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Polly Want a Cracker with That Suet?


When food is scarce, our little feathered friends make a beeline for the feeders. Most of the birds wear drab colors — a protective camouflage — this time of year. Goldfinches, for example, shed their bright yellow plumage in late fall, and by winter, they blend in with the drab tan and grey of tree bark and stems. Others, like blue jays and cardinals, are particularly colorful against snow-covered branches. However, “If you thought cardinals were impressive, check this out,” says gardener Jan Lord of Midlothian. In past year, her backyard feeders have attracted a few monk parakeets each winter, but this week, her backyard has become a mini-Margaritaville for these tropical-looking birds. “There were at least 11 or 12 of them at the feeders but there were more in the trees. They seem to like the suet.” She emailed the photos to local researchers who were unaware that the birds were attracted to suet.

Although they hail from South America, monk parakeets have managed to adapt to Chicago winters for more than four decades. They were first spotted in Chicago about 1973. Unlike the fluid and lyrical songs sung by some of our beautiful native songsters, monk parakeets let forth high-pitched screams. They’re generally found in Chicago’s Hyde Park where their nests — made from sticks—can be several feet wide. They’ve been spotted in many suburbs as well. You can see a distribution map here.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Whether you live in the city, suburbs or a more rural spot, there are plenty of hungry birds that would love to dine at a feeder in your garden. For tips on winter bird feeding, check out the National Bird-Feeding Society’s website. Happy Birdwatching.

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questions

I have two 3-year-old rose of Sharon plants, about 20 feet apart. One blooms every year. The other plant forms about 100 buds and looks healthy, but it has not bloomed in the last two years. The buds are solidly closed and look as if they are rotting from the inside out. There does not seem to be any sign of insects on the plant. What is this problem?

Can I grow asparagus from seed? I saved the little red berries from my plants.

We moved into a house with a lovely azalea that didn’t bloom. We thought it might have been over-pruned. Last fall we did not prune it and now it still hasn’t bloomed. I was hoping to transplant it this year, but it looks rather sickly. Shall we prune it again and give it another year? Can I still transplant it?

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