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Friday, November 28, 2014

With apologies to American blackbirds

Dear Brigitta,

Last year I had an onslaught of black birds, the large, dark, starlings, grackles, cowbirds, at the end of the season. They raided and pillaged the feeders, throwing much of the seed to the ground in search of whatever they were searching for. 

At the feed store I learned darker birds prefer the richer, more oily seeds and nuts, and they avoid all the light colored seeds. We adopted a strategy of refilling the savaged feeders with safflower the next time and found the raiders would avoid us for a couple of weeks. 

I objected to the wanton waste of their actions, not the actual feeding of them. The ground crew, the doves, the cardinals and the squirrels feasted on the waste on the ground, but I didn't like the little birds, the cheeky little chickadees, the titmouses, needing to be on the ground, under the watchful eye of Purrl, who would not object to a tasty morsel.

I'm thinking the blackbird I saw yesterday may be the first I've observed at the feeder. He ate very politely from the block of cranberries and nuts, then had a go at a regular feeder. All the feeders are calibrated; any too heavy bird or adventurous squirrel closes the feeder. The blackbird was too heavy, and soon left. Given their intelligence I'm surprised he did not learn, as the starlings and grackles did, the system can be defeated by bouncing.

Last winter one squirrel learned to hang on to a tree branch by a thread, slide down the long black hook, reach over the lid of the feeder and snatch a fistful at a time. He got full marks for wit and no squirrel baffle was added to the cylinder feeders.

So, to the blackbird, who may well be the very one who wakes me every morning, I apologize. If you associate with any of those crazed grackles or starlings, you might mention that a raid on my feeders means everyone goes on short rations of safflower seed only for the next week.


  1. Joanne, I guess there's such a thing as *smart birding*... I tend to feed everything that happens into our yard, and have to laugh at the antics of some of them... and how brave (or stupid) some of them are to grab food off the cat plates in a yard full of ferals. And I should also say that outside of a few dedicated *hunters* as well as ambitious young kittens, very few birds ever get caught.

    1. Birds look out for each other; one at least is on lookout.

  2. Hari OM
    Having just watched our news about all the stupidity and greed around 'black friday', your depiction of the various dark birds painted a clear picture in my head!!! Every species has its 'darker side'... YAM xx

  3. Dear Joanne,
    oh I really enjoyed your blogpost! And laughed!
    I once wrote about a blackbird that was behaving in an impossible impolite way in our garden in Hildesheim - in the birth bath, to be precise - it first drank (OK), then bathed (OK) - and then jumped up and down and splish-splashed the rest of the water out to prevent others from using it too (NOT OK). So: I absolutely understand that you only save the polite ones - who know how to behave - that's the way they learn (mebbe.... :-)

  4. And I am sure the blackbirds reading your blog will take heed .... ;-)

  5. I'm sure the apology is graciously accepted.
    Jane x

  6. I want to see that squirrel!

  7. I am endlessly fascinated by the birds who visit - and some of them do have NO manners. No manners at all. And are bullies to boot.
    Though here, some of our coloured birds take on the bigger and blacker ones.

  8. You could be a bird whisperer.

  9. I agree with Delores, Joanne. And your header is gorgeous. :)

  10. squirrels are so clever and agile you have to admire when they beat you at your game. the grackles come through here en masse every year and chase off all the other birds. the feeders don't get filled while they are pillaging.

  11. See, I didn't know that about the safflower seeds! Good tip - I shall try it.

  12. The squirrel acrobats do provide a bit of entertain to offset their stealing.

  13. That was an adventurous squirrel from last year! Or a hungry one!


  14. In lieu of an actual picture of that squirrel, your description was the next best thing :)

  15. My hubby has a fit that the many varieties of birds that come into our yard don't eat at the proper feeders for their species. I tell him that he should post signs. I love to watch the squirrels; they are brilliant at getting the food. Unfortunately, they are not as smart when they cross the road.