News & Notes

Our Naturalist Answers Your Questions

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014
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One of the goals of this blog is to answer your questions. Below are a few that I received over the past month. I hope these are informative for everyone and spark new inquiries!

The Naturalist Answers Your Questions:

downloadQuestion: Kathryn sent in a question I often receive  “I have robins and juncos eating something from my dirt driveway (had to be plowed because of the snowstorm) – what are they eating?

Answer: They are most likely eating the dirt itself! Many bird species will actually eat dirt (and grit) and store it in their gizzard (an organ in their digestive tract) to help them grind up food.



imagesQuestion: Following our Turkey Fun Facts post, Tom wondered: “What do turkeys feed on during the winter? Do they feed on the same things as a partridge?”

Answer: A turkey’s diet in winter is almost entirely made up of mast (acorns and nuts) that they uncover by scratching at the forest floor. They probably supplement with fruit/berries they can find, but this is not a necessity.


download (1)Question: Sandra asked this great question as a follow up to our November Sparrows post:  Hi Doug! Thank you for the description with the distinctive markings of each Sparrow. The sparrow is actually an important bird to me so I would love to attract them – what is the best kind of bird feed to use in my feeder?

Answer: Spreading seed on the ground is a great way to attract sparrows – they are more at home scratching around on the ground than perching on feeders. I would recommend a mixed seed, but sparrows seem to favor safflower and especially white millet.


Question: With rare birds around like the Crested Caracara, Robert asked: “How does a person subscribe to the various Maine rare bird alerts?

Photo; Doug Hitchcox, ME Audubon

Photo: Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon

Answer: There are a few options for Rare Bird Alerts in Maine:

1) Maine-birds Listserv (Google Group)  This list is not limited to rare bird sightings, but this is often where they are first reported and where you will find the most information.

2) There are several “digests” that offer alternate views of Maine birds: The Birding Lists Digest

American Birding Assocation: Maine Bird News by Date

3) eBird Alerts Many Maine birders are now using eBird so anything rare (rare for Maine or rare for the season) that is reported to eBird will show up here. This is a great resource, as it also has direct links to maps.


Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.


Submit your question for Doug: