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I am a real softie for red bellied woodpeckers…

Notice this awesome long tongue of this woodpecker

Birds are very difficult to photograph. Following numerous failed exposures, I gave up attempting to capture the wonder just outside my kitchen window…until this morning when this stunning red-bellied woodpecker flew in for a morsel. It has been here the past week, dining with many White-throated sparrows, Carolina Wrens, Northern Cardinals, American goldfinches, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Chickadees, the occasional mourning dove, Brewer’s Blackbirds, and Mary Mockingbird, a six-year resident.

Carolina Wrens are my favorite bird, as their perky body movement, loud whistle, and and darling appearance entertain on a daily basis. Sadly my only images of them are blurry, as they are in constant motion.

Carolina wrens are the most darling and precocious of wild birds

Confession: as a self-proclaimed foodie, who eats carefully and organically, I cannot rationalize feeding birds commercial seed—especially when it comes to suet, which I suppose comes from feedlot beef somewhere in the Midwest—loaded with antibiotics. I do not condone feedlots, as it is an inhumane and unnatural treatment of innocent animals.

White throated sparrows dine all winter long in my central Virginia gardens. They migrate north for nesting. They are voracious at the feeders and quite personable.

An avid label reader, I notice little information-of-origin is included on bird food packaging. When I see piles of seed outside food markets, often in full sun, I wonder how fresh or rancid are those seeds? After all, humans are instructed to refrigerate or freeze any nuts, so what is up with commercial bird food?

Did you know that birds have no sense of smell? Perhaps that is why they gobble anything handed out, yet perhaps later, they become ill. Beyond our view, well intentioned rations could cause trouble. Therefore my solution is:

Whole Foods Market has a large bulk section of millet, amaranth, quinoa, sunflower seeds, currants, cranberries, and crushed corn. Once a week I gather these items for the birds in quart containers provided by the market. The bulk prices are minimal, often less than the bagged seed outside the store, and the birds LOVE these offerings. And I know that it is fresh, often organic, and healthy for the beauties who deliver pleasant views daily. I also raise meal worms for any bluebirds who bravely dodge Mary Mockingbird, yet found that the Titmice love this treat as well.

Mary Mockingbird at one early on feeder containing millet.

As for suet: Last fall, I asked a local purveyor of grass-feed-meat about availability, and unfortunately suet comes from around the kidneys of the beast in five-pound parcels. Since I do not want to go into the rendering business, I passed on that process. Therefore the birds are vegetarians here at Swallowtail Cottage. Not sure if birds would benefit from coconut oil shortening, I await comments from my blog readers. Does anyone have a wonderful bird cake recipe that they would share with this blog? Have any of you found/made a sustainable bird cake?

A uniquely colored Robin. Notice the absence of color on its wings.

The birds here are amping up for nesting season. The goofy mourning doves tuck and chase potential mates, and Mary Mockingbird sings loudly these days. Soon there will be moist earthworms for the robins (sorry for the blurry image this morning), and life will be underway for another season, here in bird-land.

Apples…the silliest red chicken ever. She was a rescue by a neighbor, then a persistent visitor in my gardens once she discovered all the goodies here…she even made house calls.

I could not resist inserting this image of Apples, the neighbor’s rescued New Hampshire Red who spent all her foraging time in my yard last summer. Since then, she was placed in a new home with other chickens, where she can scratch to her heart’s content. I was convinced that she wanted to become a house chicken…;-)

Life never fails to be interesting and Mother Nature always delivers.


  • Mighty blue jays enjoy crushed shells from hard-boiled eggs. Do not use raw shells, as they can harbor salmonella. Tossed into a mulched shrub border, blue jays visit daily to nosh. Organic shells even better for our feathered friends.
  • Robins, mockingbirds, and cedar waxwings adore cedar berries! Hundreds were here this week gobbling from my ancient tree.
  • Save birds from window strikes by draping a long piece of colorful hem tape over and out windows, then close window to hold in place. Breezes move the tape and reduces bird crashing. This is especially helpful during mating season as birds, especially cardinals, become over-territorial.
  • See my recipes for wild birds at https://dianelasauce.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/wild-bird-buffet-recipe-lasauce-style/

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