The Norman Transcript

April 12, 2013

It’s time to watch wildlife that shares our bed and board

By Betty Culpepper
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Today’s column was inspired by John C. McLaughlin’s book “The Animals Among Us: Wildlife in the City — the Beasts That Share Our Bed and Board.”

Whether we are aware of it or not, micro-sized mites inhibit our eyebrows and eyelashes as well as all other parts of our body, inside and out. Some of these creatures help us — i.e., acidophilus, a digestive enzyme — others can cause sickness or even death such as E-coli.

Other pests — those that we can see — when the occasion arises, attach themselves to the skin of our cats and dogs. Sometimes these small blood-suckers even jump off our pets and attach themselves to us.

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Among the birds that I encourage into my backyard are mourning doves, cardinals, house finches, sparrows, blue jays and black-capped chickadees.

Grackles, however, are not welcome. They come in droves and clean up every seed that I’ve spread on the ground for songbirds. If they came singly or in small groups, I wouldn’t mind, but not when the large yellow-green demonic eye spots food and calls all its friends and neighbors over for a feast.

On Wednesday, six sparrows that live in a box-elder hedge below my kitchen window tried to get out of the rain by clinging to the screen, which is protected by the roof overhang. They were clinging to the screen with their sharp toenails, paying no attention to me while attempting to climb higher so that the rain wouldn’t hit them.

Later, they decided — rain or no rain — they were going to fill their empty craws. You know, when the sun shines on sparrows, their upper feathers give off a golden glow. I’ve learned so much about sparrow behavior since they began living in the hedge.

Feeding tips to attract specific birds: Peanut butter/lard mixes or suet are favorites of the Northern mockingbird, Carolina chickadee, tufted titmouse, Carolina wren, bewick’s wren downy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, nuthatches, blue jay and yellow-rumped warbler.

Recipe for “Miracle Meal:”

Combine one part peanut butter (smooth or crunchy) and 2.5 parts cornmeal (adding one part raisins is optional to attract mockingbirds).

Fruit — apples and raisins: Northern mockingbird, American robin, brown thrasher, Eastern bluebird. Place on a raised feeder or impale apple halves on tree branches.

Sugar water (one part sugar to four parts water): Ruby-throated hummingbird, Baltimore oriole, orchard oriole, house finch, Carolina chickadee. Place in commercial hummingbird or oriole feeder; thoroughly clean feeder before each filling.

Grape jelly will attract Baltimore orioles, American robins, northern mockingbirds and house finches.

Northern cardinal, Carolina chickadee, tufted titmouse, American gold finch, redbellied woodpecker, mourning dove, white-brested nuthatch, purple finch, house finch, pine siskine and spotted towhee prefer black oil sunflower seed.

Feeders may be placed in hanging feeders or on the ground. Black oil sunflower seeds are overall probably the best-liked food of many birds.

Cracked corn will lure mourning doves, northern bobwhites, blue jays, American crows, common grackles and red-winged blackbirds. White millet is preferred by dark-eyed juncos, field sparrows, white-throated sparrows, Harris’ sparrows, mourning doves, fox sparrows, white-crowned sparrows, spotted towhees and blackbirds.

Watch your backyard birds; it’s tremendous fun.

Betty Culpepper may be reached at bculpepper3@ for comments, questions or ideas for future columns.

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