Monday, August 22, 2016

A Rough 'Hood for Birds

I mentioned a couple of months ago that we took down our squirrel feeder and moved the daily dose of squirrel food -- bird seed and peanuts -- to a saucer in the back of the garden. This (above) is exactly why. When we put the food out every morning, it gets mobbed by pigeons. They don't eat the whole peanuts, so there's still something left for the squirrels, but it really is more of a pigeon-feeding scheme than anything else.

We put it in the back of the garden in an effort to be sensitive to the upstairs neighbors, who had put pigeon spikes on their balcony railing in a vain effort to keep the pigeons away. They never said anything to us but I'm sure they weren't thrilled having them all flapping around so close to the house. Apparently the move made them happy, because they took the spikes down afterwards.

I think Dave and I do need to re-evaluate our bird feeders. These days, almost all we get -- in addition to the pigeons -- are mobs of starlings and one or two noisy magpies. And mice on the peanut feeder. (Although, to be fair, I haven't seen the mice for a while. They may have moved on.)

Smaller, more interesting birds, like tits, seem to pop in only when the bigger ones aren't around -- and the bigger ones seem to be around more and more.

Several months ago we switched to mealworms in one of the hanging feeders, and suet balls in the other. The starlings, in particular, love both. We could go back to seed, which seemed to attract a greater variety of birds -- but we had pigeon problems then, too. A coworker suggested that we get a Niger thistle feeder, which is good for goldfinches.

Or maybe we should just roll with it, admit we live in a city and we're going to get scruffy urban birds!


  1. What did you do with the bits of blue China? The mice may not have appreciated your feeders but the scruffy urbanites do. Cheers!

  2. Yes. I think your last sentence is the answer. I wish we still had starlings in our suburban garden. As this summer has progressed I have seen fewer and fewer birds. It used to be that every day I would have to replenish the birdseed but now several days can pass by.

  3. Here, everything is regulated (as usual) and feeding pigeons is strictly forbidden in the cities, regardless of where (own garden or public spaces) due to massive overpopulation. Little old grannies feeding their leftover bread are regularly reprimanded and tears are shed etc. The local authorities have set up feeding and breeding stations to control pigeon numbers. On some big buildings like Cologne cathedral, they have installed hawks to stop the pigeons shitting all over the place.

    Same with ducks and other birds on public ponds but not because of overpopulation but because old bread is too salty and makes the birds sick.

    Garden owners are also discouraged to feed any birds. The thinking behind is that birds should feed on what is seasonally and locally available while at the same time help keep certain pests and insects etc. down. Only in winter, we get a text message/write up in the local paper with frost warnings and a call to start feeding with detailed instructions as to what and how.

  4. Your mice may have moved on to cozier quarters. . . .we have a never-ending supply in our basement and I often wonder about the connection with our winter bird feeders near the house!

  5. You have to remember that the birds who come to the feeder will change with the seasons. We aren't getting so many birds right now and I'm sure a lot of that is because many are just not here- they're farther afield and will come back with the cooler temperatures. Also, there is so much more of their native food to be had. The grasses are seeding and so forth.

  6. birds migrate through. right now we have a huge flock of white wing doves dominating the bird feeder. besides them, it's the cardinals and bluejays I see mostly right now. I put the teacup back up so am seeing the occasional chickadee and titmouse. as Ms Moon says, when the temps cool down we'll start seeing other birds as they migrate through.

  7. When I was living in the house, I used to get pigeons in the yard every now and then. When they were there I noticed that the smaller birds would stay a way so I'd chase off the pigeons when I saw them. Since I don't have a big back yard any longer I sort of miss seeing the birds playing in the yard and fighting over the feeder. I see birds where I live now but with no place to put a feeder, I only see them from a distance.

  8. It's time to think of strategies to deter pigeons and starlings. I would not feed either of these two species.

  9. We fed the birds for two winters only. I found it a struggle to keep the feeders filled as I had to wade through deep snow in our yard. Once you start feeding them in the fall here, you have to continue because they choose to stay rather than migrate. I couldn't take the stress of all that responsibility! So now I let them do their own thing and it seems most of the neighbours do as well. If I were you and going to stop feeding, I would try and phase it out gradually, not stop cold. If those birds and even the squirrels are used to being supplied, they could have some hard days ahead with no immediate food source.

  10. We apparently have "pet" birds & don't get many strangers. We have a couple of cardinal couples, about 4 dove couples, and a TON of sparrows. Sometimes cowbirds or starlings will come through, but they don't stick around. We used to get a lot of goldfinches, but after we put up the seed feeder they decided they like the less noisy yard next door better.

  11. " feed the birds tuppance a go
    Tuppance a go

  12. E: I added the china to my bowl of china shards, which sits on the windowsill in the dining room!

    YP: We have to replenish pretty much daily. I don't mind the starlings too much -- they're fun to watch and they make crazy noises! But they come in such large swarms that they tend to intimidate other birds.

    Sabine: I'm not surprised it's all so carefully managed. :) We're told not to spread bread in the parks for pigeons, but people do it anyway. (Which drives me crazy because Olga eats it.) I'm not sure how we'd prevent pigeons from eating our seed, though.

    Marty: It could be that they've gone elsewhere for the cooler nights!

    Ms Moon: That's a good point. There are bound to be seasonal changes. Still, I feel like we had more variety last summer. I think we need to tweak what's on offer at the feeders.

    Ellen: I'm glad you got the teacup back up!

    Sharon: Chasing pigeons is a futile exercise. There may be no more persistent bird! (Plus they're not too bright.)

    Red: Yeah, I think some food changes are in order. Unfortunately we still have huge sacks of squirrel food left, so I think we'll power through those before altering course. (Although as some people suggested we may taper off slowly.)

    Jenny-O: I wondered about that. It seems probable that the birds and critters become dependent on our food sources. We plan to keep putting out food through the coming months, at least as long as the supply lasts. (And we have TONS of food left.)

    Bug: I love that you know which birds are your regulars! I'm not sure I know ours that well.

    John: Doing your best Jane Darwell impression?!