I seem to have a growing collection of bird feeders. Some women can’t stop buying shoes. I can’t stop buying bird feeders. Just when I think I’ve got the yard set up perfectly, some bird dynamic changes, I look for a solution and there I am buying another bird feeder!
The problem I was having was a real pain . . . or a non-problem depending on your point of view. While all birds have their good and bad qualities (as seen by humans), I have mixed feelings about Common Grackles. While I think their feathers can be very beautiful in the sunlight and they are quite clever, their manners at the bird feeders don’t endear themselves to me. They tend to arrive in groups and if they like what they find in a feeder, they’ll hang around all day, dominating the feeders quite aggressively, not letting other birds have a chance.
I only have grackle issues periodically, mostly in the spring when they are moving in really large groups. But this year, a small group of them settled into our neighborhood, decided they liked my feeders and didn’t move on. With a crowd of grackles on the feeders, I was hardly seeing the Carolina Chickadees, White-Breasted Nuthatches and Tufted Titmouses that have been yard regulars for years. Even the finches and sparrows were getting scarce. What to do?
There is something very special about watching a new day begin. From quiet darkness, to the first early chirps, to the first few winged visitors, building to the busy activity of dozens, the local birds are a big part of the start of each new day. If you pay attention, you are likely to see patterns in the bird activity in your yard. Every yard is different and every day is different, but this is the pattern I see on a typical winter morning in my yard.
This spring we’ve had a small but very tenacious group of Common Grackles in the yard. They were first dominating the Squirrel Buster Plus feeders, full of sunflower hearts, driving away the smaller birds. Grackles need to eat too of course, but with grackles, the first day you’ll have one. The next day there will be two. Succeeding days will bring three then five then seven . . . So a change was in order.
When you feed birds in a big way year-round like I do, you find that there is no perfect year-round arrangement of bird feeders because the bird population in the yard is not stagnant. Some birds seem to stick around with a fairly predictable daily schedule. Others are only here for a season and then migrate out again. Some stop by for a day or two and move on. And yet more discover the bird feeder buffet and become new regulars. Some changes in the bird population don’t make a big impact, while others change the whole dynamic of the yard and I find myself moving feeders around again to find the perfect setup for the new situation.
In the past year, as my bird-watching passion has grown, I’ve purchased quite a few bird feeders. You don’t have to have a zillion feeders of course, but I have found that having a variety of feeders can increase both the variety and the number of birds that come to visit and that’s what makes it fun! Some of the feeders have been clear winners from the start. Others have needed some tweaking to make them work for the birds in my yard. If you have considered purchasing a hanging platform bird feeder, read on!
Location, Location, Location. This is as true when it comes to bird feeders as it is to the restaurants we humans like to visit. You can have a really great, well-designed bird feeder with fresh appealing food in it and get no or very few birds if the location is wrong. I’ve found that finding the right spot can make all the difference. Here is what I’ve learned about where to place suet feeders. It may just give you some ideas on where to place your own!
One thing I’ve learned watching birds in my backyard is that there is all kinds of activity going on in the yard that I never see. Today, about five-thirty, it was getting dark and I just happened to glance out the front window and realized that it was full of American Robins. I counted twenty-four, although there might have been more in the darkening yard. They were all spread out over the whole front yard doing their quick scurry, pause and listen, scurry again dance, turning over leaves and excavating here and there, looking for choice insects.