Blame the Bird Seed: Being a bird watcher since early childhood wild birds are what cheers my day !.

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Blame the Bird Seed

By Chillybean
September 21, 2015

Feeding the birds brings much to our lives. We see and learn from these beauties in a way we wouldn't otherwise. This joy may create some unexpected yard work.

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Name: Arturo Tarak
Bariloche, Rio Negro, Argentin
hampartsum
Sep 21, 2015 7:42 AM CST
Hello Kim, a second concern as a conservationist is whether when feeding birds beyond what their natural populations would have been, if no kind hearted gardeners like us overfed some species unwantingly, in detriment of others. Mourning doves are quite generalists and if populations build up beyond a certain size they may become a serious nuissance, in spite of being native. In central Argentina, where corn is grown extensively, they feed on fallow land picking up left over kernels thus reaching abnormal population sizes to the point that the sky is blackened when they are frightened off their roosts. By the way,doves have large gizzards with which they grind whole kernels aided with small pebbles that they pick up on gravel roads. Not all species behave the same way in contact with civilized humans. Some have found that it is to their benefit so they tend to live closer to us. When the population of generalists are increased then the more specialized insectivores find that their food source has also diminished. My comment is just food for thought. It is always very difficult to find the happy mean. Arturo
Name: Lin
Florida (Zone 9b)
Region: United States of America Morning Glories Region: Florida Houseplants Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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plantladylin
Sep 21, 2015 8:58 AM CST
Hi Kim,

I enjoyed your informative article! I've been feeding the backyard songbirds in my area for many years; I love watching them visit the feeders and I really enjoy photographing birds of all kinds! I've had beautiful sunflowers gifted to me by birds or other animals dropping the seeds (as well as more than my share of weedy plants Green Grin! ) but it's all well worth it in my opinion!

I've read that many experts disagree on whether or not it's a good thing to feed birds but I do it almost year round. It seems to me that bird populations may naturally regulate themselves from year to year. At least in my experience, some years the Jays and Doves are numerous while in other years there are abundant populations of Cardinals and Brown Thrashers or some other types of birds ... it seems to go in cycles.

There are many different birds that visit the feeders in my garden but there are times when not one single bird shows up for extended periods. During those times I wonder if perhaps there are plants around the area producing foods that the birds prefer, giving them a varied diet. That is a good thing but I still like to put out seed, nuts and berries to supplement their diet in case they are not finding adequate sustenance.

Sometimes, feeding backyard songbirds will attract Hawks and Kites, as well as other predators like snakes that take advantage of the situation but that's all a part of nature and the raptors and other predators have to eat too. Some of the songbirds do become easy targets but for the most part, birds have warning systems that alert each other when a predator is in their midst.

The birds in my neighborhood have a wide variety of foods in their diet, from seeds and fruits produced by plants in the landscape, to insects ... as well as the backyard feeders.
~ Eat, Sleep .... Play in the dirt ~
Name: Kim
Iowa (Zone 5a)
I kill ornamentals... on purpose.
Enjoys or suffers cold winters Spiders! Critters Allowed Birds Houseplants I helped beta test the first seed swap
Region: Nebraska Keeper of Poultry Rabbit Keeper Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Procrastinator Garden Ideas: Level 2
Chillybean
Sep 21, 2015 10:52 AM CST
Thank you both for your comments. I understand your concerns, hampartsum, and in our situation we have the space to plant an abundance of natives to feed birds and other wildlife. I didn't write about that since the concept has been covered here already.

We are out in the country, so our experiences may be different from many. About the Mourning Doves specifically, they disappear in the winter. In the feeding area, we've had no more than a handful at one time and even then, some maintain a pecking order. In the breeding season, they keep themselves in check by not allowing too many to come into the yard. Until this spring, I never noticed how unpeaceful those Mourning Doves really are.

I cannot say how our feeding has changed things, since I do not have a lot to compare against. Our family started feeding birds in 2008 because it was an activity in a children's science lesson. From that we built different feeders and increased variety of foods. Maybe the last year or so, we've had fewer birds come to the feeders. I know they are around because I hear them.

The thing that increased our bird numbers and variety really had nothing to do with filling bird feeders. It was when we stopped having the pasture mowed for hay. I could really go on and on about the blessing that has been, but it's not gardening related. Well sort of, since we are now working at seeding sections of it with native plants and cutting down weed trees.

