May 21, 2013
Written by Jack Sanders
Thursday, 05 June 2008 22:24
Ellen Elias of South Salem, N.Y., is having a problem with “the very large black birds. No matter what I put in the bird feeder they will come and in a matter of hours empty the entire feeder and scare off most of the other birds. I have tried to not fill the feeder for several weeks hoping that they would find another food source but to no avail. Would you have a remedy to this problem?”
It sounds as if grackles have discovered Ellen’s feeder. The only way I know of to deal with problems like this is to use a feeder with no platform or a very small platform so that the grackle, the Mourning Dove — or whatever large bird is considered a pest — can’t get a footing.
Some of these feeders are simple and some a bit more elaborate. For example, Duncraft (www. duncraft. com) makes what it calls the “Squirrel Buster Plus,” which it claims is not only Gray and Red Squirrel-proof, but also “grackle, starling and pigeon proof.”
This feeder has a weight-sensitive metal ‘skirt’ that drops down with the weight of squirrels or large birds. “Access to the seed is denied,” Duncraft says, “but the smaller birds you want can feed easily — plenty of perching room for cardinals included.” Perch lengths can be adjusted, too.
The 28-inch tall feeder is even dishwasher-safe. It holds about 5-1/2 pounds of seed.
The feeder is not inexpensive. The retail price is around $80. However, with the price of good bird seed at all-time highs (more about that next week), it could easily pay for itself if you don’t want large birds pigging out at your feeding station.
There are less expensive alternatives, too. A good feeder supply store can advise you on the best type.
Ellen is “very much of a hummingbird aficionado” and offers some information and suggestions on feeding them to supplement what we offered in a recent column.
“As far as making the ‘nectar,’” she writes, “I actually make a big batch in advance as follows: Boil water (this retards spoilage). Measure exactly four cups of boiling water, and then put the one cup of sugar in. Mix to dissolve sugar, cool, keep in fridge, and use as needed.
“I must note that it is very important to measure the water first and then put in the sugar. The hummingbirds are extremely sensitive as well as picky and will not come if you are not replicating the natural nectar flavor.”
Ellen warns that “in warm/hot weather, it is imperative to change the nectar at least every other day. The heat will cause the mixture to turn sour, and then the hummers will abandon the feeder.
“This is just some of my experience over the past 10 years,” she adds. “I have been extremely successful and often have two to three hummers on the feeder at once.”
Gloria A. Stearns of Ridgefield had a leucistic House Finch stop by. “This morning, at my feeder, I saw what appeared to be an albino House Finch. Its head had the telltale reddish coloring, but its body and wings were predominantly white, with just an occasional colored tipped feather mixed in. It was truly strange. It remained for about 15 minutes eating and seeking protection in my crabapple tree in front of my kitchen window. I was also delighted by the arrival of three orioles, flittering back and forth to the feeder. This to me is strange since I do not have nyjer seed in my feed. And they, too, sought protection in the crabapple tree.”
Joan Cullman of Redding watched in amazement recently as a hawk-like bird attacked a songbird that had been drawn to her feeder. She thought the raptor looked like a Prairie Falcon, but those are western birds, very rarely found in the East. More likely, it was either a Cooper’s Hawk or a Sharp-Shinned Hawk, both fairly common “bird hawks.”
Annual Bird Count, a two-day survey, “a wonderful way to get out with experienced birders, June 7 and 8, Audubon Greenwich, 613 Riversville Road, Greenwich, sign up at 203-869-5272 x230.
Bird Nests and Families, for all ages, Saturday, June 14, 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., Audubon Greenwich, 613 Riversville Road, Greenwich, sign up at 203-869-5272 x239.
Brunch and Birding, on Connecticut River aboard RiverQuest, Sunday, June 29, 9 to noon, from Essex, $65, Connecticut Audubon, 860-767-0660
Bird walks, first Saturday at 7:45 a.m., free, meet at Wild Bird Center of Norwalk, 335 Westport Avenue (Route 1), www. wildbird. com/ Norwalk, 203-846-BIRD.
Copyright (c) 2008 by Jack Sanders. Send sightings or comments to: jackfsanders [at sign] yahoo.com, or to Bird Notes, Box 1019, Ridgefield, CT 06877; or call 203-438-1183, extension BIRD (2473), and leave a message with your report, spelling your first and last names and telling us your town. If you need help identifying a bird, try your local nature center. If you find an injured bird, call wildlife rehabilitator Darlene Wimbrow of Redding, 203-438-0618, Wildlife in Crisis of Weston, 203-544-9913, or Wild Wings of Greenwich, 203-637-9822. The columnist’s website is www. sandersbooks. com.
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