Ask the Expert

Wisconsin State Farmer
Oriental bittersweet was introduced to the United States from China as an ornamental around 1860 and is now an invasive species.

Q: How can I keep house sparrows out of my bird feeders?

A: Though more expensive, feeding safflower instead of mixed bird seed is effective at keeping most pest birds away. Yet cardinals and other desirable birds love it. Another option is to feed strictly nyger or thistle seed using cloth or mesh feeders. House sparrows tend to avoid sock style feeders.

Q: What do turkeys survive on in winter?

A: Turkeys are very opportunistic feeders and have a wealth of food sources available during winter. There is plenty of wasted grain left over in the agricultural fields for them. In woodlands, they will scratch beneath even deep snows to find acorns and other mast items on the forest floor. They readily come to backyard bird feeders where they love corn and other seed.

Q: I see several bluebirds coming out of my nest box every morning. Are they still nesting?

A: What you are likely seeing is the amazing way in which bluebirds stay warm and dry during cold snaps or rainy weather. Many bluebirds will cram themselves into one nest box for warmth on cold or rainy nights. I've seen examples of up to 20 bluebirds packed into one nest box and departing in the morning. Chickadees will also do this.

Q: What are the orange berries I'm seeing everywhere in the woods?

A: Likely, you are seeing bittersweet and fruit. There are native bittersweet plants, as well as invasive or non-native varieties. The berries are also beautiful as the orange outer layer splits back to reveal a deeper red heart.

Q: I've read that burning bush is considered invasive. Is this true? I love mine.

A: Many varieties of burning bush are now considered invasive in Wisconsin and restricted by the Department of Natural Resources. For more specifics, visit the invasive species section of the DNR website.

Keep in mind that the restricted status does not mean that you cannot have the plants in your yard or garden. It is simply a caution and warning to garden centers and landscapers as to which varieties they can sell. As with many varieties of trees and shrubs these days, there are dozens, if not hundreds of cultivars out there, some of which can be sold and some of which cannot. Of course, eliminating as many invasive plants from the landscape as possible should always be in our best interest.