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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Studying the birds in the backyard

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Whenever I am at my grandparent's house, I am always amazed by all the birds that I see flying around.

See, my grandparents always make it a point to have tons of birdfeeders filled with a variety of birdseed and a heated birdbath going throughout the entire winter.

When I am visiting their house, I try to figure out what type of bird I am watching by looking at their bird books.

Often times, the birds that I am able to readily identify are the American Goldfinch and the Cardinal.

The male American Goldfinch can easily be recognized during the spring and early summer with his bright yellow body and black forehead and black and white wings.

Females are usually a duller yellow. During the winter, these birds turn into a drab, unstreaked brown with black wings. Uniquely, the American Goldfinch is the only finch that molts its body feathers twice a year.

Another unique aspect of the American Goldfinch is that it has one of the strictest diets, only eating vegetation. If you would like to attract more American Goldfinch to your house and yard, plant native thistles and other composite plants including milkweed. You can also attract them by filling your birdfeeders with nyjer and sunflower seeds. Even though these birds are common around Indiana, they are not considered the state bird. Instead, the American Goldfinch is the state bird for New Jersey, Iowa and Washington.

The state bird of Indiana is the Cardinal. It is also the state bird for six other states. The male of this species is commonly recognized by its brilliant red color and black face around the bill.

Females are usually a pale brown color with reddish tinges on their wings, tail and crest.

Additionally, this species is known to be very vocal. It is one of only a few species of songbirds that sing while on their nest.

Cardinals mainly eat seeds and fruit, including dogwood, mulberry, grasses, sedges and corn. If you have a birdfeeder, you can put black oil sunflower seed in it to help attract Cardinals. Additionally, allow the grass to grow around the edges of your property to allow the Cardinals to have a nesting place.

If you are like me, you have probably been victim to a Cardinal attack. Cardinals are known to attack windows, car mirrors and shiny bumpers if they see their reflection in them.

The reason for these attacks is because Cardinals are very territorial.

The attacks will often last for a while until the bird realizes the threat is not real. This is yet another unique aspect of our state bird, the Cardinal.

Just like humans, birds have individual personalities and preferences. Hopefully, you have a better understanding of two of the common birds found throughout Indiana.

If you would like more information about birds or have any questions about agriculture, horticulture or a natural resource topic, then please contact your local Purdue Extension Office at 448-9041 in Clay County or 812-829-5020 in Owen County, or reach me directly at smith535@purdue.edu.

Purdue University is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.

Upcoming opportunities available to you through Purdue Extension include:

* Feb. 19 -- Clay County 4-H Expo and Open House, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Clay County 4-H Exhibit Hall, and

* Feb. 25 -- Owen County 4-H Recruitment Night at YMCA, 4-6 p.m., Owen County YMCA.