Bluebird feeding - seeds? (Part 1)
In addition to Messages that have appeared in the Bluebird Mailing Lists on this topic, the following are on the Audubon Society of Omaha website:
Subj: Re:Bluebirds eating whole sunflower seeds
We have not had bluebirds coming for mealworms since July....then a couple of
weeks ago they started hanging around so I put a few mealworms out at a time.
Last Monday I was working on the computer(which is about 18 inches from the
window feeders) and 2 bluebirds came.......one to eat mealworms.....but another
male perched on the other window feeder and promptly started eating whole black
oil sunflower seeds. He would act like he was trying to crack them open and then
"gulp" just gobbled them up. My question is: Can a bluebird digest a whole
sunflower seed??? Has anyone else witnessed this kind of activity??
Subj: Re:Bluebirds eating whole sunflower seeds
Subj: Re:Whole sunflower seeds and roosting
Subj: Swallowing whole/spirits
Date: Tue, 7 Mar 2000 09:36:39 -0600
When I read of seeds passing through a bird I wonder why their gizzard doesn/t grind the seed. Does any one know the reason? All birds have gizzards don't they? I remember that chicken gizzards contain gravel and I often see birds 'eating' stuff off the ground where there doesn't appear to be any food. Do the birds that eat mostly insects NOT eat sand and gravel?
Merlin Wright at Brownville Nebraska
Date: Tue, 07 Mar 2000 13:22:13 -0400
Haleya Priest Amherst, MA
Here's my guess. Perhaps if gizzards dissolved berry seeds, we'd have a problem with regermination since I imagine a lot of seeds germinate from fecal matter left behind - not just birds but other animals as well. Perhaps the first line of defense by Ma Nature was to make sure the skin of the seed was very thick and smooth so they couldn't be chewed easily. And then in some cases She took it a step farther and made the seed poisonous. For example, the juice of a poke berries is an excellent reliever of arthritis pain. But one must swallow the berries whole since the seeds are terribly poisonous. Perhaps animals know this too, and if they forget, their gizzards won't. Same is true for at least some early spring growth of plants. Comfrey leaves up to 3 or 4" tall contain a toxin that animals find offensive. So they leave it alone. Thus they keep right on growing. Mother nature is a smart one, isn't she.
Wright, Merlin C. wrote:
Date: Tue, 7 Mar 2000 12:29:49 -0600
An attempt to answer Merlin Wright's question:
Birds have a two part stomach. A glandular portion (the proventriculus) and a muscular portion (the ventriculus) or the "gizzard". Hydrochloric acid, mucous, and an enzyme, PEPSIN, are secreted by specialized cells in the proventriculus, where chemical digestion begins. The gizzard has a thick muscular wall and plays an important part in the mechanical digestion by both crushing and grinding food. To aid in the mechanical digestion process, birds will often take in small gravel or grit.
It is utterly amazing that some seeds possess such a hard coat that they can pass through the digestive tract without being destroyed. Even more amazing, many plants produce seed which must go through this "scarification" (or grinding away of the seed coat) process to germinate properly.
To my knowledge, all birds do have gizzards, however, some, like fish-eating birds, do not require their food to be so completely ground and pulverized for digestion and, hence, have smaller gizzards.
Fread J. Loane
Date: Tue, 7 Mar 2000 13:31:19 -0800
Birds who seeds do have a gizzard, but birds who eat bugs do have a gizzard. So the seeds pass right through them.
Maynard R Sumner
Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. Galatians 6:7
On Tue, 7 Mar 2000 09:36:39 -0600 "Wright, Merlin C." mcwrigh"at"nppd.com
When I read of seeds passing through a bird I wonder why their
Date: Tue, 7 Mar 2000 13:59:17 -0800
I was wrong. All birds do have gizzards, but the ones who eat bugs do not grind seeds as good as the seed eater do.
Maynard R Sumner Flint, Michigan
Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. Galatian 6:7
Date: Tue, 7 Mar 2000 14:23:46 EST
Further to what Firefrost said, after the Do-do bird species disappeared, it took a while to figure out that the forests were not rejuventaing themeselves and it turned out that the seed had to pass thru the system of a bird the size of the Do-do in order to have new growth and the human species would have to do mechanically what the Do-do was doing naturally if they wanted new trees. Sorry I don't have the specific name of the specific tree.
Date: Tue, 07 Mar 2000 21:17:21 -0800
Hi All: Hatch Graham in California.
