Bird Feeding: The Agony and the Ecstasy

Male Downy Woodpecker eating suet

The jury is out on whether feeding birds is bad or good for them. It’s something most of us do simply because we want to attract birds to our yards. Nothing delights me more than to see one of “my” Downy Woodpeckers making a carefully calculated approach to the suet feeder.

Female Downy Woodpecker

Or the Chickadees who swoop in a “steal” a sunflower seed or a peanut and make off with it.

Black-Capped Chickadee

Or the gloriously red male Northern Cardinal who likes to take his time when he finally decides it’s safe to do so.

Male Northern Cardinal

The goldfinches will eventually come in droves – that is, if I have more than one or two thistle feeders handy.

American Goldfinches on thistle sock

But the municipality where I live has decided to lay down the law with their ordinance about bird feeding. I’m allowed only two feeders. I’m sure one thistle sock counts as one feeder.

I have until Thursday to make my yard in compliance with the law or they’ll serve me a summons. I went through this before about six or seven years ago and I don’t feel like going through it again. So I will remove all the feeders except two. I plan to  alternate which two every day because different birds come to different feeders and it hardly seems fair to stiff any of them. The House Sparrows will be least upset because they eat anything, but I’m not trying to attract them so I guess I can’t worry about too much except to keep my eye on the suet to make sure there’s some left for the woodpeckers.

After cleaning up the yard a bit and calculating how I’m going to handle this setback (in the face of colder temperatures and more birds seeking handouts), I decided it was a good day to visit the most famous bird in the local region: an as yet conclusively unidentified but definitely vagrant Hummingbird in nearby Oak Park. I had delayed going to see it during all the hoopla. The people whose feeders it has come to visit have been so generous. You can read all about the Hummingbird at this blogsite.

It was overcast, getting chillier and damp this afternoon, but I managed to get a few pictures of the visiting hummer after seeing him visit the feeders three times; I decided to get behind him rather than in front, waited him out, and the oddest thing was that once I started taking his picture, he calmed down and sat on the feeder. So he’s definitely used to all the attention. I was planning on telling him which direction was south, should he feel the need to continue his journey to better habitat with the coming cold front, but I was so blown away by sharing his space I entirely forgot. As wonderful as it has been for us all to see him, I do hope he finds his way or perhaps we can still hope all the help and attention will save his life.

Mystery Hummingbird on feeder

But what if the people whose house he’s visiting hadn’t put out a hummingbird feeder in November? We never would have known this bird existed or was passing through an area off his route.

Actually after the first Broadtail-then-maybe-Rufous Hummingbird appeared I put my hummer feeders back out on my tree and they might have been the culprits that caught the “blight” department’s eye as it cruised the neighborhood. I can’t see where hummingbird feeders would attract anything but hummingbirds this time of year, but I did catch a squirrel lapping up some spilled sugar water underneath the Oak Park Hummer’s feeder.

Squirrel sniffing out sugar water

I think I have decided to get philosophical about it. If I moved out of my house, that would likely be the end of bird feeding on this block and the birds would have to go elsewhere. As it is I’m sure they have other stops and I’m only one of their favorites. I won’t hear the chickadees scolding me during the week, I’ll be at work during the daylight hours. On the weekends maybe I can put a few more feeders back out and see if birds still come to my yard.

I hope the “blight” department isn’t reading this. My house is no longer my castle.

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