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Chat with a member of the Jayhawk Audubon Society about bird-watching

April 19, 2007

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Karyn Riney, a member of the Jayhawk Audubon Society, will take readers' questions about bird-watching, including what to look for this time of year in our area and techniques to increase your chances of having a successful outing.

Moderator:

Thanks for joining us this afternoon. I'm Mindie Paget, and I'll be moderating the chat.

We're joined today by Karyn Riney, a member of the Jayhawk Audubon Society, who will take your questions about bird-watching.

Thanks for being here, Karyn.

Jayhawk Audubon Society member:

Thanks for having me!

justthefacts:

I have often seen what look to be sea gulls overhead in Lawrence. Any guess as to the type of gulls we frequently see soaring overhead in Lawrence?

Jayhawk Audubon Society member:

Gulls are one of the favorite types of birds for birdwatchers to observe, and we get quite a variety around here, thanks to the proximity of reservoirs like Clinton and Perry. Some of the more common types that you can see in the winter are Ring-billed and Herring, and you'll sometimes see Franklin's Gulls on the way to their summer breeding ranges. Some, such as the Glaucous Gull or the Lesser Black-backed Gull, are quite rare and if they show up, will cause great excitement among birders.

mpaget:

What are some of the best spots in or near the city to go bird-watching?

Jayhawk Audubon Society member:

Lawrence offers some great places for birdwatching, from the area lakes to the Baker Wetlands to the area around Prairie Park Nature Center. And a very popular local site is Burcham Park, along the river. In fact, Jayhawk Audubon is leading a bird walk this Saturday, Earth Day, at Burcham Park and it will be great -- most of the spring migrants you see in a wooded habitat around Lawrence will be found in the Burcham Park area. The walk begins at 7 a.m. and anyone who's interested is welcome to meet in the main parking lot on the river edge.

Compy:

Are any wild birds domesticatable, or legal to keep as pets?

Jayhawk Audubon Society member:

No, and no! Wild birds are horribly suited to domestication and/or captivity. Their temperament, dietary requirements, flight needs, and a multitude of other things make domestication a very bad idea. Plus, most wild birds (excepting house sparrows, pigeons and starlings) are protected by federal laws that say we cannot have them as pets or even in our possession, dead or alive, and we are not supposed to disturb them or their nests. Much of the reasoning behind such laws stemmed from the near extinction of several species earlier in the 20th century due to people's desires for feather ornamentation, etc. Much better to enjoy them in the wild!

Eagle_aye:

What/how is the best way to attract Gold Finches and blue birds?

Jayhawk Audubon Society member:

When attracting birds, the number one thing is habitat -- if the habitat doesn't suit them you're not going to find them. Having said that, there certainly are things you can try. Both Goldfinches and Bluebirds tend to be found out in the country or in areas closer to the edge of town. Goldfinches are seed eaters, and they love Niger (thistle is the common name, although it's not the same as the noxious weed that grows wild) and black oil sunflower seeds. Bluebirds are primarily insect and berry eaters, so you can plant fruit-bearing trees and shrubs if you see them around, and you can also put up nest boxes that they may use. Spring is a good time to put out seeds and raisins, among other food, because it's the season when there's the least amount of plant food available.

Jace:

Karyn,

Ounce for ounce, pound for pound, dollar for dollar....what bird is truly the smartest? The raven? Just curious! Thanks!

Jayhawk Audubon Society member:

Birds are smarter than we think, and the members of the raven/crow family are among the smartest. They have been found to be quite intelligent and are very social. There are documented instances of crows using tools and magpies have been seen taking advantage of human-constructed items such as roads, cars, and stoplights to figure out that dropping nuts in a crosswalk when cars were passing through it would result in cracked nuts, and then when people were walking through the crosswalk after the light changed, the birds could safely go retrieve the nut meats.

Moderator:

We have time for one more question.

naturalist:

Do you know when the Kansas bird watching guide by Bob Gress and Pete Janzen will be available?

Jayhawk Audubon Society member:

The book is available now -- I'll get the details and ask Mindie to post them later today.

Moderator:

Actually one more.

mpaget:

What type of equipment do I need to best observe birds?

Jayhawk Audubon Society member:

There's nothing like a good pair of binoculars and a sturdy pair of walking shoes. Binoculars don't necessarily have to be expensive, but you should get some that have a magnification of about 8 -- too low a power won't do you much good, and if you get too high a power they'll be so sensitive to motion it might be hard to hold them steady enough to see. Also, don't forget a good field (identification) guide -- there are many excellent ones and they're made of sturdy materials so you can drag them all over the place and they'll hold up!

Moderator:

Well, that'll do it for this afternoon. Thanks, Karyn, for taking time to share your expertise.

Jayhawk Audubon Society member:

Thanks, everyone, and good birding!

Moderator:

During the chat, a reader asked when the Kansas bird-watching guide by Bob Gress and Pete Janzen would be available. Karyn Riney supplied this information later: "The book your reader was referring to, 'The Guide to Kansas Birds and Birding Hotspots,' by Bob Gress and Pete Janzen, is due out next year."

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