Part of my Senior Problem in Forest Ecology involved a little more than trying to grow seeds ingested by birds. I had to research more. What Fread refers to is correct. I recall (but can't give you the correct reference after 50 years) there was a Woody Plant Seed Manual produced by the USDA-Forest Service. Many seeds are germinated best by an acid bath or by mechanical thinning of the seed coat. On the desert, certain seeds remain in the soil for years until a flash flood grinds them through the sandy flood to make them ready to germinate when, coincidentally (?), there is plenty of moisture for them to get a good start. I have prepared seeds for planting by pulping the fruit off, giving them a quick bath in boiling water and soaking them in vinegar. It works. The birds' way is the natural way.
Fread Loane wrote:
An attempt to answer Merlin Wright's question:Birds have a two part
Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2000 16:26:16 -0500
From: Bruce Burdett, NH Bluebird Conspiracy, Sunapee NH
I've become very hesitant to make flat statements on this List because someone always seems to come up with the exceptional case. I don't BELIEVE, however, that Bluebirds eat black oil sunflower seeds, or any hard-shelled seeds. Their normal summer diet is mostly grasshoppers, crickets, caterpillars, etc. In the colder seasons they turn to a wide variety of wild berries, and they always love live mealworms, which one must either buy or raise, - or both. Some people make (or buy) various suet-based concoctions, but I have never used them. The only Bluebird Treat (pelletized) I ever bought they would not touch.
Awhile back I said that honey-bees never nest in bird-houses. Apparently they do, though I've never seen it happen, and I'm a bee- keeper who has seen honey-bees do a lot of weird stuff.
Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2000 00:14:08 EST
We all hear how our BB friends are insect eaters, well last year one of my 57 boxes that is less than 50 yds from the guest house on our property was frequented several times a day by a BB that would eat from a feeder that was suction cupped to the window. At one time or another their would be both male and female BB eating seeds at the same time????? Go figure, there was not a shortage of insects in our area. The feeder was filled with "fancy wild bird mix" for my other feathered friends
Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2000 13:56:37 -0500
Hi : )
I've had BlueBirds eating out of my feeder all winter and they are still eating out of it on 80 degree days here in Virginia. Personally, I think they got desperate when we had that unusual snowfall (16+ inches is unusual for one snow fall in south central VA) They discovered that A) They Liked it, and B) It was there all the time.
What we have is a "chickadee mix" put together by our local "Southern States" which is a combo Feed (horse, dog, bird etc), saddle shop, and yuppie garden store. The mix is Black Oil Sunflower seeds, a few seeds I don't know (no millet etc.) and Peanut Hearts. To that we add Safflower Hearts (hoping our Cardinals will come back this year). They seem to like this. We also have a lot of adults around this year due to a good season last year....and they have been hanging around with the finches, who lead them to our feeder.
So, even though it's not supposed to happen, blue birds do eat from seed feeders under the right conditions.
We all hear how our BB friends are insect eaters, well last year one of my 57
Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2000 23:01:45 -0500
Hi : )
For the folks who are interested in actually seeing a seed eating BlueBird.....I have video of my mail bluebird eating off the seed feeder on my deck.
It's a fairly large file.... but if you have the bandwith, or the time, let me know, and I'll email you the file.
The file is 1.8mb and its about 8 or 9 seconds long.
Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2000 22:05:46 EST
This morning as I was watching my bluebird pair sitting on their bluebird house, flying from tree to tree, flying over the field, going in the house together and shooing away a starling that got too close to their box, I was surpised to see Mr. Bluebird fly onto the perch of my thistle feeder, lean over and begin to eat some of the seed on the bottom rim of the feeder. My thistle feeders are hanging in one of my Maple trees that is located about 30 feet in front of the bluebird house, which is the tree they use sometimes to sit in to observe their territory. I was very surpised to see a bluebird on a thistle feeder.
Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000 09:07:20 -0500
Hi Sherry, Could he have been using one of the perches on the thistle feeder to search for food? We've had bluebirds at our suet cakes and they will go into the bluebird feeder and eat bluebird treat. They eat mealworms, of course. That's interesting. We have a couple "odd" feeding behaviors too. I've seen a Carolina chickadee take a sip from the oriole feeder on two occasions. We've had two Robins who are spending their days under our feeders. Actually, only one of them sits under the thistle feeder for almost the entire daylight hours. S/he has eaten crumbs from a suet cake. I've watched him/her do that many times. Most of the time, s/he uses its beak to dig around under the feeders and eats nonstop. I don't have a clue what it is finding to eat but it sure looks plump! I hope that someone will have some suggestions about the bluebird on the thistle feeder or either of our strange feeding behaviors. Patty in WV
Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000 12:12:10 -0500
Hi Patricia and all:
In response to your question relating to robins ground feeding under your seed feeders:
The ground has been softened by seeds falling and the soil is loose allowing the robins to scratch around finding grubs & earthworms. During the cold weather bluebirds have been known to "follow the robins" in their groundbreaking activities in order to benefit from what their stronger cousins uncover. Robins are good scratchers as their legs are much stronger.
