Here you’ll answers to some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about birds and birding.
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What is CNMAS’s policy on outdoors and feral cats?
- Our policy is that cats belong indoors. Outdoor cats are a major contributor to bird deaths. There are a number of ways that people can help their cats adjust to an indoor lifestyle, and Central New Mexico Audubon Society recommends visiting the American Bird Conservancy website to explore their wealth of resources to help and to educate cat owners. Outdoor cat colonies, sustained through the practice of Trap Neuter Release, are bad for birds, do not help reduce the overpopulation of feral cats, and are often bad for the cats themselves, which lead short, harsh lives. Instead of Trap-Neuter-Release, Central New Mexico Audubon Society supports Trap-Neuter-Remove — remove and relocate by adoption to loving homes, remove and relocate to cat sanctuary enclosures. For more information on what CNMAS is doing about this issue, visit our Cats Indoors Campaign page.
I’ve found an injured bird, what do I do?
- Our local wildlife rescue/rehabilitation resources include Wildlife Rescue of New Mexico – (505) 344-2500, whose phone message provides detailed information, Hawks Aloft – (505) 999-7740, On A Wing and a Prayer – (505) 897-0439 or (505) 480-7777, and Talking Talons.
What should I do if I find a baby bird?
- First look to see if you can find the nest that the bird fell out of. If so, you should just replace the bird in the nest. If possible pick the bird up very gently using a tissue or other non-sticky material that the baby birds toes might get stuck in. The parents WILL NOT reject the bird because it has a human smell. However, you should do this as quickly as possible so that your smell near the nest doesn’t attract predators. Another good resource is Portland, OR Audubon’s website.
My cat caught a bird but it is still alive. What do I do?
- Unfortunately, most cats carry enough bacteria in their claws or mouth that even if the bird is still alive when you find it, the likelihood is that it will die of septicemia in the next day or two. These bacteria don’t hurt the cat but are lethal if they enter the bloodstream of a bird even if through just a tiny scratch. You may bring the bird to Wildlife Rescue if you like, but the chances are slim that it will survive.
A bird hit my window and is now sitting on the ground just below it. What do I do?
- Before you do anything watch the bird for a bit. Sometimes birds are simply stunned and need a bit of time to recover before they resume their normal activities. Watch the bird carefully for about 5-10 minutes. Be watchful that no cats or other predators are stalking the bird while it recovers. If it still hasn’t moved then call Wildlife Rescue (505) 344-2500 and follow the detailed instructions.
How can I prevent bird-window collisions?
- Birds are more susceptible to colliding with windows during nesting season and migration. The Sibley Guides website provides links to some helpful information on keeping birds safe.
I would like to have a bird identified.
- It is best if you can take a picture of the bird so that you can send it to us. Otherwise try to look at the bird as carefully as you can, and write down details about its size (compared to a bird you know), bill size and shape, what it is doing, what it is eating, and what colors and pattern are on the head, wings, back, throat, breast, belly and tail.
There’s a bird that looks like a woodpecker here, but its not a woodpecker because it is on the ground!
- Many folks don’t realize that Northern Flickers actually eat a lot of ants. That is what this bird is doing. Look it up in your bird book!
What’s the law about feeding pigeons in my own backyard in Albuquerque?
- Feeding pigeons is against the law in Albuquerque, but there are nuances and explanations for what might sound excessively regulatory. Information about this ordinance, which became effective July 1, 2011, can be found on the City of Albuquerque’s Urban Biology Division webpage. If you still have questions after checking out the City Web site and the ordinance, you are encouraged to call the City Urban Biology Division at (505) 452-5301.
- According to the Urban Wildlife Biology Division, the main purpose of the feeding ban is to stop people from attracting large numbers of pigeons into residential areas. “We attempt to work with people that are trying to feed other birds and have pigeons visiting their feeders. This can be unavoidable in an urban area, and we understand that. There is no set number of pigeons that define a nuisance, however if only a few pigeons visit a feeder we consider it a non-issue. The City does not actively look for people feeding pigeons. We respond to residents’ complaints. Most cases we receive are because someone is attracting a large number of pigeons (usually greater than 30), and these birds are roosting or perching on neighboring properties and creating a mess.”
