Wednesday, March 19, 2014

That Meddlesome Crowd is Back...

All winter long I set out good seed for the birds. There are cardinals, blue jays, two different kinds of woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, wrens, gold finches, sparrows, and nut hatches. There are a few others that come in, too, but I have not positively identified them. These are the birds that live year 'round at Spiritcreek farm. They tough it out along with the dogs, horses, chickens and me.

I buy excellent quality bird seed from a delightful little shop in Topeka, The Wild Bird House. The more I feed the birds, the more birds come to feed, so by this time of year, I am hauling home 25 pound bags of bird seed along with oats, dog food and chicken feed. I don't mind it because nothing in this life takes the place of bird song in the morning. All is well until the bad guys arrive - the red winged black birds, and their quarrelsome kin. Of course, they aren't really bad, but they live in flocks. They return from their winter vacation homes understandably tired and hungry. The problem is they descend on the feeders and literally empty them. There are only a few seeds left for the others.

Maybe it is not a bad thing. The arrival of the black birds corresponds roughly to the arrival of warm weather. As soon as it begins to warm up, the male song birds, (who live peacefully all winter sharing the food and space with their own kind and all others), begin to scuffle and chase one another. Love does not necessarily engender peace.

It is distressing to see the scores of black birds covering the little red bud trees where the feeders hang, waiting for their "free" food. We need red winged black birds to help control the insect population but oh my gosh, they are like a swarm, a plague, a twister consuming everything in just a few minutes! At the end of the day, I see the industrious little juncos and a few cardinals searching the ground for any left over seeds, and I feel sorry for them. Soon enough, the black birds will have spread out over the prairie to begin nesting. Then there will not be a huge flock of them decimating the seed supply intended for the song birds.

I guess I can spare a few extra bucks for the black birds, too.  I love to see the little males with their distinctive red and yellow shoulder patches, sitting on the fence wires in the summer as much as I enjoy seeing the cardinals in the snow.  It's all good.

http://www.wild-bird-house.com/

4 comments:

Don said...

I might trade you some of these Common Grackles that have finally migrated North from Texas. Noisy and great moochers. Not only do they invade my feeders and empty them, they watch a Robin pull a worm out of the ground, then pounce down and steal the worm.

I found this (http://www.birdwatchingdaily.com/getting-started/coping-with-grackles/) on how to "deal with these poachers", but by the time I do all that I may as well take the damn feeders down. Course we all know what happens when you stop feeding - the birds go away - that kind of sounds like something else, but I won't go there.

Jackie said...

Well, there's a flock of grackles in with the black birds here, too. Surely they won't be here too much longer...

Kathy said...

We get annual giant flocks of Evening Grosbeaks, who descend in hordes like your blackbirds. They are quite flashy with their bright yellow, black and white feather scheme, but the biggest effect is noise. The birds at the tops of the trees yak and squawk and seemingly, bicker. We call the 'New Yorker Birds' because they remind us of our West Coast interpretation of the sound of large groups of New Yorkers twawking.

It is lovely to see the birds returning. We have many of the same birds overwintering, as you have. But now the goldfinches, varied thrushes and others show up and the song of birds is in the morning air. I really miss that over winter.

Jackie said...

I'll take the quarrelsome, devouring hoards of black birds if it means it is spring. I got might tired of winter this year...