Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Feeder Birds Drama


They won’t let me near them anymore. I don’t know why. There seems to be a quiet conspiracy against me from a message that was contained in the feeder birds’ e-mail inbox, and I wasn't included on the distribution list.


Why are they anti-social?

They are served an assortment of meals and I tend to them every day. Feeding a hundred birds is a labor of love for crying out loud! Maybe I expect too much in return? Heck. I’m not asking for much. Just a few photos, is all.

Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s my fault for pushing it and wanting daylight after dinner. I think this is true.

I used to be able to walk out onto the deck with my camera and zoom in on their action and they didn’t care much. Not anymore. As soon as I step into the sunroom, they flee. All of them. Carol, don’t be disillusioned by this rant – feeder birds are very cool!


They've turned their backs on me.




My personal flock of Carolina Chickadees tease me.

See the irritation on her face? HA! I know she's only curious...

So, I have resorted to standing in my garden tub to get photos through the window while the evening shadows darken the view.


I didn’t know that Red-Bellied Woodpeckers were ground feeders, too. I recognize their greeting call before they dive-bomb the suet feeder – so swiftly – with a precision landing every time.


Often, the Downy lands low and climbs to the feeder of its choice. They seem to be more persistent than the Red-Bellieds.

Zick Dough has created pandemonium when I serve it! Doves and Finches leave it alone while all others thrive on it. And, I’m still waiting for Eastern Bluebirds! They've been here before so I expect them to return.


It’s a wonderful treat to see nice birds with manners enjoying the Zick Dough and worms.

Another dark side of this drama is the arrival of European Starlings, who have open fields of non-frozen ground to graze, but instead


they arrive with their annoying squeals and cat-calls, fighting with each other - spiraling, pecking, and screaming,


and bullying the Nuthatches, Titmice, Chickadees, Cardinals, and Wrens away from the Zick Dough until I can’t freaking stand it anymore!


I see them from my kitchen window, drop what I’m doing, and charge through the door. They eat with such intensity that the Zick Dough flies from the dish and cup – both soon to be empty, before dark.


The Mockingbirds can’t stand it, either.

And it gets worse, folks. More drama.


I can’t even stand to show the face of this bird. For three weeks, I’ve been stewing about a newcomer.


The House Sparrows have arrived. Two pairs. They like it here and they are not shy. Two pairs turn into twenty. Ironically, I’ve targeted two great places for nesting boxes to erect next month. I'm so disappointed.

I don’t know what to do about this. Perhaps I should just continue to feed the birds, turn around, and walk back inside the house without looking back. Another option is to shut down the feeders for a few months in the spring. Developing skills with a sling shot or BB gun came to my mind, but instead, I think I’ll let nature go alone without me and fight its own battles while


I dream of better months ahead.


Ruth said...

I think I counted 9 lovely birds and 2 pests. If I had only 2 pair of house sparrows, I would be pleased. I have a flock! Starlings are just starting to return. They come in mid-winter to scout and steal the best nesting locations.

entoto said...

How many species is that? mid-winter I think I get five maximum. You are pretty lucky, there.

Q said...

Dear Mary,
The birds love you! You care for them and tend to their every need.
They just do not understand photography!
So many lovely birds at your feeders. Maybe Coop will come and take out a few Starlings or House Sparrows. I have a new hawk hunting in my back yard, Sharp-shinned came yesterday and I saw him get a House Sparrow!
When I see the 50 House Sparrows I just think, "great Hawk food!"
Carolina Wren is so very cute! As is Tufted! Oh my!
It is snowing at my house. I will sweep snow tomorrow and chip off ice and keep the feeders full. It is what we do. We love the birds.

thailandchani said...

That red bird is really gorgeous! What a pretty color of red! Did I just miss it and you told us what kind of bird that is?

Anonymous said...

We all have days like this with the birds! Glad I am not the only one!

Mary said...

Chani, the bright red bird is a male Cardinal and the photo above it - the bird with a more subdued shade and brownish back is female. There are about twelve pairs that visit every day. Very nice birds.

Carol Michel said...

Mary, I won't give up feeding the birds, I promise. I did notice today that birds are much more difficult to photograph than flowers. Flower don't fly away when you get near them. ;-O

Your birds are just going through a phase, but I have no good advice to offer on how to get them to cooperate again. Hey, I know, put out cheap seed, that will show them who's boss. I've got some I can send you!

Carol, May Dreams Gardens

Unknown said...

Ah Mary at least you have birds. Mine seem to have gone off somewhere. I have very few right now. I think it is because we don't have snow and they are finding food elsewhere.

don't worry those starlings will be here come spring.

Marvin said...

Sounds like a vast avian conspiracy to me.

Susan Gets Native said...

Well, you know me, girl. A good HOSP is a dead HOSP. You could trap them and donate them to your local raptor rescue. That's the only good use they have in this country.
But I digress.....

