June 19, 2013
Written by Jack Sanders
Thursday, 07 August 2008 10:34
“I have been living in Weston since June 14th and I can’t seem to get any birds to my feeder,” she writes. “The two-acre parcel is completely cleared but there are trees (hemlocks, cedars and hickories mostly) around the perimeter. Troutbrook Valley (a preserve) is just a stone’s throw away.
“I have seen Red-bellied Woodpeckers, nuthatches, goldfinches, and Chipping Sparrows in the trees. Robins were abundant in June. Now, the only birds I see are crows and even these don’t come to the feeder. They did eat black oil sunflower seeds when I threw the seed on the ground.
“I have hypothesized that perhaps there is not enough cover, or too much available food or maybe the crows are a threat. I had tons of birds at my other house and I miss them. Can you help?”
Kerri poses an interesting question with many possible answers. Let’s run through some.
1. It can take birds a while to find and become comfortable with a new feeder where one has never existed before. Once it is “discovered,” word usually gets out quickly — other birds see the discoverers chowing down.
2. Yes, cover is very important. Most small birds do not like to fly much distance to a food source like a feeder — they don’t want to be exposed to attackers like Sharp-shinned or Cooper’s Hawks. They like to be able to watch the feeder from a nearby protected spot, such as a shrub. Low evergreens, like rhododendrons, are ideal because their leaves provide year-round cover.
3. Speaking of hawks, their presence can quickly clear an area of its songbirds, especially if the hawks were nesting close by. This is unlikely, but possible.
4. Cover also provides food, such as berries and the insects that visit flowers and leaves. Despite how popular our feeders may seem, birds still obtain the vast majority of their food from the wild. Having food sources in your yard attracts birds. A yard without a good variety of bird-friendly plantings will be a sterile yard.
5. In that connection, lawns treated with weed and insect killers are, from a songbird’s point of view, about as exciting as concrete. Dandelions, chickweed, speedwell, and a host of other low plants that can mix with grass in a lawn produce seeds that birds love. Unpoisoned lawns are also home to many insects that birds eat.
6. Water also attracts birds. If your yard lacks a pond or stream nearby, consider a birdbath.
7. Birds move around. After nesting season, they may move locally to where the food is plentiful, which may not be your yard or even near your yard. Some birds move greater distances. For instance, in hot weather, many chickadees and goldfinches may move north where food may be more plentiful and the temperatures more pleasant.
8. Don’t worry about crows. Crows are not predators of songbirds (though they may go after nests as do some other common birds).
For more information on how to have a bird-friendly yard, visit Audubon.org, and look under the section, “Audubon at home.” Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a great section on attracting birds at birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds; look for “Attracting birds” at the top of the page.
The Wild Bird Center of Norwalk at 335 Westport Avenue (Route 1) is closing. The last bird walk sponsored by the store was Saturday. There is a clearance sale going on. “Merchandise will now be discounted at 75% off, with seed marked down 20%,” says owner Richard Montesanto. For information, call 203-846-BIRD.
Sharon Audubon Festival, walks, raptors, demonstrations, music, food, activities, and displays, Aug. 9 and 10, 9 to 5, Sharon Audubon Center, 325 Cornwall Bridge Road, Sharon, Conn., 860-364-0520.
HawkWatch Weekend Festival, bird-themed workshops, walks, games, shows, raptor counting, ‘green’ vendors, and much more, Sept. 13 and 14, Audubon Greenwich and Quaker Ridge Bird Club, 613 Riversville Road, Greenwich, 203-869-5272 x239.
Bird Watching Cruises on Long Island Sound and Norwalk Harbor, with Larry Flynn, wildlife conservationist, Saturdays from 7:30 to 10:30, aboard 40 passenger ferry, $20, Norwalk Seaport Association, from Seaport dock, Water Street, 203-838-9444, www.seaport.org.
Bird walks with Luke Tiller, mostly Saturdays at 8 a.m., $10 each; to register, www. sunrisebirding. com/ walks.htm; 203-981-9924, luke.tiller @ gmail.com.
First Sundays, birding at Greenwich Point with Meredith Sampson of Wild Wings, and other guides, meet at the second concession stand, 203-637-9822.
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