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Continued: In winter, birds' secret nests are revealed

  • Article by: VAL CUNNINGHAM , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Last update: February 19, 2013 - 3:27 PM

A: Once they get used to it, your back-yard birds are going to appreciate that heated birdbath. Birds are very cautious about anything new — they have to be, since there are so many dangers in their world. They may not realize yet that the new thing in the yard holds water. Some bird, probably a curious chickadee, is going to have to “break the ice,” and drop down for a drink. Other birds will notice and follow suit.

Please keep a wooden board handy to put over the center of the birdbath on very cold days. This will allow birds to drink but prevent them from bathing to refresh their feathers, which could lead to death by freezing.

Small dogs and eagles

Q: Now that eagles are becoming almost plentiful in the metro area, how safe is it to let our small dog out in the back yard?

A: Many people have inflated ideas about the size of prey that bald eagles can catch and carry. People repeat stories about eagles taking young sheep or calves, as well as cats and dogs. But please consider that the average bald eagle weighs between 8 and 12 pounds, and is said to be capable of lifting about half its body weight. This means it can carry between 4 to 6 pounds, and most small dogs weigh more than this. I’d say your little dog is safe.


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

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  • Once leaves fall from trees and shrubs, it’s easy to see where songbirds nested last summer. Birds use their nests only once and will build new structures this spring.

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