Our Birdfeeder is Like Newark Airport

Chickadee on the feeder

My morning routine begins with a trip to fill the feeder with black oil sunflower seed.

Option 1:
For a moment, I watch the gold finches, house finches, purple finches, dark eyed juncos, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, mourning doves, cardinals, song sparrows, white-throated sparrows, and once a female red winged blackbird advance on the feeder from all angles.

I murmur an apology, open the porch door, and hear a blast of wing beats. The juncos that had been engaged in aerial dogfights scatter. A female cardinal flicks her wings and emits glassy chips. The red-bellied woodpecker lets out a trill that sounds like a recording of the rainforest. The flock of mourning doves leapfrogs ever further as I approach.

Option 2:
The feeder is empty, there is not a bird in sight. As I approach the feeder, I usually hear a tinkling of a chickadee or the nasal honk of a nuthatch. I imagine it is partly a warning and partly a celebration: "A predator, a predator! With food, with food!" Seems that they watch me more closely than I watch them.

I turn my back, walk a few feet, and hear thwack, rustle, tseet, tseet. Invariably, a chickadee, brave and fleet, has already alit the feeder and selected a seed. Only the chickadees tolerate a person close the feeder; they zoom in and out, hardly looking when they leave the feeder.

The titmice complain from nearby tupelo branches until I move closer to the house. They don't mind the clanging of the metal can as I retrieve kindling. "She's occupied, all's clear."

Mostly likely to continue feed while the laundry line shrieks: Chickadees and Titmice
Bossiest (in former years): "Brutus" The Song Sparrow
Biggest surprise feeder explorers: Carolina Wren and a flock of Bluebirds
Most Indignant: Northern Cardinals
What's that filling up the entire feeder?!: Grey Squirrel
Best learning curve: Dark-eyed Juncos*
Best couple: Downy Woodpeckers
We'll wait until he's done at the feeder: Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Most likely to make varied calls (Coughs, gags, exclamations of dismay and delight) as I write this: Jared as he opens a box of native plant seeds that had been stratifying under the couch since the summer.

*Last year a junco figured out how to get into the feeder. This year, many of them are pros. They shoot their "laser beam" call at other birds and eject them from the feeder.

We use black oil sunflower seed from NJ Audubon, grown in Hillsborough, NJ with a percent of proceeds benefiting grassland bird habitat. http://www.njaudubon.org/Conservation/Sunflower.html


Two chickadees on the lookout