Alyssa said...

Well Mary, sometimes you do just have to let Nature take her course. The same type of pesky invasions happen at our feeders and eventually the thugs move on to greener pastures. Maybe keep the worms and dough out of the feeders for a while - don't set such a nice table for them....
By the way, Mozart kept a starling in a cage in his music room because he loved the sounds they made. Maybe they can inspire you to create something too ???

Annie in Austin said...

I can't help but wonder exactly why the birds are being uncooperative with you, Mary - is is something about winter itself that makes them so skittish? The long shadows? The lack of leaves for cover?

Maybe you're so cold that you're wearing clothes that are more visible to bird vision?

Better luck next time!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Hi Mary, I am with Sherry in thinking that you probably have a predator working your smorgasboard, err I mean bird feeders. They are thrilled about your helping them through the winter months I am sure. They just have to be careful not to end up as the feed rather than the feeders.

Jayne said...

Mary, I'd just put out some safflower seed only for a week or so and see if they will skedattle. I would not encourage the starlings with the magic powers of Zick dough. ;c) You'll never be rid of them.

The Quacks of Life said...

House Spadgers!! Lovely birds got bags of personality. You are sssooo lucky they are struggling over here.

You can hardly blame them and the starlings. Some idiot released them and they thought 'right stuff you "yanks" we're taking over'. Consider i paybacks for McDonalds, The Grey Squirrel and Dubya

During the war the common complaint about US GI's was "Overpaid, oversexed and overhere" Well now the humble spadger is "Overfed, oversexed and over there"!!

Inspiration for the next blog post! Thanks

Naturegirl said...

Mary you are blessed in having so many species of birds come to your feeders to enjoy! I only have about 3-4 that regularly come. I even broke my darn ankle getting seed for the visitors and yet I never have the variety that you show us daily!!
Mary I didn't hear (((BBgun)))coming from your lips!!! Must I wash your mouth with soap!! Let them solve their own sqabbles.It is always a delight to come by and see your birds!hugs NG

smilnsigh said...

Are you feeling better?


Anonymous said...

Mary, I knew nothing about starlings before now. It's interesting that the starlings look as aggressive as you describe their feeding behavior.

Mary said...

Ruth, I have a wonderful variety of birds but unfortunately, the Starlings are year-round residents here.

Trixie, I haven't counted...quite a few!

Sherry, the Cooper's hawk must be off course. Not here lately...

Monarch, Starlings? House Sparrows? I hope not.

Carol - I know, I know. It's the season and another phase but House Sparrows are ruining my plans!

Toni, actually, I don't think my birds have ever left but they do disappear for a few hours every day for a nice rest.

Marvin, LOL! Makes me wonder...

Susan, I'd love to feed the raptors but I gotta trap them first!

Alyssa, you are right. There is a nice variety of food out there. I might need to discontinue the gourmet for a while. All for a few birds. Just ain't fair.

Annie, I wear forest green but my blonde hair is a problem. I'm either going to darken it or wear a hat. I do look like a lightbulb out there!

Lisa, the birds are so good... Predators aren't a problem. It's the HOSP and Starlings.

Jayne, I had Starlings last spring and they loved the safflower! They want suet and nuts. I may pull them off the menu. But what will the nuthatches have?

Pete, during my post, I did not once mention origins, war, or our military. Nor did I crack on nations and their people. I spoke wrote about my own dislike of two particular bird species that have earned a bad reputation. I consider your comment to be an unappreciated slur.

Anna, I hope your are doing well. I'll be sliding on ice to feed the birds this afternoon. Wish me luck!

Nikkipolani, Starlings and House Sparrows were introduced to the States in the 1800s. Aggressive birds by nature, they kill for nesting locations.

For those of you who are unaware of what a House Sparrow can do to Eastern Bluebirds, Wrens, and Purple Martins, copy and paste this link:

They decapitate and mutilate adults, eggs, and fledglings. If I were skilled in using sling shots or bb guns, would I use them? Yes sir, I would. I'm a compassionate person but choose to lend my compassion to kind birds to need a refuge from these birds from hell.

Mari-Nanci - I feel SO much better! As of Monday, I'm back in business :o) Thanks for asking.

Mary said...

I don't think the link above worked. Try this.

The Quacks of Life said...

mary you didn't mention it. i just thought it was a "witty" comment. changing overpaid to overfed etc.

my point was that it isn't the birds fault. it is just trying to survive to the best of its ability in a strange land.

Mary said...

Pete, you are right. It's not the birds' fault. But they are a problem in more ways than I mentioned.

The Quacks of Life said...

so i believe. they are outcompeting native birds for nest sites.

curiously they and the starling are suffering steep declines over here and the Sparrow is on the "red list".

the question is how do you get rid of them? Since i suspect you can't you end up having to accept that nature will have to find a way to achieve a new balance. although i suspect it is one you won't like.

goes to show we shouldn't meddle.

