|Nothing fancy: Make a simple birdbath by using a plant dish and tomato stake.|
In case you missed my column in today's O. C. Register, here it is:
As another hot, dry summer looms, things just aren’t looking good for our fine feathered friends.
Many songbirds rely on insects for food. During times of drought, fewer insects will hatch. A lack of vegetation and flowering plants will further reduce the populations of insects, as well as reptiles, rodents and rabbits that birds of prey rely upon for food.
According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, severe drought can cause migration and changes in animal and bird behavior. Wildlife becomes concentrated in areas where it can find food, which increases the risk for disease outbreaks from close contact.
Without enough food, birds will not reproduce. Local scientists discovered a reduced number of active hawk nests in our area this year.
Local bird enthusiasts have also noted changes at their backyard feeders. Some have reported seeing smaller flocks of house finches and goldfinches this spring. While others indicate that more insect-eating birds, such as Western bluebirds and black phoebes, are visiting back yards when live mealworms are offered.
Valerie Sinex, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Yorba Linda, said: “There seems to be a major uptick in the amount of worms we’re selling. Lawns aren’t getting watered and people are putting in fake grass and xeriscaping; therefore insects aren’t as plentiful.”
Sinex also says her customers have reported seeing more red-shouldered and red-tailed hawks visiting back yards, which had previously been the territory of Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks.
Some residents have also reported an increase in hummingbirds at their nectar feeders as extreme drought continues to destroy flowering plants.
So what can homeowners do to help birds during the drought?
“It’s important to provide birds with a source of clean water,” said Dave Brandt, co-owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Mission Viejo.
“Installing a fountain or birdbath in your yard will attract a variety of bird species, including those that do not visit feeders,” he said. Because birds are attracted to moving water, he suggests adding a small battery-powered gadget such as the Water Wiggler to create a rippling effect in the water. Adding a mister or dripper will attract hummingbirds and other species that love to shower.
Replenish the water daily. Stagnant water can play host to algae and mosquito larvae, which can carry the West Nile virus.
“It’s also important to keep nectar and seed feeders filled throughout the summer,” he said. “Our company’s research has shown that when quality food is provided at feeders, birds spend less time searching for food and more time protecting their nests and young. This supports better survival rates for the broods.”
Homeowners can also help birds by delaying tree trimming until fall. Trees provide protection and shade.
Temperatures can be far lower under trees and bushes, so birds will seek out these microclimates.