Hope this answers your question.
Betty Nichols, Middletown, MD partly sunny, 50* rain gone.
Date: Sat, 13 May 2000 18:56:13 -0400
Has anyone ever seen a Mother and/or father bluebird feed the fledgelings seed?
This winter our bluebirds learned to like the seed we had in a specialized mix. It has peanut hearts, sunflower hearts and safflower hearts, and a few unidentified seeds. The key being that pretty much all of the seeds are hulled.
Now, Mom and Dad are feeding the babies seed right on the seed feeder on my back porch.
I will try to get a picture of this as it is the most amazing site..... I do also feed mealworms, but I only put them out late in the day, once. I really find it odd that they are eating the seed and feeding it to the fledgelings.
Date: Sat, 13 May 2000 19:38:28 -0400
Betty Nichols, Middletown, MD
Now that is a luxury to only those who have Eastern Bluebirds nesting in their yard!
No, I have never seen that but it is a good mixture of food - the peanut hearts are probably the first to go! It appears your pair wintered over - the fledgelings just might do that ,too! I hope you can get a picture of the little rascals. Thanks for the good news!
Date: Sat, 13 May 2000 23:39:14 EDT
Once, I bought a specialized "cardinal" mix that had dried cherries in it.
Perhaps your mix has some dried fruit.
On Sat, 13 May 2000 18:56:13 -0400 Elaine Rigby erigby"at"home.com writes:
Date: Sun, 14 May 2000 07:56:57 -0400
Hello Elaine and all. Both male and female eastern
bluebirds (EABL) eat regularly at the seed feeder in my backyard (peanut hearts
and hulled sunflower). They seem to like it... the babies are due to fledge in a
week, but I am going to remove the feeder due to the presence of larger birds
(jays, grackles and cardinals) thus I will not be able to see the parents feed
seeds by the babies . I was so surprised that EABL would eat seeds on
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 10:29:10 EST
Don't get me wrong, the food of choice in the winter from humans is mealworms, but sunflower chips is an alternate choice that will help them make it through the winter during hard times.
Please let me know if anybody else has had any success with sunflower chips. It will be interesting to see if they continue to eat these chips in the spring and summer. A beautiful male was eating some this morning.
I mentioned it this past weekend at the BSP bluebird conference, and the people kind of looked at me like I had three heads.
David A. Magness
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 08:00:16 -0800 (PST)
Hi David & all...Now that you mentoned it, you have jogged my memory..I knew
there was something that I had left out of my list of foods that I posted
yesterday...& sunflower chips is it. Yes, I've put them into the Bluebird feeder
a couple of times & did notice my EABL eating some when the Dogwood berries &
raisins were all gone. Also, I recall that on a couple of occasions within the
last 2 years, the EABL have gone to the main sunflower hopper feeder to eat
something. The only thing that was in the feeder were sunflower seeds..a little
of which would be some partially opened sunflower seeds which I thing the EABL
nibbled on. The Carolina Wren also was after those partially opened
seeds....Horace in NC.
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 21:50:38 -0800 (PST)
--- Jennabirds"at"aol.com wrote:
Bluebirds like sunflower chips in Indiana too. Do you feed bluebirds all year?
Date: Mon, 22 Oct 2001 13:55:48 -0400
I have a question that's probably been answered before, but yesterday my husband and I noticed a couple of bluebirds on our back deck - checking our our bird feeders - we only have out safflower seeds and thistle. Although I put the last small bit of wild bird seed out when I was cleaning out one of the feeders.
Do Blues eat any kind of this seed? My husband made a comment that maybe the Blues knew something we didn't - like it was going to be a harder winter this year and they were looking for other kinds of foods besides the berries, mealies, etc.
We are thinking about "winterizing" our boxes so the blues may have somewhere to roost. What is the best method - especially keep the HOSP out? Yesterday the Blues we saw where checking out one of the boxes and I went out and opened the door and a HOSP flew out and scared me to death!
Guess they didn't want the HOSP in there.
So I've checked out the previous emails that the list has sent regarding
Bluebird Suet - will they normally eat this during the winter and is this something that will keep the "unwanted" birds around for the winter?
I would love to see my blues all winter, but don't want to encourage others to help the Blues eat it.
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