Plantladylin,
We learned early on about the feeders attracting hawks. We used to run out and chase them off... kind of silly, but I so wanted to protect our feeder birds. Now we leave them alone. It helped when we had a Cooper's hawk take a rat that was attracted to a squirrel feeder. And yes, there is a balance.

It is now only because we have chickens that we are more mindful of the hawks. We won't do anything to them. It's our responsibility to protect the chickens and if a hungry hawk gets any, it is not the hawk's fault. When our new chicken house is built, we will make a run that will be covered with wire or fencing that should protect them from any overhead predators.

The Jays have been good about alerting us and also this Cooper's seems to have a schedule. We've only seen it around in the early morning. I was out one morning watching the Cooper's watching our yard. A flock of Blackbirds flew overhead, which caught the raptor's eyes and it followed after them. :)

Name: KadieD
Oceania, Mariana Islands (Zone 11b)
Wet Tropical AHS Zone 12
Adeniums Tropicals Morning Glories Container Gardener Seed Starter Garden Ideas: Level 1
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Rainbow
Sep 21, 2015 12:14 PM CST
Hi Kim,

Whenever I see or hear a bird on our property it makes me happy. Our bird population has been dwindling to the point where one endemic species is now extinct. Scientists have rescued other endemic birds from extinction by gathering them and sending them to zoo's world-wide to allow for breeding in healthy and safe conditions. There are three species only (according to the literature) that are currently still wild. What happened? Brown tree snakes!!

Sometime during WWII the snakes were unintentionally introduced here by way of cargo. The birds had no defense against them. They raided nests and ate eggs as well as the smaller adult birds. The government has done everything it could possibly do to control the snakes, but our jungle growth on the island are their habitat. There are literally thousands on island.

So...now I am thinking about building bird feeders to help in conservation. But, alas, I am hesitant to do so for fear of attracting the snakes out of the jungle. Our property is bordered by jungle on one side. And yes, they do visit us at home sometimes during the night. <shudder>

Any thoughts on how I could do my part in saving our birds?
Name: Kim
Iowa (Zone 5a)
I kill ornamentals... on purpose.
Enjoys or suffers cold winters Spiders! Critters Allowed Birds Houseplants I helped beta test the first seed swap
Region: Nebraska Keeper of Poultry Rabbit Keeper Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Procrastinator Garden Ideas: Level 2
Chillybean
Sep 21, 2015 6:16 PM CST
Oh, that is horrible. I too would hesitate about feeding birds in that situation. Are there any conservation groups working in your direct area? Maybe volunteer your time with them? This is something we would like to have more time to do. We were once a go-between getting a hawk to the rehabilitator. We also provide food for the rehabber. They are always looking for donations, even if it is not monetary.

One thing I read people were studying is finding a virus specific to that snake. I'd almost be afraid it would somehow mutate and cause more damage. Nature is so fragile, yet in some ways, it is also strong and can bounce back, if given the chance.
Name: kitty T
columbia sc (Zone 7a)
Dog Lover
goodgirl61
Sep 22, 2015 10:54 AM CST
I want to tell you what happened to my sister . She was in her backyard and she saw a hawk coming really close to her head . She was working with a shovel and she got scared and she stuck the shovel straight up in the air to scare the hawk away from her head and accidently hit the hawk and he dropped something in his claws . In his claws was a parkeet . His wing was broken so my sister not knowing if the keet would bite her or not picked him up with said shovel and took him into her screened in back porch and began to see if she could put some kind of split on his wing and she did . She put the keet in a small dog crate and boy when keet got to feeling better was mad as a wet hen . Sister ended up keeping keet and bought him a cage and everything seems like the hawk had just broken his wing and that was all that was wrong with him . Keet lived with my sister for almost 12 yrs before he went to birdie heaven .
Name: Lin
Florida (Zone 9b)
Region: United States of America Morning Glories Region: Florida Houseplants Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Procrastinator Birds Butterflies Bee Lover Hummingbirder Container Gardener
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plantladylin
Sep 22, 2015 1:06 PM CST
Kitty, that is such a sweet story! Kudo's to your sister for rescuing that little Parakeet!
~ Eat, Sleep .... Play in the dirt ~

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