N3- Terry and Andrea Grabill have occasionally regaled us with wonderful stories and photos from the world of birding. We are happy to announce that they have agreed to do a Q&A column for all of us who share a fascination with our feathered friends.
How can I make the birds that come to my feeders safe from window collisions?
Bird-window collisions are a real problem at homes with large windows. The very opening that allows us to better view birds often puts them in danger! Many backyard birders enjoy having a lively bird feeder that is easily viewed from the comfort of our homes and can, unfortunately, cause collisions that often are fatal.
Often, collisions result from birds leaving feeders in a panic, perhaps to avoid predators such as hawks or domestic cats (more on that in another edition). Cover items near the feeders can give an escape path that does not include the window. Windows give the illusion of a clear path to safety.
Bird-window collisions can be reduced by having items in your windows. If a bird can see the reflections of landscapes in windows they think that they can keep going safely. So, by tastefully placing items in the window that breaks up the sense of safety and being able to continue flying, the birds will know that there is a danger to them and they will have time to correct and change their path. Here at the BirdGoober home, we have strung 4-5 silver holiday bulbs on fishing line and hung them in our upper windows. We’ve not had a collision there in years! Many online retailers sell window clings and treatments that are designed to reduce the dangers.
While standing outside, medium sized black birds flew in the same direction, not as an organized flock, but in a steady stream that lasted for several minutes involving possibly hundreds of birds. What are these and why do they do this?
In Michigan, late August is the time for blackbirds to gather in flocks to roam the countryside feeding in preparation for their migration south. These mixed flocks can contain thousands of individuals of several species, including common grackles, red-winged blackbirds, brown-headed cowbirds, and European starlings. The cloud-like river of birds can be very impressive! As we finish this edition, a flock of at least one hundred perched in the hardwoods in our backyard.
Blackbirds come together in flocks in the fall as they are getting ready to migrate. People always say there is safety in numbers, right? So, birds instinctively do the same! People notice blackbirds more because it’s a “cloud of black moving in the sky” which is great because at least people are noticing the birds! Birds tend to fly in flocks for safety from predators as well. When you are travelling hundreds of miles to migrate and it’s better to have a group for safety…just like humans!
The flow of these clouds of black can be mesmerizing to watch. Flocks of starlings, especially, are known to flow in the air in what’s called a murmuration. Research has shown that in these sky-dances, individuals key in to the motion of the six nearest birds and the result is a beautiful black cloud that seems to move as one.
BirdGoober is Terry and Andrea Grabill, of Newaygo. They have been birding together since they met and love to share their passion for birds with people of all ages. Please send your birding questions to the Grabills at email@example.com or visit their website www.birdgoober.com.
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