Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.

If pigs could fly .....

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird biology, Bird feeding, Bird interactions, Birds in the backyard Updated: September 2, 2014 - 11:18 AM

Commmon Grackles, uncommon most of the year in our yard, thank goodness, are far too common on some early fall days. I remove feeder trays to reduce the amount of seed they eat, but the birds work hard to grip anything that gives them seed access, often sparring for position. Last week, as this acrobat and its companions raided us, I simply let the feeders go empty. We'll fill them today, with crossed fingers. Grackles are beautiful birds, very photogenic, all angles and iridescence, one of my favorites. Some days, actually, the seed is worth the photos. The bird in the second photo, being confronted (not fed!), is a juvenile, as shown by its red eyes.

Sad anniversary -- video of what was lost

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: September 1, 2014 - 9:34 AM

One hundred years ago today the last Passenger Pigeon died on the bottom of her zoo cage, the billions of her kind that once flew here gone years and decades before. Here is a short animation of what a flock of pigeons might have looked like 160 or 170 years ago. It was posted to BirdChat by Barry K. McKay. 


Audubon has made a difference

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird conservation Updated: August 29, 2014 - 6:10 AM

Bird-friendly glass in the new Vikings’ stadium? Audubon Minnesota and Audubon’s national office have been working very hard to get that done. They are unlikely to win this battle, but they certainly have raised national awareness of the war on needless bird death.

They have put the issue on the map. Give them credit. 

The Vikings gave this effort wings even though team officials have said not a word. You can’t challenge a National Football League team without making news. The glass effort was reported in The New York Times,  Washington Post, USA Today, on CBS national news, on sports channels, in magazines serving the glass, construction, and architectural communities, and in local media.

A campaign to specifically address dangers posed to birds by the reflections found in ordinary window glass would not have earned as much national news coverage.

The issue, as you must know by now, is that ordinary window glass reflects the outside environment. Birds fly toward the reflections, hit the glass, and die in large numbers. There is a glass that contains a visible pattern, fritted glass, that is supposed to alert birds to the glass, and prevent collisions. This is the glass that Audubon wants for the stadium.

The Audubon Minnesota team Wednesday delivered to the office of Gov. Mark Dayton the names of 73,000 people supporting the effort. Audubon collected names via its local and national web sites. 

There had been no word from the governor on his thoughts about this.

Matt Anderson, executive director of Audubon Minnesota, said Thursday he still sees a narrow window of opportunity even now, after the stadium glass reportedly has been ordered.

Regardless, Audubon has done more for the bird/glass issue in the past few weeks than has been accomplished in years of trying to make people widely aware of the problem. 

A book on the history of feeding birds

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird books Updated: August 28, 2014 - 9:33 AM

Carrol Henderson has a new book close to publication. Henderson is superintendent of non-game wildlife for the Minnesota Department of Conservation. He also is one of Minnesota's most prolific authors of books about birds, often supporting his text with excellent photographs.


The new book is entitled “Feeding Wild Birds in America.” It's a history of the pastime that involves so many of us. The book will be published next spring by Texas A & M University Press.


Henderson’s co-authors are Paul J. Baicich, Maryland writer and avitourism consultant, and Margaret A. Barker, former coordinator of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s Project FeederWatch, and author of a book on bird feeding.


The book was originally conceived and commissioned by the Wild Bird Centers of America to be a short narrative describing this curiously widespread pastime. 


The authors discovered that bird feeding is much more a part of our culture than anyone guessed. Thus, a book.


The story begins in the late 19th century. It moves decade-by-decade through historical context, discussing into traditions, innovations, and business concerns. The authors write that this simple practice has been a social cause, a trendy curiosity, an agricultural obligation, a serious hobby, a billion-dollar industry, a basis for scientific study, and, as most of us know it, pure entertainment. 



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