Thursday, February 28, 2008

Keeping Birds Away From Bird Seed

From the Associated Press:

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Federal wildlife officials will target entire parcels of cattail-choked wetlands in North Dakota this year to kill the preferred habitat of sunflower-scarfing blackbirds.

Some 60,000 acres of cattail marshes in North Dakota have been destroyed since 1991 to try to keep blackbirds at bay, said Phil Mastrangelo, state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services agency.

Last year in North Dakota, about 4,500 acres of wetlands in 16 counties were treated, Mastrangelo said. This year there will be enough money to treat about 8,000 acres, he said.

A herbicide is applied from a helicopter, at a cost to the government of about $23 an acre, Mastrangelo said. The program targets only cattails on private land and is free to sunflower farmers. Last year, 43 of them got treatment.

In past years, about 70 percent of a cattail marsh was treated with a herbicide, but blackbirds were still able to nest, loaf and roost in the remaining fuzzy-topped weeds with reedlike leaves. "That 30 percent still gave some heartburn from the blackbirds," Mastrangelo said.

The USDA estimates blackbirds eat more than $10 million worth of sunflowers each year in North Dakota, which accounts for about half of the nation's sunflower production.

"Just getting rid of cattails is a real good tool to use," said Mike Clemens, a sunflower farmer from Wimbledon, in eastern North Dakota. "If you can get rid of them within two miles of a field, blackbirds will go somewhere else to find something else to chew on."

Clemens, who has used the program for two years, said eradicating all the cattails in an area is important. "If you leave 10 percent of cattails, it's still just enough to attract birds who will still want to hang around," he said.

Some 70 million blackbirds come through the Northern Plains each year, including about 6 million that stop in North Dakota, biologists say. Each blackbird can eat about an ounce of sunflower seeds daily.

Larry Kleingartner, executive director of the Bismarck-based National Sunflower Association, said cattail eradication has been effective in controlling blackbirds. He said the loss of habitat makes the blackbirds more vulnerable to predators during nesting.

Cattails cover some 600,000 acres of wetlands in North Dakota. Mastrangelo said wetlands treated with the herbicide are typically free of cattails for about five years.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Seed Hoop

Many customers have asked for it: "Isn't there any thing I can put under the feeder to catch all the seed that birds kick out?"

Well someone has invented it! Introducing the Seed Hoop--a 30” diameter base made of lightweight exterior grade vinyl-coated fiberglass mesh which catches spilled seed but allows water to drain and seeds to dry.

The unexpected benefit is that birds appear to enjoy using it as an extra large tray feeder--one last chance at the food before it falls to the ground. The hoop is available to fit on a feeder mounted onto a pole or free hanging feeder. The product was designed by a couple in Utah and has been a hit at local bird stores. However, the product has not been hard tested against squirrels. Only one squirrel has been documented feeding on the hoop--on the upside, the hoop was able to take the weight, however how will the product stand up to the savvy eastern squirrels?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Wild Birds NOT The Cause Of Bird Flu

On the off chance anyone is still worried about Avian Infuenza, the World Wildlife Fund Chapter in Pakistan is going on record that wild birds are not the main cause:

Wild migratory birds may suffer from Avian Influenza (commonly known as bird flu), but they are not the main source of the disease’s outbreak in Pakistan, according to a study statement issued by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Lahore chapter on Friday.

The statement said that the statements about migratory birds being the main reason for the latest outbreak of bird flu in Pakistani poultry farms might have serious repercussions against the birds and their habitats. It said since the recent outbreak of bird flu in Sindh, WWF Pakistan had been in contact with BirdLife International, which carried out research on the role of wild birds, including migratory species, in the spread of HPAI H5N1.

The WWF said there were no sound grounds to support the allegations that migratory birds were solely responsible for the spread of H5N1. It said the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) collected samples from between 300,000 to 350,000 wild-birds across the world. None of these were found H5N1 positive. Likewise, sampling of 5000 water birds after the outbreak in Nigeria during 2006 found no traces of the virus (according to the Wildlife and the Environment Web). Despite increased sampling around the world, no fully documented migratory wild birds have tested positive for H5N1.

The WWF said the mapping of bird flu outbreaks across the world had shown that they followed poultry trade routes rather than the migratory birds’ flyways. Therefore, after a comprehensive critical review of recent scientific literature, it was concluded that poultry trade, rather than bird migration, was the main mechanism of the global dispersal of the H5N1 virus.

The organisation said the illegal trade of caged birds had transported the H5N1 virus the world over. It said, “Bird flu virus is transmitted farm to farm by the movement of live birds, people (especially with contaminated clothes), and contaminated vehicles, equipment, feed, and cages. Highly pathogenic viruses can survive for long periods in the environment, especially when temperatures are low. For example, the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus can survive in bird faeces for at least 35 days at a low temperature (4 degree Celsius). At a much higher temperature (37 degree Celsius), H5N1 viruses have been shown to survive, in faecal samples, for six days (WHO).”

Read the rest of the story here.

Monday, February 11, 2008

British Bird Feeding Studies

The Telegraph is reporting that a British bird survey found that more birds are found in affluent areas. Perhaps because people with discretionary income can afford more feeders and better seed? Here's an excerpt:

"Scientists say they have discovered that a high density of bird feeders and bird tables raises the overall numbers of birds in urban areas, independently of factors such as the presence of parks and large gardens.

However, the "bird feeder effect" found by researchers from Sheffield University varied markedly according to the social and economic status of the households in the area."

Read the rest of the story here.

In other British bird study news, Science Daily is reporting that feeding birds in winter gives them a potential advantage during breeding season:

"By providing some birds with extra food, such as peanuts, and leaving others to fend for themselves, the team was able to compare productivity between the two groups. Those that were given extra food laid eggs earlier and, although they produced the same number of chicks, an average of one more per clutch successfully fledged. Although it was well known that garden feeding helps many birds survive the winter, this is the first time that the benefits to spring breeding and productivity have been shown.

Dr Stuart Bearhop of the University of Exeter, corresponding author on the paper, said: "Our study shows that birds that receive extra food over winter lay their eggs earlier and produce more fledglings. While this research shows how the extra food we provide in winter helps the birds that take it, it is still unclear whether this has a knock-on effect on other species. This is something we are keen to investigate, but in the meantime I will certainly be putting out food for garden birds for the rest of the winter."

Read the rest of the story here.