Tuesday, March 18, 2008
We Feed the Birds...
... both directly, and indirectly!
By that I mean, yes, we put out prodigious quantities of seed in multiple feeders... to the tune of over 100 lbs of seed a month! No, I'm not kidding, I'm not exaggerating. Have you ever seen the giant 40 pound boxes of seed they sell at Costco? Well, we plow through three of those in about a month or so, by our best guess. So we have a large and healthy song bird population around our house, which is quite the pleasure... especially as spring slowly arrives, in fits and starts, and new songs join the chorus.
Of course, as with anything, the law of unintended consequences applies. And that comes in two forms... first, in the plethora of the less desirable species that feast on our generosity. Our feeders are now regulartly visited by grackles, cowbirds, and starlings, as well as a remarkably healthy colony of squirrels. And we have at times counted over forty... yes, forty... common pigeons on the power line outside, waiting their turn at the food.
Which leads me to the other unintended, yet fascinating, consequence. In addition to providing seed for the songbirds and other critters, we have also created a rather generous buffet of sorts... for the local hawk population! It seems to come and go with the seasons (spring and fall being the busy times), but a good portion of the year we get a lot of hawk activity around our house. Sometimes it's simply a sudden, urgent fluttering away of every bird in the yard... other times we actually see the hawk in hot pursuit. At times we've even seen and heard birds smack into the side of our house or the neighbor's house in their mad dash to escape. And sometimes we'll just hear the distinct call of a raptor, or see him perched in a branch high above, waiting for opportunity to knock. As near as I can tell we are primarily attracting the most common members of the Accipiter genus, the Cooper's Hawk, and perhaps some Sharp Shinned Hawks as well (even the books admit it's hard to tell them apart). These are the ones with long tails and relatively short wings that are very fast and agile in pursuit. It's not that often we get to witness a real chase, but it's amazing when we do. And a little gruesome to see the aftermath, the dense pile of feathers on the ground, the only thing left behind by these hunters. Once or twice, I've even witnessed the meal itself... reminding me of how raw nature can be.