If you’ve found an injured animal and need to find a wildlife rehabber, here is a site that can help you find one in your area.
If you don’t see your question in the list below, try Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Frequently Asked Bird Questions. You can also always ask your questions in the Comments Section of the Birdchick Blog and get answers from not only the Birdchick, but from many of her knowledgeable readers as well.
- What should I do if I see a baby bird out of the nest?
- I’ve found a bird that is obviously injured. What should I do?
- How can I find out what rare or unusual birds are being seen in Minnesota?
- Is it bad if I don’t fill my feeders all the time?
- What can I do about woodpeckers pecking on my house?
- I’m seeing robins in the winter in Minnesota, is this normal?
- I saw a bird that looked like a cardinal with a black head or it didn’t have any feathers. What’s wrong with it?
- I have a bird I can’t identify, can you tell me what it is?
- I’d like to raise baby ducks or baby pheasants as a project with my kids to help the environment. How do I get started?
- What field guide do you use?
- I used to have a ton of birds at my feeder and now they are gone. Where did they go?
- When is it time to put out the feeder and when do I take it in?
- Why aren’t the birds using the new bird bath I just purchased?
- How do I keep birds from hitting my window?
- Is there any seed that squirrels won’t eat?
- How can I meet other birders?
- What is digiscoping or digivideoing?
- What do you use for your digiscoping set up?
- Do you recommend any other optics besides Swarovski?
- How did you get involved in so many banding projects?
- I’m coming to Duluth, MN this fall. Can I visit Frank Taylor’s banding station?
- How do you catch the hawks at Frank’s banding station?
- Can I join you when you band songbirds?
- Can I visit your beehives?
- How did you get started and learn so much about bees?
- I have an emergency beekeeping situation, please give me advice!
- What is “Birds and Beers?”
- What is this Disapproving Rabbits thing?
- I have a friend who can’t take care of their rabbit anymore, will you take it? If you don’t take it, it will just go to a shelter and probably be put down.
- Can I link to your site?
- I’ve linked to your site, will you link to me?
- I have a cool new book/bird feeder/bird house/ insert any bird related product here. Can I send it to you and will you promote it on your site?
- Hey, I sent you my book (or other product) and I haven’t seen that you mentioned it, what gives?
- Is that your real hair color?
- Where you get your hair done?
- Are you married?
- Where have you worked in the past?
- What is your educational background?
A: First of all, let me dispel a popular myth: that if you pick up a bird chick, its parents will smell a human’s scent and abandon the chick. Not true: most birds have a very poor sense of smell, and will not abandon a baby just because a human has handled it.
That having been said, here are a few rules about “rescuing” a baby bird.
- Baby birds with little or no feathers should be placed back in the nest as quickly as possible. If the nest has been destroyed, take the contents and put them in a plastic bowl (like the kind whipped cream comes in) that has holes drilled in the bottom. Place this “nest” in the tree directly above where you found the chick. And remember, just because you don’t see the parents, doesn’t mean they’re not there.
- Bird chicks have a very specific diet and require around-the-clock feeding. The best thing to do for a baby bird is to get it back to where its parents can feed it, or take it to an experienced bird rehabilitation center (like the Twin Cities Wildlife Rehabilitation Center ((651) 486-9453). Do not give the baby bird anything to eat or drink, but get it to help quickly.
- Not every bird needs your help. Birds go through a fledgling period where they’re still “learning to drive.” If the bird is fully feathered, doesn’t appear to be injured, and is in no immediate danger from predators, you should probably leave it alone to figure out how to fly.
A: For birds of prey (eagles, hawks, owls, falcons) contact the U of M Raptor Center at (612) 624-4745. For all other birds (and animals) contact the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at (612) 624-7730. Get the animal to one of these places as quickly and safely as possible (the Raptor Center also has volunteers to pick up birds of prey). Do not give the animal any food or water unless instructed to do so by an expert: their diets are very specific.
A: The Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union has a web page dedicated to recent sightings, along with pictures.
