Originally Published: July 21, 2010 9:56 p.m.
Each summer we hear stories of nest failures. In the beginning, homeowners are so thrilled to have an active bird nest in their yard, and they enjoy the excitement of observing nest building, egg-laying and the rearing of young. But then, one day, the baby birds are dead, either in the nest or down on the ground below the nest.
It is hard to answer all of the "whys" when something tragic like this happens, but we give it our best effort to comfort, console and to try to offer some logical explanation for what happened.
Certainly nest failures are a part of nature. But is there something we are doing that is contributing to them? Could we be doing something differently in our yard to reduce the likelihood of nest failures?
One of my personal concerns is the amount of pesticides and herbicides that consumers use in their yards. This time of year, the air waves are filled with commercials for this poison or that poison for getting rid of weeds or bugs in your yard.
While these chemicals may offer a quick fix, there can be serious consequences as a result of using poisonous chemicals in your yard. Homeowners need to think about the long-term effect of chemical exposure - to themselves, their children, grandchildren, pets and the environment in general.
Many bird species and small mammals like chipmunks, squirrels and rabbits eat grasses, leaves and seeds. If you are using herbicides in your yard, plant-eating animals are going to suffer because of the poisons you are applying in your yard. And animals that prey on birds, rabbits and squirrels are then affected by the poisons.
The same can be said if you are using insecticides in your yard. This time of year songbirds are busily gleaning insects from trees and shrubs to feed their babies in the nest. If the insects have been sprayed with a poisonous chemical, these insects become a lethal meal for baby birds in the nest.
I tell customers that insects are our friends. Without insects there would be no birds. Birds are one of nature's ways of controlling the insect population - naturally. For every action on our part, there is a reaction on nature's part. We cannot use chemicals in our homes and yard without negatively affecting the balance and cycle of life in nature.
Just today, as I drove to work, I noticed in someone's yard that they had put down ant powder to kill the ants in their yard. I doubt this homeowner realizes that northern flickers (a type of woodpecker) consume large numbers of ants as a part of their diet, to say nothing about horned lizards that almost exclusively eat ants. What will happen to these beautiful creatures when they eat hundreds of poisoned ants?
We need to think, and more importantly, we need to act more responsibly. We should avoid the use of harmful chemicals that will work their way through the food chain affecting every creature that comes in contact with their harmful toxins.
On a happier note, have you noticed an explosion of lesser goldfinch numbers over the last few weeks? It is as if a switch has been flipped. All of a sudden, goldfinches have been hitting people's feeders like crazy.
The best way to attract goldfinches to your yard is with nyjer (thistle) seed and water - particularly moving water. Goldfinches are attracted to fountains and water features where they can bathe and drink in shallow areas.
Until next week, happy birding!
Eric M. Moore is the owner of Jay's Bird Barn, with two locations to serve you - 1046 Willow Creek Road in Prescott, and 2370 State Highway 89A in Sedona. Eric has been an avid birder for over 40 years. If you have specific questions related to wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, e-mail Eric@JaysBirdBarn.com.