that can attract a range of species in a garden. In order for these species to feel safe enough to nest, the box needs to be positioned somewhere open, so they can check the coast is clear, relatively disturbance free and ideally at or above two metres high. House sparrows are a little bit more sensitive than the tits so go higher for them if you can whilst some tits will nest much lower but would be more vulnerable to ground predators as a result.
Some good examples of tit nesting locations are tree trunks, fenceposts, shed, garage and house walls. Always choose somewhere that has open access to and from the hole but some cover nearby to disguise their approach and exit from the nest. In order to prevent the young inside getting cooked during hot weather, try to avoid walls or the side of trunks that face south, north or west are usually fine. House sparrows seem to prefer their boxes being located up under the eaves in loose colonies, two or three on the same wall a few feet apart could be the start of a nice little colony. If you cannot get up to the eaves, have a look on your house to see if any window ledges offer an over hang, as long as they are above two metres there is a chance that sparrows will have a look.
Remember, these boxes don't need a perch under the hole, these birds can cling quite easily to the hole itself. You might see them pay a visit to check it out over winter, they may even use it to roost but for most of us it takes a while for the box to be accepted so prepare to be patient!
Any questions, add them using the comment box below!!!
Summer has finally arrived (for some), all be it late, birds have been struggling to raise their young in the wet, cold weather and now they have chicks it looks like they are disappearing from view. Where have they all gone and when will they return?
During the breeding season, birds will hold their territories and attract their mates by singing and often physically defending their space. Often at this time of year you will hear less bird song as they focus their attention on raising their young and finding food for the numerous mouths they have to feed. Once the young birds have left the nest, the adults will continue to feed their young for a few weeks and teach them what they need to know for their life ahead, before they go their separate ways. Part of this process includes utilising the abundance of natural food that is available to them. Many birds will leave our gardens and find seeds, fruits and berries to incorporate into their diet, from the wider area, including scrub land in our urban areas and the countryside, especially at harvest time when there is discarded, split seed on the ground. Unsurprisingly, many birds are attracted to the natural food in preference to the food we place at our feeding stations. Supplementary feeding only accounts for about 10% of a bird’s diet, and once the autumn months approach and the temperatures drop the birds will return to the feeders.
House Sparrow feeding their young - Steve Austin (rspb-images.com)
Towards the end of the breeding season, birds will naturally moult their feathers. Parent birds have little time to preen and clean their feathers, giving some birds a shabby, unkempt appearance. Birds will moult at different rates; some will lose a few feathers at a time, where others will lose most of their feathers in a short time, giving them a bald look. Mite infestations are often another cause for feather loss, often on the bird’s head, but once they go through their moult they will grow new feathers and have normal plumage again. While they are going through their moult and replacing their flight feathers they can be vulnerable to attack from predators and territorial disputes. This results in birds finding deep cover in our gardens and parks while their new feathers grow. The moulting process can take anything up to eight weeks, but it does vary from bird to bird.
Blackbird taking a bath - Ray Kennedy (rspb-images.com)
You may find that you still have the odd visitor to your feeders through this lean period, but once the autumn and winter months arrive and the berries have been eaten, the birds will return to our gardens and feeders.