A: No, this is not true at all. Wild birds do not rely on humans as their only source of food. If anything, birds treat bird feeders the way we should treat a McDonald’s. Birds have a daily route of various food sources that they visit. Studies at Cornell University have shown that even in the worst of weather birds never rely on bird feeders more than 20%. The only reason to feed birds is because you enjoy watching them.
This also applies to feeding birds in summer. Many people think that if you feed year round the birds will stop relying on natural foods. That simply is not true. In fact feeding birds in summer can be more fun because you can watch adult birds teaching their young to use feeders and since birds are in their breeding plumage they tend to be prettier.
A: There’s not an easy solution to keeping woodpeckers off the house. They are usually searching for food. If you have cedar siding, they are probably after leaf cutter bees that lay eggs in gaps in the siding. You want to try and fill in the holes as soon as possible. If left alone, they serve as a beacon to other woodpeckers that someone found food there once. Also, house sparrows and starlings will sometimes nest in the holes. Try to hang up reflective material like old CDs, foil or pie tins around the affected area. You can buy Mylar tape or bird scare balloons from wild bird stores that also can be affective. You want to make sure that the shiny stuff moves in the breeze because it makes woodpeckers uneasy and keeps them away. It varies from house to house how much you will need to put up but you need to put the shiny material over the affected areas.
I know some people start feeding woodpeckers suet as an alternative food source, but for every person I have that says that works great, I have another that says it just brought more woodpeckers. Some people fear that feeding suet in the first place encourages woodpeckers to peck on their. Regardless if you feed suet, if you have insects in your siding the woodpeckers will peck on it. I have met many people with woodpecker problems who have never fed birds in their life.
Some of my customers have tried insecticidal paint but that seems to only work for one or two years and is not a permanent solution.
The best solution is to switch to aluminum siding, but of course this is easier said than done.
A: Yes, robins can be found year round in Minnesota. As long as robins can find a reliable source of food, water and shelter they will stay the winter. The robins we see in winter in Minnesota are not the same birds that nest here in summer but are from further north. Robins will eat a variety of foods in winter from dried fruits and buries to hidden larvae. Out behind the Wayzata Wild Bird Store we see robins lurking near the bait shop looking for dead minnows and other bait the guys toss out in winter.
If you wish to provide for robins in winter consider providing a heated bird bath, planting fruit bearing trees like chokecherry, mountain ash, serviceberry, sumac, and crabapples (and regular apples). An excellent book for plantings is “Landscaping for Wildlife” by Carrol Henderson. You can also try scattering mealworms and dried fruit in areas where you see robins on a regular basis.
A:You saw a bald cardinal. For more information on this natural occurance, read this blog entry.
A: I can try. The best thing it to email a photo (even blurry ones help) and let me know where you saw the bird and the time of year. Without photos, it gets tougher, but I can always send it to someone who might have a better idea.
Also, keep in mind that due to my schedule, I may not be able to get back to you quickly
A: Don’t get started! Places that sell ducks and pheasants for people to raise and release in the wild are generally more interested in making money off the birds than helping the environment.
Remember that baby birds imprint on whatever they see feeding them. So young ducks or pheasants raised by people will think of themselves more as humans than ducks and quite frankly, we make lousy parents for birds. We don’t teach ducks or pheasants how to hide from predators or even what potential predators are. Baby birds don’t hatch with that pre-programmed into them, they learn it from the birds raising them. Most pheasants and ducks raised by humans and released in the wild are eaten in less than a week after they are released by coyotes, foxes, house pets, mink and hawks.
If you learn that your school is involved in raising ducks and pheasants for release, please encourage them to discontinue this practice.
I currently don’t take a field guide out with me when I bird, but I do take a notebook to record observations and then I consult the guide later. I always keep a Sibley Guide to Birds in my car for fast and easy reference.
I have used several field guides over the years, like them all for various reasons, and still keep them around. You can never have too many field guides, because birds never look the same to each person. So it’s good to have different perspectives from both photography and illustrations.
