Thursday, December 20, 2012

How I Manage the Wildlife in Our Yard

You may know from previous posts that I feed the small birds in our yard as well as the crow family, Bertram, Corvina, and Ned. What you may not know is that I've learned a lot about wildlife management this way. Here's my story.

Front Yard Bird Feeders
  1. To attract some feathered friends to our yard, I installed several feeders designed for small birds on a pole in front our house. 
  2. As soon as it was up, a squirrel climbed the pole and emptied the feeders.
  3. I added a squirrel baffle to the pole.  
  4. The squirrel turned his attention to the backyard feeder (more on this later).
  5. A family of northern flickers began hanging on the feeders and gobbling up the food, eventually breaking the feeders under their weight. 
  6. I replaced the feeders, and to distract the northern flickers, installed a suet feeder, which attracted an enormous flock of starlings who drove away all of the small birds and finished off the suet as well as all of the food in the rest of the feeders.
  7. I decided not to refill the suet and discovered that screeching loudly at the starlings drives them away, without perturbing the small birds in the least. 
  8. My neighbors, however, now give me frightened looks and run indoors whenever they see me coming out of my house.
  9. Another broken feeder inspired me to install a “Starling-Proof” suet feeder for the northern flickers. The starlings enjoy the suet very much. 
  10. I began screeching again. The little birds cock their heads for a moment and then go back to eating. The starlings and my neighbors flee the area.
  11. Some birds manage to get more seed onto the ground than into their beaks, which attracts the black-eyed juncos, who are ground feeders. Ground-feeding birds in turn attract the neighbor’s cat, which hides in our rain garden whilst waiting for a junco to stop by for lunch. 
  12. Unlike with starlings, screeching at a cat is completely ineffective (see Bad Bad Bad Kitty).
  13. I now keep a Super Soaker, full and handy for watering any cats that come into the yard. This doesn't endear me to cat-owning neighbors any more than does the screeching, or perhaps even less so. (Super Soaker:  $15.99 The look on the cat’s face: Priceless)
  14. I put up a seed hoop to catch the seed that the sparrows shovel out of the feeders and keep the seed and the juncos above kitty’s reach. I’ll keep you posted about how the seed hoop works after I install it. Bill predicts that it will make a nice platform for the squirrel to use to reach the feeders. 
More Stuff
Hummingbird Feeder
Note: This is a separate item, even though it hangs on the main feeder pole, because (1) hummingbirds do not behave like other birds, and (2) squirrels couldn't be less interested in hummingbird food.
  1. I installed a multi-hole hummingbird feeder based on the package illustration, which shows three hummingbirds peacefully sipping together on it. 
  2. Turns out a large Anna’s hummingbird owns the feeder. When another hummingbird approaches, she zooms in hot pursuit of the interloper, buzzing “ratatatata” like a machine gun. 
  3. Realizing that only one hummingbird at a time can ever eat at the same feeder, and that approaching a guarded feeder can be life-threatening to the interloper, I have installed several additional feeders on different sides of the house, none in clear line of sight from any other.
Back Yard Bird Feeder
  1. So that Bill and I can get away for the occasional day or two without my worrying that the little birds will starve to death, I put up a large, squirrel-proof feeder in the backyard that holds 20 lb of sunflower seed. (See it here:
  2. The squirrels can shake food out of the feeder by swinging on it. If they swing persistently enough it flies off the hanger entirely and lands on the ground, dumping most of the seed. 
Crow Feeding Stations
  1. I decided to see whether a curious crow who hangs about the house watching me garden would eat some peanuts that I set out for him. (He would.) 
  2. After a few days of getting peanuts from me, he brought over his mate. I named the two crows Bertram and Corvina.
  3. Bertram and Corvina now land on the neighbor’s roof each morning, peer through our dining room window, and caw while I eat breakfast until I get up and put out their peanuts. 
  4. And they bring their child, Ned, who occasionally brings his girlfriend along. 
  5. The squirrels (plural now, as the original squirrel had babies) also show up at peanut time, so I give them a few, too. They've become good at corralling all of the peanuts, preventing the crows from having any.
  6. To keep the peace, I experimented with a number of crow feeding stations and settled on the roof of the garden shed, in an attempt to foil the squirrels.
  7. The squirrels leaped from the plum tree to the roof of the garden shed and gobbled up all of the peanuts. 
  8. To distract the squirrels from the peanuts as well as the backyard bird feeder, I put out a squirrel corn cob feeder that holds two corn cobs. As of right now, less than 24 hours later, the squirrels have eaten all of the corn and are still getting most of the peanuts.
No squirrel on the seed hoop (yet), although a starling was sitting on it earlier, trying to pass for a goldfinch.
Well, that's what I've learned so far. I hope this has given you some good ideas about how to manage the wildlife in your own yard. 

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