I really am sorry my comment offended. I can't understand why but I am sorry it did.

Mary said...

Pete - not to worry. There are other birds in the countries that are problematic. These two, in particular, cause problems right outside my back door which makes me a little annoyed already?

No harm done.

Shirley said...

Hi there, Mary :-)

Pleased to meet you at last! I too have many birds visiting my small Scottish garden.

Ah... the European Starling! Yep they are loud, bossy and disperse all the other birds at the feeders. But you will be absolutely delighted that they too can have a hard time at the feeders :-D

Last year, for the first time, we noticed what only looked like fluffy grey ducklings visit our garden. We initially were delighted to see them ... then we heard the noise they made! Then we saw the poor frantic (and had to be exhausted) parents feed them. They were starling juveniles who were the biggest pests yet that we have seen at the feeders. Even standing on food they demanded to be fed - take a look at my video!

So, Mary as you look out on these birds now you should give a wry smile knowing they more than meet their match come the spring :-D

BTW I loved seeing the other birds that visit your garden - great photos and great post :-D

JeanMac said...

Mary, recently all my birds left for several days - they have returned - wondered if cats or hawks around.

Chrissie said...

Mary I do understand how you feel, I put food out everyday for the birds before I go to work and the bird table is empty when I come home. I rarely get to take any photos and they fly away the moment they see me. I suspect crows and gulls take the larger chunks and so I whizz things up now in a blender :-) They don't seem to bother about little bits. Don't stop feeding your birds, I would guess in spring they will need good sources of food for their young. Just outwit the birds you don't want in your garden :-) Great photos!

TR Ryan said...

Mary -- sounds like you are in the proverbial purple-martin house with your flock there. The only thing missing is a big fat, glossy grackle. Oh, I do not wish that on you.

I am still in Hawaii with an overabundance of invasive species shrieking in my ear: javanese mynah birds, gray francolins, zebra doves, yellow-billed and Brazilian cardinals -- I have a mini- United Nations of bad birds. So I celebrate our pests - your house sparrows and starlings and these here that belong in a cage or on a plate for dinner.

TR Ryan said...

fantastic photos by the way and stupendous post -- you gave me a huge smile this morning!!!

Mary said...

TR - LOL! Hey, I had both the big, fat, glossy grackles and nasty starlings last spring! And a flock of pigeons. All were visiting at the same time. Pesty birds on dinner plates? No thanks :o) Enjoy Hawaii.

NatureWoman said...

I still love your photos even though the bewds are being evasive so you have to resort to your bathtub!
P.S. Are you watching American Idol this year?

Mary said...

Pam, AI - yes! I was bored with it last year but I'm giving this new year a chance and I'm still in love with Simon :o) I want to see someone knock me over with talent and I haven't felt that since Taylor Hicks, who, by the way, got cut from his recording deal :o(

nina at Nature Remains. said...

I'm lucky to have not seen house sparrows feeding at my feeders--it's my first year for cowbirds at them, though.
My philosophy: boost the feeding and nesting possibilities of those you love and HOPE they thrive.

I've found my platform feeder is a great way to put out food scraps--and hopefully I'll attract something more unusual?
They sure are gathering 'round to take a look!

Robin's Nesting Place said...

Mary, you do understand don't you! Starlings love peanut butter and they are going crazy over it here and as you saw in my post they are arriving by the hundreds. It is so frustrating! I have LOTS of house sparrows too. I think that is one of the reasons why I'm not attracting other more desirable birds to my feeders.

I've thought about removing the feeders for a while too, unless there is snow. In fact I might just do that tomorrow. You still have a great variety of birds there, so I don't think you should take those measures yet.

I'm so envious of your cardinal activity. I've only seen one pair here.

Anonymous said...

I love all your photos. You get a lot closer than I can get in the wintertime. During spring, I can sit outside for a few days and the birds get used to me but in the winter I have to photograph from inside. Great picture of the Carolina Wren.

I have never seen House finches and house sparrows. They are in the suburbs--not in the woods where I live. Also, starlings come around here only in gigantic flocks. I let the dog out to scare them away.

Kathie Brown said...

Mary, so many nice photos! I don't know which I like best! I liked reading about driving in the snow with your Dad. I've been distracted from Blogging also due to trying to enter data into eBird. I just started last week but have years of data to enter (if I can find it all!) It easily becomes obsessive. Now I can't drive to the store without counting birds!

dguzman said...

Oh Mary, I'm also getting house sparrows for the first time at The Marsh House. I just leave them because they're always mixed in with the sparrows and other birds, so I don't want to try to scare everyone off. Grrr.

Anonymous said...

i can't believe the wealth of bird life coming to your feeders, nature is full of drama you have to let it run it's course
john dunstan