If you are just getting started, I can’t recommend Stan Tekiela guides enough, especially if you are only interested in the birds you will find in the backyard. Stan has written books for just about every state in the union and each one has the birds you are most likely to see. They are organized by color where most other field guides are organized by taxonomy. Many hard core birders dismiss Tekiela’s books, but I think these are birders who forget what it was like to be a beginner, not knowing things like there’s a species difference between a house sparrow and a tree sparrow. Most beginners don’t realize that there are different sparrows and that all they notice is a “brown bird.”
I love Peterson guides because of the bird silhouettes in the front and back. I used the Stokes‘ guides for years because I found photos of birds more useful than illustrations. I used a Kaufman focus guide for a couple of years because I appreciated the digitally enhanced photos. And of course I have used the National Geographic guide to birds since I was about 9. I still have them all and refer to them on days when I find a tough bird and can’t figure out from one field guide what I am seeing.
A: Depending on the time of year and weather you will have times of low bird activity. Seasonal movement is a big factor, especially in the spring and fall as some birds may migrate out of an area and it may be another week or two until other birds migrate in.
One of the first things to do when you have low bird activity is to clean out your bird feeder. This is one of the most important and yet most often overlooked aspect of attracting birds to the yard. When there has been a lot of rain, mould can build up in bird feeders causing birds to leave it alone or worse yet get sick from the bacteria growing inside it. At the very least bird feeders should be thoroughly cleaned out with anti-bacterial soap once a month and after there has been heavy rain. It’s is also important to clean up unused seed and hulls under the bird feeder to prevent the spread of salmonella.
Another cause of low bird activity can be any kind of construction going on in your yard, especially during nesting season. If you are getting your roof replaced, birds don’t want to raise their chicks with that kind of ruckus going on. Also, major landscape changes can upset bird activity. For example, if a large cedar tree that birds used for cover before flying in to your feeder is taken out of the yard, that could cause birds to shift their feeding patterns.
Some people worry that hawks will cause songbirds to abandon a feeding station. It’s true that when a raptor such as a Cooper’s Hawk or Sharp-shinned Hawk is perched around a feeding station birds will hide. But soon after the hawk leaves birds will resume normal feeding activity.
Cats can be a different problem. Once a hawk has hunted a particular spot for a day it will move on to another. Cats that tend to stalk feeding stations for play will sometimes spend hours beneath a feeder. This will cause a decrease in bird activity. Hawks only take what they need for food and then move on. Cats will take a larger volume of prey.
A: The only time to take in your feeder is when you are tired of watching the birds. Wild birds never need bird feeders to survive. Studies show that even in the worst of weather, like a blizzard, healthy birds only use a bird feeder for 20% of their overall diet. They treat bird feeders the way we should treat fast food. Birds will know to migrate and find other food sources in spring even if you leave your feeder out.
Feeding birds in warmer months can be very rewarding as you watch adult birds bring in the young to teach them how to use your feeding station. Many male songbirds are in their breeding plumage and are incredibly beautiful, natural yard art.
A: As a rule, birds do not trust new things. Different is usually bad for birds, so when a new item is introduced at a feeding station, they will naturally be wary. Birds tend to find water by sound like that of the babbling of a brook or trickling of a small waterfall. If you set out your bird bath you need to find ways of making a splashing sound to get their attention. You can purchase recirculation pumps and drippers that plug into an outdoor outlet and create a relaxing sound in your bath. If you have a sprinkler, aim it so that some of the water falls into the bath; that will get the birds’ attention.
Sometimes, birds have a tougher time seeing water in lighter colored baths. If you have a light colored bird bath, try placing some darker decorative rocks on the bottom to see if that makes a difference. Birds might also avoid a bath that is too deep for them. An inch and a half of water is sufficient for most birds, so if your bath is deeper, place some rocks in there to add some different levels and make it easier for smaller birds to perch and bathe.
A: This is not an easy question to answer. Birds will strike window panes for different reasons. During mating season, a male will sometimes see its reflection as a rival for their territory and will try to fight the intruder to get it to leave. Migrating birds will see a reflection of the space behind them as they fly and perceive that they will be able to fly ahead only to fatally encounter the hard surface of a window pane. Feeder placement can also play a role in window strikes. In some instances, hawks will drive birds into a window to stun them and make them easier to catch.
