American Goldfinch – March

i Mar 29th No Comments by

Authored by Phil Doerr

The Bird of the Year, American Goldfinch,  is a frequent visitor to our late winter feeders, which you may have noticed, often sharing the largess with purple finches this year. So, keep the “nockies” handy to check out your finches! Have purple finches joined, or even supplanted the house finches? Your ever reliable goldfinches will most likely “weather” the purple storm and mingle readily with these boisterous groups.

American Goldfinch female enjoying an icy winter perch (photo by Bob Oberfelder)

American Goldfinch female enjoying an icy winter perch (photo by Bob Oberfelder)

But Wait! Be alert! You may recall, that a worrisome, and potentially dangerous situation can develop among these birds when they mob our feeders. Mycoplasma gallisepticum is a bacterium causing respiratory disease in several bird species, including goldfinches!. Mycoplasmosis is especially prevalent in house finches, presenting as red, swollen and crusty eyes. Birds mobbing feeders may, unfortunately, “share” the disease by rubbing against feeders, where infected birds have fed. In harsh weather there may be significant losses, but many birds do recover infection.

So, what do we do?  Mainly we keep alert! Watch your birds feeding, relish their beauty and enjoy their behavioral interactions and displays. Learn the secrets of goldfinch plumage change, because “any minute” some males will begin brightening and incorporating some bright yellow in fresh feathers. This awareness also allows us to detect the appearance of Mycoplasma (or other diseases) in any of our finches so we can react! Once detected there are several things to do:

1-Take the feeders down, and clean thoroughly with disinfectant.

2-Keep feeders down for 2 weeks (but no worries, the birds will return within hours of restarting feeding.

3-Contact Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology at Project Feeder Watch (  to report the disease and perhaps the join the Lab’s Feeder Watch program and learn about the science of bird feeding.

4-When re-starting your feeder program consider increasing the number of feeders, or spreading them to reduce crowding and hence disease transmission. Consider avoiding tube feeders as there are data suggesting this configuration enhances opportunities for disease transmission as birds rub against the feeder while actually feeding. Table feeders can present similar hazard.

5-Plan to take feeders down once a week or so to thoroughly clean, disinfect, and dry.

6-Keep the area underneath feeders clean and free of waste, hulls, droppings etc.

7-Clean and disinfect any water features/baths regularly.

Now here’s another alert. Do not remove or cut out any of the long dead plant stems from last year’s pollinator gardens, flower beds, or so-called “weeds”, and don’t mess with the ground level detritus! Don’t do it!!  -Not until spring is really truly here! This is really important !More next month!

Thanks for checking us out! Keep watching our American Goldfinches and all their winter buds!

Volunteer with Wake Audubon!

i Jan 9th No Comments by

24-hour Grand Opening of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences Nature Research Center

Volunteers are needed to staff the Wake Audubon Society booth for the opening of the Nature Research Center, which is being held on April 20-21. The booth will focus on the chimney swift fundraising/education efforts. This booth will have both educational elements (faux chimney that opens up to show you a swift at a nest) as well as a fun game or two (chimney swift bean bag toss into a chimney, like the corn-hole game everyone is playing these days). We will have prizes, an educational activity packet designed by Annie Runyan for sale, etc. WAS will have a booth on Saturday, April 21 from 8 am-6 pm. The Museum expects 100,000 visitors at the NRC opening.

Prior to the event, WAS needs help on this event committee.

If you would like to help with the event and/or serve on the event committee, please contact Anita Kuehne at [email protected]

The new 80,000 square-foot wing of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences will connect people to research by bringing scientists and their work into the public eye, helping demystify what can be an intimidating field of study, better prepare science educators and students, and inspire a new generation of young scientists.
The mission of the NRC is “Connecting People to Research.”

Making your hearth a home for Chimney Swifts!

i Mar 23rd No Comments by

By Nathan Swick, Wake Audubon Board member

Birdwatchers in North Carolina’s Piedmont should be on the lookout for the eminent return of Chimney Swifts from their wintering range in Amazon South America. Historically, Swifts nested in hollow snags across eastern North America but quickly took to residential chimneys as a replacement, from whence their common name is derived. The birds are actually quite nice to have around for homeowners as they feed on thousands of small and annoying flying insects per day.

Unfortunately, chimney caps and screens have become more prevalent as some homeowners either don’t want swifts nesting on their property or don’t understand that caps can have an effect on locally nesting swifts. But by taking a few steps you can easily encourage swifts to come to your own chimney where you can enjoy them all summer. And besides, you weren’t using your chimney in the heat anyway, were you?

Wake Audubon member Erla Beegle has put together some tips borne of experience; she fledged 3 chicks in her chimney last summer!

