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Cultivate Your Garden Birds (1950)


Many people enjoy a leisurely walk along
quiet forest trails. Others find pleasure and exhilaration in distant views from
rugged heights, who will thrill to a woodland stream tumbling over a
limestone ledge. Some notice the more conspicuous wildflowers like this pink
and white moccasin. Or find amusement in the antics of an inquisitive little
chipmunk with a big appetite. But many have overlooked the keen enjoyment which
comes from knowing birds. People commonly believe the more interesting birds are
found only in remote places. Yet it is surprising that, with a little
encouragement, many birds will come to our yards and gardens. A pair of
field-glasses is helpful in recognizing birds, if the glasses are handy when you
need them. A friend of mine keeps his binoculars and a bird guide near the
window. With these aids, he and his family are usually able to identify a hundred
different species in or near their yard during a year’s time. After verifying the
more difficult identifications, they record each one on their bird checking
card. The hawthorn tree in their front yard is
more than just an attractive tree, it’s a place where magnolia warblers stop to
feed as they migrate northward in spring. The spruce trees protective
branches provide a homestead for nesting blue jays. The neighbor’s daughter, Joan,
during a long illness, was able to watch the housekeeping activities of these
birds from her bedroom window. The blue jays, which are among our most
intelligent birds, raised five precocious youngsters. The young jays grew rapidly
and soon left the nest, but Joan long remembered this family of blue jays,
which brought so much enjoyment during a period that would otherwise have been
monotonous and lonely. In my own yard, a female cardinal feel secure in this
spruce tree’s foliage. The bright red male and his less
colorful mate live here all year round. During winter, when food is not so
plentiful, I find sunflower seeds will frequently attract them to a feeding
station outside my window. In spring, natural food is once more available and,
with a new family to feed, it takes two hard-working parents to fill hungry,
growing nestlings. Although the Cardinal was originally a native of our southern
states, it has in recent years become more and more common around northern
homes. Children at the neighborhood school find
a mourning dove can bring new interest. The youngsters are first fascinated by
the birds well-groomed appearance. They are surprised to discover such a neat
bird building a fragile, poorly-constructed, twig nest which is flat and weak. Sometimes the nest is so flimsy, that an egg will actually roll out. But
this family did quite well and, perhaps with a little help from the students,
raised two healthy fledglings. Pushing apart the concealing branches to examine
the nest, a neighbor is surprised by the spirited fight a nesting brown
thrasher puts up in defense of her home. Thrashers are unusually vigorous in
attacking intruders, but this bird is particularly bold. Bushes and shrubbery
in your yard may prove as attractive to nesting thrashers as these lilacs were
in my neighbor’s garden. A rose-breasted grosbeak visits my yard
in June to feed on the ripe fruit of a red-berried elder tree. Many other birds
enjoy the fruits from my chokecherries, thorn apple, mountain ash, and wood vine. Cedar waxwings especially like the
flowering shrubs, berries, and evergreens. These birds have no distinctive song.
Still, their quiet ways, polite manner, and sleek, dressy appearance make them
highly desirable neighbors. Cedar waxwings commonly swallow berries into
their crops and later return these berries as food for the hungry nestlings. Robins, orioles, and many other birds,
delight in using our bird baths. And what fun it is watching these birds splash
and splatter. A concrete stone fountain is satisfactory, but the bird seemed to
enjoy a simple, shallow, pan of water and come out looking just as clean. I often
put sliced oranges in the yard for Baltimore orioles, but i find the orioles
eat oranges only during May. Grosbeaks also come for orange juice during the
early weeks of spring. So do the catbirds, just as though they
knew all about the importance of vitamins. Syrup-feeders resembling
flowers are easy to make and generally attract hummingbirds. These flower petals are cut from tin cans painted with fingernail polish and fastened to little
bottles of sugar water. Such flowers never wilt and the hummers visit them
all summer long. Many birds go house hunting on their
arrival from the south, like this pair of crested flycatchers, which finally
selected a little cottage behind my garage. I plant most of my bird houses so
they can be open for inspection and for cleaning. This is convenient for the
photographers, too. Let’s look inside. Crested flycatchers build soft,
feather-lined nests and, curiously enough, they often weave in an old snake skin.
Look closely. You can see a snake skin among the feathers. Fly catchers, like cedar waxwings, are poor singers, however they are vigorous insect catchers and are welcomed by the
well-informed gardener. Fidgety little house friends are
tireless in carrying twigs for their nest. This pair has taken up quarters in
a blue bird house where the English sparrows can bother them. Houses built
especially for wrens should have doorways the size of a 25 cent piece.
These will admit the wrens and keep out the sparrows. My neighbor’s son, Jimmy, was
hoeing his garden one day, when he discovered a spotted sandpiper nesting
on the ground by a currant bush. Spotted sandpipers are shorebirds, which usually
nest along lakes and ponds, but one occasionally will nest several blocks
from water. Notice the remarkable size of these eggs. Sandpipers invariably lay
only four. Eggs this size take longer to hatch, but the young are more mature
birds when they finally emerge. Jimmy takes a keen interest in his
sandpiper. He watches the mother sitting on her eggs and becomes anxious for the
young birds to appear. In about three weeks, the eggs finally
hatch, and Jimmy discovers how lively a bird’s nest becomes when it is full of
young sandpipers. He is surprised to find the newly hatched youngsters so
independent and eager to leave the nest. The mother tries to quiet and cover her
brood, but her success is short-lived, for these energetic little fellows soon
start popping out on all sides. Their irrepressible spirit will eventually win
out, for young sandpipers generally leave home when they are only a day or two old. These are but a few of the many
intriguing habits and mannerisms of our birds. With very little effort, much
enjoyment is in store… fuel, by learning to identify the many species, by giving
attention to your trees and shrubbery, by providing feeding places, homes, and bird
baths. In these ways, you can cultivate the friendship of your garden birds.

One Comment

  1. The Ancient one Author

    Hi, sorry I’m making a short horror film for my student project, a focus of the film is birds, would it be ok if I used some footage and audio from this in my film. Credited of course.

    Reply

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