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Top 10 Things to Watch in Your Backyard This Summer
When spring bird migration ends and nesting season begins, summer is upon you. For some backyard bird watchers this means that activity slows a bit at the feeders. Some backyard birders refer to a hot summer afternoon as boring. Perish the thought! There are dozens of other things to watch, observe, and enjoy when the birds are sneakily going about their breeding season activities. Here are just 10 for you to consider. Add some shade and a cold drink, and you're all set.
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Holiday Treats for the Birds!
Here's a fun project that will entertain both kids and adults alike: Make some festive decorations that your backyard birds will enjoy! All you need is some pinecones, colorful ribbon, peanut butter, a baking sheet, and a good mixed seed.
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Ask Birdsquatch: Head Bangers
Dear Birdsquatch: I love woodpeckers and have managed to attract five woodpecker species to my backyard here in Kentucky. At my feeders they eat peanuts and suet and sunflower hearts. I know their natural food preferences are wood-boring insects, which they dig after with their chisellike bills. My question is this: How do they keep from knocking themselves out when they pound on a tree trunk repeatedly? Do they get concussions? Headaches?
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Ask Birdsquatch: Dust-Up Mystery
Dear Birdsquatch: While examining my yard, I recently found a bare patch of earth strewn with wild turkey feathers. I've seen the occasional turkey in my yard, but they are very shy. Do these feathers offer clues that perhaps a predator killed a turkey here?
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How to Appease House Wrens
Dear Birdsquatch: Last spring a pair of house wrens took over a bluebird house in my backyard. I suspect them in the untimely demise of a clutch of Carolina chickadee eggs, which I found pierced and dropped below the nest box the chickadees were using. I've heard that house wrens are not good neighbors to other cavity nesting birds. Is this true? And if so, what can I do to discourage the house wrens?
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Did You Know? Pigeon and Dove Trivia
Did you know that pigeons and doves are members of the same family? The largest species in that family are usually called pigeons and the others are doves, but genetically, pigeons and doves are close cousins. Also, pigeons and doves are the only birds that can drink water by sucking it into their esophagus, head down. Other birds must tip their head back to swallow water.
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Did You Know That the Hobby We Love Can Help the Birds?
Did you know that you can turn your hobby of watching the birds at your feeder into genuine science? You can—just by participating in Project FeederWatch. If you can identify all the birds that visit your backyard bird buffet, you're qualified to participate in this citizen science project of Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, which runs every November through April.
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Where Does a Woodpecker Store Its Long Tongue?
A flicker's tongue can extend two inches beyond its bill tip! That's necessary for probing deep inside tree crevices for yummy insects. But where does it store that tongue when not in use?
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Our Favorite Signs of Spring—by the Bird Watcher's Digest staff
We've always had one or more birders on staff here at BWD and we've also been fortunate to have many staff members who are interested in nature and the outdoors, if not specifically focused on birds. Here in southeastern Ohio, where our offices are located, February is one of those winter months that can really make you long for spring. So this morning we went around the office to ask everyone his or her favorite sign of spring. Here's what we learned:
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Bird Meteorologists
Birds fly lower before a storm. A busy bird feeder means bad weather is coming. Birds singing in the rain means the rain will soon stop. Sometimes birds are more reliable than TV weather forecasters. Humorist Al Batt offers a list of weather-predicting bird behavior.
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Keep Your Optics and Guide Handy
Clever backyard bird watchers know that keeping their binoculars and a field guide handy to where they do most of their feeder watching is a smart idea. The last thing you want to do when a rare bird shows up is to scramble to find your binoculars.
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Do You Keep a List of Your Backyard Birds?
Many of us enjoy keeping track of the bird species we see in our yards. It's both satisfying and enlightening to keep a list from year to year to see how the mix of species changes with the seasons, and to note the arrival and departure dates of migrant visitors.
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The Bluebird Story
During the middle part of the 20th century, eastern bluebirds were nearly wiped out in North America. Habitat destruction, pesticide use, and increased competition for nest holes from starlings and house sparrows decimated bluebird populations.
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Bird Watching with [Indoor] Cats
WBB reader Jess Yarnell has her cat Goldilocks to thank for turning her into a bird watcher. Her indoor-only window watcher needed some entertainment, so she purchased a bird feeder. The feathered friends started showing up, and bird watching became a family hobby.
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It's Raining Orioles!