There are several options to try, but they’re not simple. For birds fighting their own reflection, you need to get them out of the habit of seeing the reflection. Every day, when the bird is inspecting its nesting territory it comes to the same spot and finds a rival waiting for him. You can get him to forget about this rival by placing a barrier on the outside of the window. Cover the glass with a bed sheet or newspaper for ten to fourteen days. This might seem like an inconvenience, but it’s much better than listening to a bird slamming itself against your window for half the summer.
If birds are flying into the window, look at the location of your bird feeders. Having feeders within ten feet of a window prevents birds from hitting the pane so hard. Having feeders right on your window is even better. A feeder right on the window forces the birds to slow down and inspect a possible feeding area.
Feeders within twelve to thirty feet of the house can cause more bird fatalities. The feeders are far enough away that the birds can get a good speed going before they hit the window. If feeders are more than thirty feet away, that tends to force the birds into a flight path away from the window panes.
If hawks are driving birds into the window, there is little you can do. Birds are trying to flee a predator and if panic sets in, they are not going to make the best flying choices. If this is a regular problem try placing decals, sun catchers, or Mylar tape on the outside of the window to break up the reflection. These MUST BE ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE WINDOW; if they are placed on the inside birds will not see them.
Another option is getting the type of netting that is used by gardeners to keep birds from eating berry bushes and placing that six inches away from the window pane on the outside. This creates a type of cushion, preventing songbirds from hitting the window. The netting is so fine that it is barely noticeable when you look outside, however it can block some of the light coming into your home.
What we really need are for architects and glass makers to find a way to either develop building designs that are safer for birds or create glass that birds can see.
In addition, you can visit David Sibley’s site for another tip to prevent some birds from hitting windows. Also, check out CollidEscape or Birdscreen.
A: Ha ha ha ha ha! Pardon my chuckle.
Often gray squirrels will leave plain safflower alone–this is not a guarantee, red squirrels and chipmunks will for sure eat it, but generally gray and fox squirrels will not eat safflower. It needs to be fed by itself, do not mix it with other seeds because then squirrels will kick out the safflower and eat the seeds they like. Cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, house finches, mourning doves and rose-breasted grosbeaks all eat safflower.
Most people find that squirrels generally do not like plain Nyjer. If you mix that with fine sunflower seeds, then the squirrels will eat it, but Nyjer by itself often does not interest a squirrel and is the safest bet for a finch feeder.
Otherwise your best bet is investing in a squirrel resistant feeder and mounting it properly.
A: Never underestimate the power of Google. Type in your state or location’s name with the words “bird club” or “ornithologist society” or “birding group”… you get the idea. Another way to connect with birders in your area is to find out if your state offers any bird festivals or birding events.
A: It’s taking a point-and-shoot digital camera (or better yet, a digital SLR camera) and attaching it to your spotting scope to take images of what you see (I use it mostly for birding). The better your scope and the better your camera, the better your images will be. If you have not purchased a spotting scope yet and think digiscoping is what you will use it for, get the brightest scope you can afford. Scopes that let in more light are going to help your images.
A: I used to use a Fuji FinePix E900 point-and-shoot digital camera. I need the Fujifilm AR-FXE02 Lens Adapter and the Swarovski DCA Adapter to get the camera to attach to my scope.
Here are some examples of some of the birds I’ve been able to get (links to blog entries with photos/videos): Indigo Bunting, a bathing Cooper’s Haw, Golden Winged Warbler, Shorebirds in South Dakota, an American Bittern in Florida, and birding around the Sax Zim Bog.
I currently use a Canon PowerShot A570 IS with a Canon LA-DC52G Adapter and Swarovski DCA Adaptor attach the camera to the scope. Honestly, even though the viewing screen is larger on the Canon, I still preferred the images I got with the Fuji FinePix to the Canon. I’m also experimenting with an SLR, but I’ve just started using that.
Using the Canon, I’ve gotten these pictures: birding in Nebraska, Hooded Mergansers displaying, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, video of a Blue-winged Warbler doing its territory song, photos and video of a Baird’s Sparrow, and Piping Plovers on Cape Cod.
A: Sure do!
