Feathered Friends and Frenemies

The angry Blue Jay

My bird feeders have generated hordes of new visitors this year. In the spring, I was pleasantly surprised by yellow finches who seemed to have realized that my finch feeder was full and waiting for them to partake—which they did, sometimes four and five at a time! The brilliant yellow of the males made for a delight of bright colors against the more drab coloration of the females, who tend to prefer solitary dining.

Then this fall, after lots of rain that refilled the usually-muddy pond behind my house so that it now resembles a small lake, I suddenly was bombarded by an aggressive blue jay, who expressed his frustration by dive-bombing me when I dared to venture onto the back deck. He tried numerous times to partake of the largesse at the wooden feeder, but it swung too vigorously when he attempted to land on either side. The only time he remained on it was when he realized he could cling to the roof, but that meant he was too far away from the food and whenever he leaned toward it, the feeder nearly tossed him on his head! The other feeder (not pictured) is set up for small birds and is spring-loaded to close whenever a larger bird or a squirrel attempts to steal the food. After several such attempts, the local squirrel population has learned to leap wildly for the little wooden feeder and then to hang from the roof and scoop up the food, scattering lots of it on the ground for later gathering forays. But the blue jay just couldn’t keep trying to get at the food from the tray.

More amazing was the willingness of the red-winged blackbirds, males and females alike, to gather on the smaller feeder, sharing what it held, flying off, alerting more of their kind and then coming back for more. I’m having to refill it at least once a week, and we’ve yet to have snow. Perhaps the cold weather is just enough to have limited their usual foraging so that they now depend more on what I put out than what they would otherwise have to search for.

Regardless of their reasons for seeking out my feeders, it is fun to watch them, including the ferocious blue jay, who squawked irritably at me until I set out a small bowl of food in the now-empty flower container. So there, Mr. Jay! Now be nice and stop dive-bombing me!

Red-winged blackbirds
Red-winged blackbird