Drought causes birds to nest later, reducing nesting success

A recent study suggests drought conditions are delaying nesting by two weeks or more for some Sonoran Desert bird species, such as Black-tailed Gnatcatchers and Verdins.

Despite recent rainfall, drought conditions persist in much of the southwestern U.S. Drought negatively impacts, many wildlife species, making it harder to maintain their numbers, even when adapted to a dry environment.

Newly published research from Point Blue Conservation Science (Point Blue) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) finds that increased drought frequency in southwestern North America results in increased instances of delayed nesting. This delay can push the start of nesting back by several weeks in severe drought. This, in turn, makes it harder for many Sonoran Desert bird species to successfully produce young that year, as they are more vulnerable to nest predators and parasites. Continue reading

After drought, birds especially seek feeders

A female cardinal flits off from a peanut filled bird feeder as a downy woodpecker takes her position. As drought continues, home bird feeders will help wild birds survive the winter.

A female cardinal flits off from a peanut filled bird feeder as a downy woodpecker takes her position. As drought continues, home bird feeders will help wild birds survive the winter.

Drought during the past two growing seasons has reduced seed production in wildflowers, grasses and trees. Recent snows have covered food that was available on the ground.

Usually filling backyard feeders is a matter of people enjoying watching colorful birds grab a snack. Nature normally produces all of the food the birds need.

But this winter, feeders are truly boosting wild birds, said Larry Rizzo, a natural history biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation.

“I think we can safely say supplemental feeding is helping right now,” Rizzo said. “Drought is somewhat of a factor, but anytime you get excessively deep snow or ice cover, food is hard to get to.”

Large birds, such as wild turkeys, can scratch through deep snow and find food, he said. But smaller birds, such as sparrows or bobwhite quail, cannot.

Melting snow will provide some moisture for wild plants and wildlife. But providing drinking water for wildlife near feeders will draw more birds for watching. Heated watering systems are available at stores that sell bird-feeding supplies.

“One bird I always like to highlight regarding winter bird feeding is the Carolina wren,” Rizzo said. “Deep snow or ice flat out kills them. If you have that bird in your neighborhood, you will help them by feeding peanuts, suet mixtures, or best of all, a peanut butter mix. They love that. Mix peanut butter with corn meal. It’s simple and cheap.”

sources : Missouri Department of Conservation | news-leader.com