DEAR JOAN: Is there a telephone number I can use to report dead birds found in my yard? Occasionally I will see a sick one or dead one. Several years go I know that the county wanted to pick them up to test for disease.
DEAR NICK: The California Department of Health has a toll-free number for reporting dead birds, 877-WNV-BIRD (877-968-2473). You also can report it on the website, http://westnile.ca.gov.
The state uses the information to track the disease and direct mosquito abatement efforts. We've had more than 1,600 confirmed cases this year.
If you find a bird, call the hotline. You'll be directed to double-bag the bird and leave it for pickup and testing, or to dispose of it in the garbage.
DEAR JOAN: I have always wondered what happens to all the birds during a big storm. As Hurricane Sandy was approaching -- and it was huge -- did the birds sense it and try to leave the area? How do they stay safe?
DEAR URSULA: Fortunately, birds don't need Al Roker and the Weather Channel to warn them that a storm is approaching. Most of them are sensitive to changes in the barometric pressure and can take steps to protect themselves.
Some of the birds will high-tail it to calmer places. Others hunker down to ride out the storm.
Birds that nest in hollow trees, such as woodpeckers and owls, will shelter in trees, which in the case of Sandy wasn't very safe. Birds will seek refuge where they can, although some will perch on branches and weather the high winds and rain. A bird's feet automatically grip the branch when they land, so it's much easier for them to hang on than it would be for us.
Birds that do get swept into the hurricane can survive if they make it into the eye of the storm. They become trapped there, flying around and waiting for the winds to die out enough that they can safely escape. These birds can get taken miles and miles away from their native range, making bird-watching particularly interesting for a while.
Hurricanes can be particularly damaging to the bird population, not only by killing a good many, but by displacing them and destroying their food supply.
DEAR JOAN: I am sitting at my computer in front of the window at the front of my house. There are birch trees right outside the window.
I have a little sparrow-size bird with a bright red patch on the top of his head and he keeps coming to the window and sitting on the sill.
He is not flying at the window as if to attack his "enemy"; he just sits there and looks in. Do you know what kind of bird this is and why he keeps doing this? It has gone on for at least 15 or 20 minutes. He's very cute. Oops, he's there again, but this time the red spot is standing straight up.
DEAR JUDIE: After consulting a bird enthusiast, we think your visitor is a ruby-crowned kinglet, a frequent cool-weather visitor to the Bay Area this time of year.
The bird sees his own reflection in the window and is displaying his red crest to show that other bird who's boss around these parts.
If you're interested in keeping the bird around for a while, try putting out some suet or Bark Butter, which you can pick up at Wild Birds Unlimited. The bird-watcher I spoke to says the kinglets as well as warblers, robins, thrashers, tanagers and orioles go nuts for the butter.
Contact Joan Morris at email@example.com; or P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.