- The ordinance only restricts the feeding of Rock Pigeons, Columba livia, and does not limit the feeding of any other bird species, e.g. the four species of doves that come to feeders in Albuquerque.
Do I have to stop feeding birds at my feeders if pigeons come to my feeders?
- No. According to the ordinance, you can continue to enjoy having birds come to your feeders – “provided that the seed does not attract significant numbers of pigeons or create conditions that create a pigeon nuisance.” Pigeons are normally ground feeders, but will also feed from tray feeders. To discourage pigeons and comply with the city ordinance, choose hanging feeders that don’t provide a surface large enough for a pigeon to perch or place a wire exclosure cage over the tray feeder.
How do I feed hummingbirds and what is the best formula for sugar water?
- Hummingbirds do need a nectar feeder which you can purchase at many retail stores. There is no need to put food coloring in the sugar water. There will be red on the feeder. This is all that they need. In some cases food coloring may actually harm the hummingbird. The best formula for sugar water is to dissolve 1 part sugar into 4 parts water. Bring the water to a boil so the sugar dissolves quickly. Please be sure to cool the mixture down before putting it into your hummingbird feeder. The best way to ensure that the mixture is safe for hummingbirds is to wash your feeder before with hot water to flush out any possible contaminants before refilling.
How long should I leave my hummingbird feeder up in the fall?
- You can leave your hummingbird feeders up as long as hummingbirds are visiting them – in central New Mexico that is sometime between Oct. 15 and the end of the month – and then a week or so longer, just in case a straggler comes through. You don’t need to be afraid of causing the birds to delay their migration and get caught by winter. That isn’t going to happen. It’s not the lack of food that tells a hummingbird when to go south. It’s the bird’s internal biological calendar.
I don’t have as many hummingbirds coming to my feeder as I did last year. Are they in trouble?
- Most folks believe that all the summer months are the same. In fact, New Mexico gets a huge influx of migrating hummingbirds starting in July, sometimes starting in late June. If you are concerned because there are fewer hummingbirds and it is May or June, please wait for another month or so and see what happens. If it is in July or August, many things may affect hummingbird numbers at any particular feeder. Fires, weather patterns, condition of vegetation, etc. all have an effect either positively or negatively. Events that happened the previous year may also have an effect on your memory of hummingbird numbers. If you are really interested in following hummingbird numbers you can look at eBird and read the Bar Charts for hummingbirds reported in New Mexico or even any particular county in New Mexico. You can even add your own sightings from your backyard and provide counts every day.
I want to get more birds in my backyard. What should I do?
- Provide water with plenty of getaway space. Hummer feeders, plant red tubulars, plant fruiting shrubs, have a variety of types of tree and shrub heights. Start a feeder, different birds like different types of seeds, and in different places: suet, thistle, feed on ground and above ground. Etc.
There is a bird that’s attacking me every time I go near a certain tree. How can I stop this?
- The bird undoubtedly has a nest in that tree and is trying to protect it. It would be best to avoid that area until after nesting season.
What else can I do to support birds at home?
- The National Audubon Society provides information to help you make your yard and neighborhood friendly to birds.Other things you can do are 1) Use eco-friendly paper products and 2) read the Burrowing Owl online to conserve old-growth trees that provide nesting habitat for many songbirds that are currently in decline since these trees are the primary source of paper products.
I have a bird in my yard that is an albino/partial albino. How rare is that?
- They are not seen often, but they are not rare birds that birdwatchers will “chase” and generally not reported on the New Mexico Rare Bird Alert. Albino or partially white birds that have been reported in the Albuquerque area include House Finches, House Sparrows, American Robins, hummingbirds and Pine Siskins.
How do I learn more about birds and bird-watching?
- Come to Central New Mexico Audubon monthly meetings and join us on some of our field trips. These are great places to ask questions and figure out how to further your bird knowledge and identification skills.
Where are the Sandhill Cranes?
- They are only in New Mexico from about October through March, with the majority here between mid-November and mid-February.