But, hey, I’m not gonna lie; I love Swarovski. Even before they were a supporter of my site and I worked for Eagle Optics, people would ask me “what’s the best pair of binoculars?” my initial answer always was, “Well, if I were a woman of unlimited means, it would be the Swarovski 8×32 ELs.”
I love the ergonomics, the clarity, and the brightness of the image. The weight of their products—especially their spotting scopes—is essential when I’m out birding or leading a group all day.
Before I give a list of recommendations, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
What does the binocular’s equation mean? For example, 8×42? Well, the first number is the magnification, so it essentially brings the image eight times closer. The second number is the diameter in millimeters of the objective lens (the big lens). The second number has nothing to do with magnification. It gives you an idea of how bright the image is in the binocular. The bigger the lens, the brighter the image (sort of). So the 42, tells you that the objective lens is 42 millimeters in diameter.
So, if eight power magnification is good, isn’t 10 even better? Not necessarily! With higher magnification comes more sensitivity. I tremble so much, that he image shakes when I hold a 10 power and I can’t see necessary field marks. Also, the larger the magnification, the smaller field of view, making it a bit more challenging to find the bird.
So, why are some 8x42s $200 and others $2000? When you go up in price on optics, you are paying for quality of glass and coatings on the lenses and prisms, which can make an image more clear and brighter.
Now, ask yourself, how often am I going to use this pair of binoculars? If it’s just outside your window at the bird feeders, maybe to a park once a year (and never when it’s cold are raining), then you may not need and expensive with the best glass and coating that money can buy. If you’re out most every weekend and not opposed to sitting in a blind on the Platte River in Nebraska at 4 a.m., then you might want to pay a little more for the better light-gathering ability.
Everyone is different: eye width, face shape, hand size, glasses, etc. No one pair of optics is going to work for every birder. I prefer the ones I use because I need lower magnification, which means a wider field of view, and my lighter weight binos may not be the ones that work for a larger person. Go to bird festivals, hunting shows, outdoor shows, or stores that sell optics and try as many pairs as possible.
Some brands and models I like (in alphabetical order) based on value for the price and warranty:
- Audubon Equinox HPs (make sure it’s HP)
- Eagle Optics Ranger SRT
- Nikon Monarch
- Pentax Papilio
- Stokes DLS
- Vortex Diamondback
This list is always subject to change. If you approach me and ask me this same question in person I may add more, as manufacturers are constantly changing and tweaking designs. Just try several pair out and pick the one that feels the most comfortable. It’s not a fashion contest.
Q: How did you get involved in so many banding projects?
A: I offer to volunteer my time. If I ever meet someone who is doing an interesting project, I ask if I can come and help—even if it’s just toting equipment, it’s a chance to observe and learn. If you show up enough, eventually, you are able to help in other ways. At Carpenter Nature Center, I have gone through an official bird banding boot camp. If you would like to learn more about bird banding and what it takes to become a bander, visit the Bird Band Lab’s website.
Q: I’m coming to Duluth, MN this fall, can I visit Frank Taylor’s hawk banding station?
Q: How do you catch the hawks at Frank’s banding station?
A: All banding stations have their methods and to get birds of prey to fly into the nets, you must use some type of bait. Here is Frank’s setup.
You must have state and federal permits to band any bird native to North America.
Q: Can I join you when you band songbirds?
A: Birds are banded every Friday morning at Carpenter Nature Center and officially open to the public every fourth Friday of the month. However, if you are at Carpenter on any Friday morning, chances are good that you’ll run into us when we check the nets.
My buddies Mark and Roger (who come and band birds twice a year at Mr. Neil’s) also band birds at Lowry Nature Center in Carver Park. It happens every third Saturday of the month and it is open to the public.
Beekeeping Short Course offered at the University of Minnesota and read several bee books (and still do).
BeeSource.com is another great online resource for beekeepers. Also, never underestimate the power of Google and type in your state or location’s name with the words “bee club” or “beekeepers association.” You might be surprised to find a large beekeeping community not far from where you live, and if beekeepers are anything, they are happy to dole out advice.