Chimney Swift Checklist:

– Do you have a suitable chimney? (brick inside – not slippery metal or porcelain, and a “cap” that can be easily removed. Any chimney eight feet or taller is high enough. )

– BEFORE YOU REMOVE THE CAP: Call a chimney cleaning company before late April and get the chimney cleaned out! (Dirty chimneys can lead to nest failure, as the nest can break off with a big flake of creosote when the babies get big)

– Get the metal lid (“cap”) off your chimney before late April (save the cap for the winter). The cleaning company might remove it for you for a small fee, or ask a contractor, if you do not want to climb onto the roof.

– Keep the flue CLOSED during the nesting season (just in case a baby swift has to climb back up.)

– Do NOT use the chimney during the nesting season (gas fireplace owners: put a sign on the switch so guests do not make that mistake! I put a sign on the flue handle for my wood-burning fireplace.)

– If you are lucky enough to have a pair of swifts in your chimney: Congratulations! You will hear peeping and chattering for several weeks (any time in May and June). This wonderful sound can be quite loud, and goes on from dawn to dusk. Turn up the radio and you won’t notice it. They are quiet once the sun goes down.

– There’s only one pair of swifts per chimney, and it will be their home all spring and summer. The parents and “kids” may roost in your chimney throughout the late summer, so keep the cap off until late fall.

– To keep your insurance company happy: re-attach the chimney cap in late fall before you start using the fireplace again. The cap prevents sparks from landing on the roof.

Thank you for opening your hearth to swifts!

Shraiku winners!

i Dec 22nd No Comments by

The year is coming to a close, and with it our 2010 Bird of the Year events. One of these events was the Shraiku contest. Shraikus are poems in the form of haikus with themes that evoke the Loggerhead Shrike. There were 25 entries. After the difficult job of judging, three winning shraikus were chosen. Winners received Shraiku Award certificates and first place winners received gift certificates to Outdoor Bird Company. Here are the winning shraikus.

First place, by Ali Iyoob and Matt Daw
Death on a barbed wire
Head juices drip to the ground
Butcher strikes again.

Second place by Jeff Beane
Black, white, shades of gray:
The colors of deception.
Inside I am red.

Third place by Annie Runyon
Bold eyes in dark mask
One blade trembling in the grass
Grasshopper impaled


i Oct 6th 22 Comments by

We are having a Shraiku contest as part of Wake Audubon’s Year of the Loggerhead Shrike. Shraikus, like Haikus, are highly structured poems composed in 3 lines with a total of 17 syllables. Shraikus must have 5 syllables in lines 1 and 3 and 7 syllables in line 2. The theme of a shraiku must be the Loggerhead Shrike – evoking images or feelings associated with this amazing bird.

You may enter as many times as you wish.   There will be prizes for the top three Shraiku writers.

Submit your Shraiku as a comment using the following form:

  • Title (all caps)
  • Line 1: 5 syllables
  • Line 2: 7 syllables
  • Line 3: 5 syllables

***  PLEASE NOTE:  All comment must go through moderation, so it may be a few hours before your poem posts.  ***

Sign up for Purple Martin Roost Trip!

i Jul 13th No Comments by

Last year Wake Audubon and the Museum led a trip to the Outer Banks that included an evening tour via boat to the Mann’s Harbor Bridge to watch the Purple Martins come in to roost, and it was a blast!!   Over 100,000 birds flying in is quite spectacular. The folks at Coastal Carolina Purple Martin Society are offering this trip again July 24 and 31st.

The trip is an evening cruise out of Manteo over to the bridge and back.  Besides birds there is a chance you will get a pretty sunset!  You must reserve your spot in advance. Details below:

Saturday, July 24 (reserve by July 21)
Saturday, July 31 (reserve by July 28)

Join a guided sunset tour to the breathtaking Manns Harbor purple martin roost aboard the Crystal Dawn. Come enjoy the views, learn about the roost, and see 100,000+ birds up close!

*Reserve your seat now!
*Tickets: $30 per person
*Full refund if cancelled by weather ***
*Depart at 6:00 p.m. from Crystal Dawn dock at Pirate’s Cove Marina, Nags Head-Manteo Causeway.
*Returns at approximately 10 p.m.
*Light refreshments available (or bring your own).
*Use a credit card or Paypal instant transfer via our donation button to purchase tickets. Please make a payment of $30 per ticket and note what day you are reserving.
*Or send your check to:
Coastal Carolina Purple Martin Society
PO Box 172 Manns Harbor, NC 27953
*Please provide your contact information: phone # & email address.
*Call (252) 394-6205 for further information, and to let us know if you will be paying by check via mail.

***all other cancellations of no-shows cannot be refunded and will be considered general donations to the Coastal Carolina Purple Martin Society.

For more information, check out their site!