Feeding Birds Teaches Hard Lessons

June 2012

Dear Friends,

Our first hummers were later than in other years, but only by a couple of days. They’re landing on their favorite branches and seem to be enjoying the feeders as much as we’re enjoying them. We think we recognize the ‘little’ female (aren’t they all little?) and the way they make themselves at home, they must surely be the old gang from last year. But there is one newbie who doesn’t know the rules. She attempted to share the LF with another female, who reacted tentatively about the breach in anti-social behavior. The lunch date was short lived, but ended civilly.

Despite our best intentions, we unwittingly created a bad situation for our bluebirds. The peanut feeder was still where it had been all winter, about 10 feet from the nest box, and on occasion a wily red squirrel would manage to scamper up the pole and grab a nut. We’d seen one of the pair of bluebirds swoop by the squirrel on its way to the next box, and had just thought it was interesting.

But one morning as I was getting ready for work, I glanced out the window to see the ‘red’ rocket up the pole to the feeder for breakfast. Almost immediately both mama and papa bluebird were on the attack, swooping in arcs, harassing the squirrel. Then there was just one bluebird swooping and I grabbed the window handle, yelling at the squirrel, fearing that the squirrel had gotten the bird. Then I saw papa bluebird drop to the ground beneath the squirrel. I dashed down the stairs yelling for Tom to come help, and we both ran to rescue our beloved bluebird.

He had indeed been bitten by the squirrel and died just minutes later. Although we had tried to provide a safe habitat for them to raise their young, instead we had welcomed a predator to a zone that they needed to defend. We had heavy hearts that day and will always carry that very hard lesson with us. We’re diligent with our mealworm feedings for mama, hoping that she’ll hatch her five eggs, but she spends a lot of time sitting on her favorite perch, watching and to our eyes, waiting for papa.

I’m reminded of the words I’ve spoken to customers before: that when we invite nature into our yards, we invite all of nature and it isn’t always what we think it will be.

Just feed birds,

Betsy Puckett, President