I am single. In fact, I have been single so long I can qualify as a professional single. And one of the curious habits of singles is we tend to eat a meal over the kitchen sink on a regular basis. After all, why fuss with setting up a table place for one? There is a perfect tree just outside my kitchen window from which I hung bird feeders. And so wild birds became my breakfast companions.
At first I hung only a couple feeders; a nectar feeder for hummingbirds, a tube feeder for seeds, and a bird bath that doubled as a drinking pond. But once the word got out on the chirpagraph, the flocks started coming by for brunch. All the birds were inviting their friends and family to eat for free. That created a big battle of wing flapping to see who got to sit at the feeders.
So I began experimenting with different types of feeders and seeds. Through trial and experimentation, I have developed a great feeding system that attracts many different types of birds. The essential principle to attracting different species is using a zone system to feed them. There are basically 4 different zones that wild birds feed from:
1. Take Out – These birds (Chickadees, Titmouses, Woodpeckers, Jays) come to the feeder alone, select the choice nut or seed and take it away to eat (or bury) somewhere else. They spend very little time at the feeder. They like to eat from open trays and/or suet feeders.
2. Dine In – These birds (Finches) come to the feeders in flocks and stay for long periods of time, sometimes all day. They like to perch on feeder tubes and thistle socks.
3. Curbside Service – These birds (Sparrows, Juncos, Towhees, Quail, Doves, Robins) do not perch but scratch for seed on the ground. They feed alone or bring some friends and family.
4. Nectar Feeders – These birds like sweet and syrupy fluids (Hummingbirds, Orioles).
Maybe it’s not true that the early bird gets the worm. Maybe the worm gets got about mid-morning because the peak of bird activity at my feeders is 8 to 10 am. Not too many birds like to hang around at dusk. I guess they must not like to fly after dark.
I marvel at the differences between the species. Some birds hop (like Robins and Jays). Others walk or swish (like Doves and Quail). The bigger the bird, the slower the movements and the smaller the bird, the faster the movements. The ground feeders dig around in the dirt completely oblivious to an entire feeder full of seeds just 6 feet above their heads. The perchers would never think of lowering themselves to the ground to search for seeds. Some birds (like Jays, Crows, Titmouse, and Chickadees) like to work for their food by picking shelled seeds to eat. Other birds (like Finches) only like the faster foods like shelled seeds they can gobble right up.
When the big Jays come they clear the deck. All the other birds co-exist pretty peaceably. But when the Jay comes swooping in every other bird vanishes instantly. Jays love take away but they like shopping, too. They pick up and drop each shelled peanut until they have determined which is the biggest. Then they take it away to bury it. Jays, like squirrels, are hoarders. Once it’s buried they return to repeat the process again, weighing each peanut before making their choice.
When I put out sunflower seeds and thistle I get a flurry of Finches. They hang out in flocks and may be called flying pigs. They can chow down a $20 bag of seed in a few days! I don’t know how they keep their figures when they hang out at the feeder all day.
The Chickadees are dive bombers. They come to the feeder like carrier pilots lined up to land on a deck. They grab a black oiled sunflower seed and off they go to eat it in private.
The Sparrows, not the robins, are the early birds. They usually arrive first and stay the latest at dusk. Sometimes, the doves are their companions at dusk.
The Hummingbirds are hovercraft that refill on the fly, suspended in air while feeding from the bright red nectar port.
A single tiny Kinglet comes to hang out with the big birds. He is always alone and cavorts in the bushes never still for more than a second.
When the Titmouse sings, he sounds like he has a sore throat. I love the way his feathers stick up on his head, like a big dab of Brylcreem couldn’t make them lay flat.
The Towhee and Sparrow look like little Irish dancers doing jigs in the dirt, trying to churn up more seeds.
As I watch my birds each day I wonder why calling someone a “bird brain” is an insult. Birds are smart. They can construct nests, they can weave, they can drop nuts in traffic in order to crack open the shells, they can impale lizards on thorns, they can migrate without maps by day or by night, they can fly thousands of miles and land in the same tree year after year.
Top Reasons Why I Like Wild Birds
1. They are lovely to listen to.
2. They are beautiful to look at.
3. They are fun to watch.
4. They have wonderful innate skills to admire.
5. They are symbols of Nature, The Wild, and Freedom.
6. They are messengers between Father Sky and Mother Earth.
7. They are outdoor pets to love with no indoor cleanup required.
8. There is no daily bird walking required.
9. There is no bird hair on the furniture and my wardrobe.
My List of All Time Favorite Birds
Best in Snow: Penguins
Best Singer: Mockingbird
Cutest: California Quail
Most Amazing: Ruby-throated Hummingbird (These tiny birds migrate 18 hours non-stop over the Gulf, a total of 600 miles)
Most Beautiful: Cuban Tody (They look like little puffs of multi-colored cotton candy)
Best Chameleon: Rock Ptarmigan
Most Colorful: Painted Bunting
Most Creative: Bowerbirds
Most Entertaining: Acorn Woodpecker
Most Sexy: Northern Cardinal (Bright red for passion)
Prettiest Song: Canyon Wren
My Closest Relative: Mallard (Drake)
My Spirit Bird: Steller’s Jay (This is the bird that watched over me during Vision Quest)
Teddy Birds of the Sky: Chickadees
Longest Migration: Arctic Tern (Migrates 21,000 mi/yr, roundtrip Arctic to Antarctic)
Longest Nonstop Time in the Air: Sooty Tern (Spends 4-5 years in air without landing)
Copyright © 2015 Drake Bear Stephen. Except where acknowledged. www.DrakeInnerprizes.com