OUTDOORS: Book is standard for bird ID | Sports | myleaderpaper.com – Leader Publications


April 6 would have been my mom’s 89th birthday, and while I’ll always think of her on that day, I have started a new tradition in her honor – filling and hanging up my hummingbird feeders.
Dad got credit for the feeders at their house south of Festus because it was his task to keep them filled. He liked watching the birds fly to the perch and scramble for seeds, but Mom seemed to have a personal relationship with the visitors outside her kitchen window.
For more than two decades, the hummingbirds.net website created by Lanny Chambers of Fenton tracked the migration of ruby-throated hummingbirds throughout North America. A change in the computer program that ran the site unfortunately suspended the service, but you can still visit to learn about hummingbirds, feeders and see the map data compiled for more than 20 years.
The hummingbird arrival dates for the Jefferson County area range from late March to mid-April, but the sweet spot is right around April 6. The migration map hasn’t been updated since 2018, but it does offer a link to journeynorth.org, which tracks hummingbirds and dozens of other species.
One of my favorite perks about writing this outdoors column is the opportunity to review new books before they become available to the public. When I was offered an advance copy of All About Birds Midwest, from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, I jumped at the opportunity.
At first look, it reminded me of the Peterson Field Guide for Eastern Birds that was a trusted reference book at my mom and dad’s house. Roger Torey Peterson published his first guide in 1934, and the copy I inherited is dated 1980. I still use it as a reference, but the book from Cornell sets a new standard.
Instead of Peterson’s illustrations, the new book features multiple detailed, zoom photographs of each bird. Every page has a range map and a detailed description, including the keys to bird identification: size and shape, color pattern, behavior and habitat. A special note about each species is also included.
Published by Princeton Press, the All About Birds series has books for California, Texas and Oklahoma, Northwest, Northeast, Southwest and Southeast along with the Midwest. Missouri marks the southern edge for the Midwest book, which extends east to Indiana, west to Kansas and north to the Dakotas and central Canada.
The Midwest book highlights 221 of the most common species for the region. The details and images are drawn from the AllAboutBirds.org website, run by the Cornell Lab, which also offers a free bird ID app called Merlin.
The book’s introduction covers tips for beginner bird-watchers, basics for good bird photography, tricks for attracting birds to your backyard feeder, features of a good birdhouse and ways to get involved in protecting bird species.
According to the new book, “the ruby-throated hummingbird is the sole breeding hummingbird in the eastern US and Canada. These precision flying creatures glitter in the full sun, and are common at feeders and in flower gardens in the summer. In the fall, they head south, with many crossing the Gulf of Mexico in a single flight.”
Hummingbird feeders come in a variety of shapes and styles. Finding one with a look you like should be easy. An important consideration is ease of cleaning, because while filling the feeder is simple, keeping the feeder clean and the nectar fresh is essential.
The standard sugar-water recipe calls for four parts water and one part sugar. Boiling the water is not required, and plain white cane sugar is the best bet. Homemade nectar, which should never be made with honey, brown sugar, fruit or other substitutes, can be stored in a refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Adding red food color to the water is discouraged, but most prepared nectar mixes include red dye. There is scant evidence that the artificial color is harmful to the little birds, but it’s not necessary, so why risk it?
John Winkelman is Marketing Director for Liguori Publications near Barnhart, Mo., and Associate Editor for Outdoor Guide Magazine. If you have story ideas to share for the Leader outdoor news page, e-mail ogmjohnw@aol.com, and you can find more outdoor news and updates at johnjwink.com.
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