The very first time I saw a Baltimore oriole was when it landed on my hummingbird feeder one spring. I was immediately hooked. I had to have this bird in my yard! For the next five years, I placed numerous orange slices on tree limbs and special oriole feeders filled with orange nectar on hooks all over the yard-to no avail.
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Itty-Bitty Bird Feet
Have you ever watched a bird vist your feeder during the winter and wondered, "Won't birds freeze their little feet off on the metal perches? It's 20 degrees below zero! How do they do it?" Nature has a clever way of keeping birds' feet warm and functional.
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The Bluebirds, a Poem by Henry David Thoreau
It was Henry David Thoreau who noted that the "bluebird carries the sky on his back." Thoreau wrote often of the eastern bluebirds that shared his space in Concord, Massachusetts, in the mid-nineteenth century.
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Readers Write: Waiting in Line
When my son, Ryan, and daughter, Amanda, were around 5 and 3 years old, we built our first squirrel box as a family project. Soon after placing it high in our maple trees, squirrels began to entertain as we watched their babies grow and frolic in and on top of the box—our gift to them.

Semi-retired 35 years later, I decided to relive the good times past by placing a new squirrel box in our mulberry tree.
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Make a Resolution to Start a Yard List!
You don't have to be an avid birder to keep a bird list. If you're serious about feeding the birds, why not keep track of the bird species that you have seen at your feeders, in your trees and shrubbery, or otherwise in or over your yard or property?
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Don't Cut Evening Primrose!
The seeds of evening primrose can be a valuable food source for birds in cold climates throughout North America. Each flower produces hundreds of seeds, and when the flower dies, it holds on to some and drops others. The stalks of dead evening primrose are "Eat Here" signs to songbirds, marking a likely food source at the base.
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A Feather Faux Pas!
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 was put in place to protect birds, and it "makes it illegal to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, purchase, or barter, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs" of native birds unless you have a permit to do so.
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Watching Backyard Birds Across the Country
I have been watching birds in several yards as my husband and I have relocated around the country. Feeding and watching birds give me a sense of stability and pleasure as we move from state to state. Most recently I have watched and photographed birds in Tucson, Arizona; Andover, Massachusetts; and now on the coast of Maine!
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Grabbing Grackles: A Short Story by Al Batt
My friend had grackles that nest in his yard. He informed me that he had been watching as two of the birds, which he refers to as blackbirds, built nests in adjacent trees. He related to me that he had been watching one bird steal material from the other's nest.
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8 Common Bird-feeding Myths Debunked
Have you ever noticed how much of what we consider "conventional wisdom" is actually wrong and ridiculous? Bird-feeding conventional wisdom is riddled with bad information. But you, my friend, are in luck! I have tried most everything in bird feeding at least once, and I have made nearly every mistake possible. Why? So you won't have to!
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Fifteen Fun Feather Facts
All birds—and only birds—have feathers, but how much do you know about feathers, really? WBB managing editor Dawn Hewitt shares surprising facts!
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Five Tips for Summer Birding
Now that the buzz and tingle of spring migration is over, we birders can shift our attention to the low thrum of summer and the nesting season. This can be a tough transition. Bird numbers don't match those at the height of migration, bird activity such as singing is beginning to wane, and the weather (depending upon where you live) can get uncomfortably hot. A birding friend of mine said recently, "Summer birding is boring, if you don't know how to get into it." She's right. So here are some tips for "getting into it!"
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Summer Caption Contest
Here's a great picture of a prothonotary warbler rocketing out of its nest box at the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area in Northwest Ohio. Got an idea for a caption?
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Getting on the Bird
A problem that bird watchers typically encounter more than any other is getting their binocs pointed right at the bird.
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Backyard Bird Journaling
The start of a new year is just around the corner. Now is a great time to consider starting a backyard journal to help you keep track of the bird information you observe each day. Keep it near your primary feeder-watching window, and add to it throughout the day. A year from now, you'll know when to say goodbye to your winter visitors, and when to expect the earliest spring migrants.
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Winter Caption Contest
Here's a great picture of a dark-eyed junco doing... we're not sure what, exactly. Maybe the hokey-pokey? At any rate, we need a caption for this image!
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Attention, Readers and Web Visitors!
We're taking an informal survey of our readers: Are you noticing a reduced number of northern cardinals at your feeders? Several staffers here at BWD/WBB headquarters are finding very few cardinals at their feeders. Please share your cardinal report with us! Are your cardinal numbers lower, higher, or about the same as last year? And please tell us where you're located.
