Back to Back Issues Page
Gardening For Wildlife, Issue #005, One handy tool
February 26, 2007

It sure was nice to have a week's reprieve from winter's wrath.

Stepping outside and hearing more and more birds go into song.

Sure makes me long for warmer temps and those spring days.

Temperatures in the mid 40's and lots of sunshine cut the snow cover in half.

Winter did reappear yesterday giving us a mixed bag of rain, snow and ice.

The beauty of it all....................

One week closer to the Spring or Vernal equinox.

Yolanda was fit and molded for an adjustable cast last week. Hopefully she will get that soon.

The Amaryllis are gorgeous right now. Many have two and one has three stalks so we will have blooms through half of March this year.

You know how it goes sometimes?

You just happen to be in the right place at the right time and happen to see something you've never seen before.

Well, that was me Friday.

I happened to be outside on a sunny afternoon and looking around as usual.

To the east was this big bird so I took more time to observe.

At first it looked like a Turkey vulture.

No way, not this time of year.

Besides, it flight was totally different than a vultures.

As it flew toward me, I could see the white under the wings, but there was more white than on a vulture's wing.

I noticed the bands on the tail and this bird was still flapping it's wings, very little gliding and no circles.

I didn't bother grabbing the binoculars, I didn't want to miss a thing.

I did come inside and looked through the books.

Now this is a first for me, a "Dark Morphed Rough-Tailed Hawk"

Yeah Baby, I'm pumped.

It's a first for me and is added to my life list.

Rough-tailed hawks winter in Southern Canada and Much of the United States.

During the spring and summer, they are Arctic hawks living on mice and lemmings.

It may not sound like much to some of you, but a first is a first and it goes to show, you never know what you may see anytime, any place.

It's a drill,a hammer, a vise grip and a spear.

It crushes, mashes and grinds.

(I'm sounding like a TV ad for an all in one tool.)

It's a backscratcher, home builder and infant feeder.

A water cup, egg turner and much more.

I'm sure you realize this is no TV ad

I'm describing a bird's bill or beak.

This wonderful tool of the avian world comes in different shapes and sizes.

From the fishing spear of the Great Blue Heron, to the Spoon Bill and the flower probing beak of hummingbirds.

By observing this efficient tool, we can understand much of a bird's world and eating habits.

Each bill is a well designed unit composed of fine bones covered by keratin, the stuff our fingernails and hair are made of.

A beaks primary function is to get a bird fed, yet this amazing tool preens, builds nests and turns eggs, sing songs and scream out warnings.

Northern cardinals and grosbeaks have stout beaks for cracking seed. Yet these beaks can catch insects and eat berries.

Unique beaks like that of a crossbill, can pry open cones of spruce and pine to get at the nut within.

Then there are customized beaks belonging to birds of prey. These are designed to tear and shred meat from bones yet can feed its young without harm.

A Robin's all purpose bill can pull worms, eat berries and insects. It is also a tool in making one of nature's best built nests.

What about woodpeckers?

A drill capable of going after buried insects and excavating nests in solid wood.

The small but powerful bill of a chickadee.

This tiny bird isn't capable of grinding and crushing a seed, but it is powerful enough to use it as a jackhammer as it drills open a sunflower seed.

This same bill is able drill a nest cavity in old or rotting wood, able to collect moss for that nest and pick insects to fed their young.

The tiny but powerful cone shaped seed eating bill of goldfinches.

We understand bills like that of Herons and Eagles, they are easy.

But what about the everyday birds we see in our yards and at or feeders?

Once you know and understand the bills of the birds around you, you will understand the feeding habits and habitats of the birds that share your space.

Much like the gotta have tool that does everything, birds are well equipped for their needs and lifestyle.

Now where is that vacuum cleaner that saws wood and makes the bed?

Do you have a favorite bird?

I'm still looking for participants in the favorite bird letter coming up.

Share you favorite bird and why, along with first name, city in or near and state or province.

Say, There are some exiting new pages at

Regional trees and a great page on planting instructions.

It's fun to learn what is in other parts of our great countries.

I could only touch on a few trees, but all wildlife and bird friendly.

You gotta check the hummingbird pages. I have a long way to go, but you will find these interesting.

Hope you like them.

Well, time to fly.

Remember to smile this week and share it with a stranger.

As always,

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Until next time,

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. Feel free to send this newsletter to friends and family

Gardening For Wildlife.

Back to Back Issues Page