Some helpful books that we use:
- The Backyard Beekeeper by Kim Flottum
- A Book of Bees by Sue Hubbell
- Practical Beekeeping by Enoch H. Tompkins
Honestly, there are ton of good books out there (Langstroth’s Hive and the Honeybee) out there and some with conflicting information. Just look around and read as much as you can.
A: Birds and Beers is kind of like a book club in a bar. It’s an informal gathering of anyone interested in birds. If you have heard of birding and want to know more— B&B is for you. If you’re a hard core lister—it’s for you. If you’re someone just interested in birds—it’s for you.
It’s a way for birders to get together, meet face to face, and share ideas. People can come and promote their birding event, field trip business, talk conservation—anything, so long as it’s friendly.
It’s generally held once a month and has been at Merlin’s Rest in Minneapolis, but I’m always open to hosting it elsewhere (we once held it in conjunction with a bird blogger conference in Cape May, NJ!). Just send me an email with a suggestion.
You can also start your own Birds and Beers, too. No one sponsors it and there are no rules, just pick a place where people can have a beverage and maybe some food and get the word out.
A: When we started the website, I wanted a page of photos of our pet rabbits with captions. It was a running joke between Non Birding Bill and myself that our pet rabbits disapproved of us. NBB said that no one would get the humor except us. I said, “If we make at least one person giggle on their lunch break, that’s all I need.”
Well, Disapproving Rabbits became very popular and people demanded more, and even started sending photos of their rabbits. In 2006, Harper Collins emailed and asked if we’d like to turn it into a book. We essentially won the Internet Lottery: we started a website as an inside joke between us and we got money out of it. Who knew?
I used to write about Cinnamon more in the blog, but due to the popularity, it now has it’s own blog at DisapprovingRabbits.com.
If we said yes to every homeless rabbit out there, we’d be one of those hoarders you hear about on the news. Cinnamon demands that she be the only rabbit in our one bedroom apartment. We’ve tried every trick to get her to get along with rabbits and she just does not play well with other buns.
A: Maybe, but if you have just started your blog, probably not. I like to see a blog take root before I link to it. If I haven’t linked to you, please do not take it personally; sometimes I get side tracked and don’t have time to read all great the blogs that are out there. Feel free to link to interesting entries on your own blog on in the comment section, that’s a great way for to remind me about your site and what you are doing… and to let my readers know what’s going on at your site.
A: You are welcome to send me your book or product. This is not a guarantee that it will end up on the site. If I truly like a product, I’ll talk about on the blog, take on TV, or even write it up for a birding publication—but there is no guarantee.
If you would like to send me your item, please send it to my shipping address: Sharon Stiteler, 1000 LaSalle Ave, Minneapolis MN 55403. If shipping UPS or FedEx, this is not a residential address.
If you’d like to advertise your product on the Birdchick site, please email for ad rates and ideas.
A: Number one, I’m a slow reader. Number two, I get sent a lot of books. And if you pester me about your book or product, it tends to make me avoid it. Non Birding Bill says that I’m stubborn that way, but I think I just feel guilty that I haven’t gotten to yet and don’t want to deal with it. Anyway, you get the idea, don’t pester, and it increases the chances I’ll deal with it at some point.
Also, I may taken item on to Twin Cities TV, write it up for a birding magazine (sometimes takes a few months to show up), or am saving it for my biannual Birdchick Gift Guide.
If I honestly do not like a product, I just don’t talk about it. I may send it along to another blogger, or pass it on to a local birding club newsletter.
A: Sharon’s stylist is Rachel, who works at Studio 411, located at 411 South Cedar Lake Road in Minneapolis. (612) 708-0424.
A: Yes, happily, to a non-birdwatcher, the poor dope.
A: I worked for a Twin Cities company called All Seasons Wild Bird Store for 8 years as a manager, and then worked for Eagle Optics for one year. Now I write, lead birding trips and workshops, and work as a park ranger.
A: I was a theater major. Yes, that’s right, a theater major. Birds have always been a personal interest, I never thought I could earn a living at it… so I thought that becoming an actress was a better idea. Who knew?
So, kids, the lesson here: just get your degree. Life will fall into place.