Urban Birding Festival, coming up June 15-17, is a good way to introduce kids to birding.
Q I have both a female and a male red-bellied woodpecker enjoying the peanut pieces in my feeder. They carry some away each time, and I'm wondering if they're feeding baby woodpeckers.
A It must be fun to watch those big woodpeckers at your feeder. Red-bellied woodpeckers are known for hiding food to consume later, an activity called caching. The peanut pieces would be too hard and sharp for nestlings' throats, though. If there are young in a nest, their parents are feeding them soft, protein-filled insects.Birding festival
Q I want to introduce my children to birds and the outdoors, but don't know where to start. Could you give me some ideas?
A I'm glad you want to make sure your kids won't suffer from "nature deficit disorder." Try the Urban Birding Festival, June 15-17, for fun, free outdoor activities for families scheduled at local nature centers and parks.
Find out more about the festival's activities, including bird banding, bird crafts, bird walks and nature demonstrations here: www.saintpaulaudubon.org/events/special/urban-bird-festival. And talk to naturalists at nearby nature centers about family-friendly programming. They'll be happy to help.Bird-feeding ban
Q My condo association is studying whether to ban all feeding of birds, even the hull-less kinds of seeds. I'm upset and wonder if the birds will starve.
A That's a shame about the possible ban because in my experience, people who live in condos and townhouses are very responsible and keep their bird feeding areas scrupulously clean. You needn't worry about birds starving if you stop feeding them, however, because birds don't rely on feeders for survival, except possibly on the coldest days. If feeding birds is no longer allowed, how about checking to see whether you might maintain a birdbath on your deck or balcony? In the winter you could add a heater to keep the water open. Birds flock to reliable sources of clean water.Squeaky toy song
Q I've been hearing a bird lately that sounds like a squeaky toy. Any ideas what it might be?
A The first species that comes to mind is a small, fast-moving bird called the blue-gray gnatcatcher. They do make a squeaky sound: Hear their song and learn more about these handsome little birds at www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/blue-gray_gnatcatcher/id.Migration timing
Q When does migration end?
A That's a good question. The phenomenon called migration never really ends -- there are birds of one kind or another on the move every month of the year. But if we focus on the songbirds that move through our area in the spring, and look for a time when nearly all of them have stopped traveling and are on their breeding grounds, then I'd say that spring migration ends about mid-June.Window attacks
Q We and several friends have the same problem: A robin has been flying into our windows and banging into them very hard, for hours on end. Everywhere around the windows is covered with bird droppings, too. What can we do?
A The behavior you describe is not at all unusual at this time of year. With their hormones at their seasonal peak, birds are intent on attracting a mate and driving away any competitors.
Robins, cardinals, blue jays, bluebirds, even cowbirds exhibit this behavior, trying to fight their own image, which they confuse with another bird trying to take over their territory. They will relentlessly attack a window, car mirror or shiny hubcap -- any reflective surface that catches their eye.
The behavior often subsides after nesting is well underway and a bird's (especially a male bird's) hormones have subsided. But in the meantime, it's no fun for homeowners and car owners.
The key is to stop the reflectivity of the surface a bird is attacking, in you and your friends' case by placing cardboard over the outside of the window. If the bird moves to another window, move the cardboard, which stops the bird from seeing a reflection.
The poop builds up because birds poop when they're under stress, and birds like your robin are feeling stressed by the bird they see in the window.
Covering the windows is a kindness for the bird, since it's wasting energy and may even harm itself in these relentless attacks. Kudos to you for caring about this poor confused robin.
St. Paul, resident Val Cunningham, who leads bird hikes for the St. Paul Audubon Society and writes about nature for local, regional and national newspapers and magazines, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.