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Tell Us Your Backyard Story!
Lots of people have bird stories worth sharing, and we'd like to hear yours! Watching Backyard Birds is seeking short (400-words, tops) stories from backyard bird watchers. You don't need to be an ornithologist or a professional writer—we're not offering to pay you, but we will offer a one-year subscription or renewal to WBB in exchange for stories we publish.
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Top 10 Reasons I Love Autumn in My Backyard
Okay, I admit it. When the first signs of summer's end appear, I get that old "butterflies in the stomach" feeling associated with going back to school. This passes once I remember that school is something I no longer have to attend. Next comes a wave of sadness to see the lushness of summer and our farm's abundant birdlife begin to wane. Then I force my mind to focus on all the wonderful changes that autumn brings. "Live in the now, dude!" I counsel myself. In the spirit of "living in the now," here are 10 things I love about autumn in my backyard.
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Five Tips for Making Fall Migration Count
Some backyard bird watchers are so focused on spring migration that they seem to discount the rest of the year. But guess what? Spring migration is only half the show! Here are a few tips to keep in mind when birding during fall, especially for warblers and other backyard migrants.
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WBBN Contest: Name the Nighthawk!
Breaking news: A common nighthawk has set up housekeeping on our warehouse rooftop here at the Bird Watcher's Digest headquarters in southeast Ohio. Everyone here is having a blast watching this mother nighthawk as she diligently incubates her eggs, but she needs a name!
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Top 10 Summer Backyard Enhancers for Your Birds
Looking ways to attract birds to your backyard this summer? Here are 10 suggestions for enhancing the bird-friendliness of your backyard. These tips will work no matter where you live in North America!
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Tracking Hummingbird Migration
The return of the first ruby-throated hummingbird is one of the most highly anticipated spring events in eastern North America. Although a few of these winged gems spend the winter months in parts of the southern United States, the vast majority winter in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Each year the hummingbirds travel remarkable distances between their wintering grounds and their summer breeding areas, which span from the Gulf of Mexico to southern Canada.
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Top Ten Signs of Spring Outside My Window
Most people can't wait for spring to arrive, and backyard bird watchers seem especially eager for the earth, spinning on its invisible axis, to lean closer to the sun. When the winter weather breaks, it's time to get outside to look for hopeful signs that spring is on its way!
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The WBBN Spring 2013 Caption Contest
We've got a problem. We have this great picture of a young pileated woodpecker in the nest cavity, but we need a caption!
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The Great Backyard Bird Count
Backyard bird watchers from more than 100 countries made history this past winter in the first global Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). In the largest worldwide bird count ever, bird watchers counted more than 25 million birds on 116,000 online checklists, recording more than 3,500 species. That's one-third of the world's total bird species.
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2012—A Great Year for Bird Babies
In our new Photo Blog segment, featured Blogger Julie Gidwitz shares captivating photos of juvenile phoebes, bluebirds, hummingbirds, and more.
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New On The Shelf: The New Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern & Western Region
These brand new field guides from Donald and Lillian Stokes are sure to become a valuable resource for many bird enthusiasts. Based on the best-selling The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America, which was released in 2010, these updated volumes are split into two portable, regional guides, making them more concise and easier to handle in the field.
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The Latest Comments

  • The storm saying seems true so far. We had as party at our bird feeder right before our last storm... 6 at once but different cheeps cheeps would come and go so there were more than 6 for sure..and squirrels eating with the birds
    by Kimber timbers, Fri, 13 Jul 2018
  • I know and do clean my feeders both for seed and for hummingbird liquid. I have a vase full of different size brushes that are only for this purpose. I have friends however who NEVER clean their feeders or bird baths, and it’s gross! I am ringing this article and will have to give out to the few offenders I know. I can’t imagine looking at such mess and not cleaning it, but not everyone thinks resale. Part of responsible bird watching/loving is to make the time and take the effort to do this.
    by Carol, Tue, 10 Jul 2018
  • Can juniper titmice be found in eastern US? In Sourh Carolina? I swear we saw one!
    by Marnie Lynn Browder, Sun, 10 Jun 2018
  • Fascinating, how insightful both the humans and cheep cheeps are... Thanks for sharing.
    by Kimber timbers, Fri, 27 Apr 2018
  • #18 in the Gallery is misidentified as a Tree Sparrow, instead of Tree Swallow.
    by Ron, Mon, 23 Apr 2018

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