Okay....I must admit, I have a fondness for Chickadees. While in Alaska I saw my 6th species of Chickadees; that being the Boreal Chickadee. So...the Boreal, Mountain, Chestnut-backed, Mexican, Black-capped and Carolina...with only the Gray-headed to encounter. And to do that, I need to rebook a flight to Alaska but this time I need to catch a dogsled or something, as I find my way to Nome where they reside.
So recently in my back yard when the Carolina Chickadees stood their ground concerning their nest, as the Bluebirds attempted to take control, I wasn't too upset. While we are sad the Bluebirds are not in our sight, we are content with the Chickadees being in the lime-light...the sweet and innocent Chickadees. But in the process of learning about their nesting manners, I came across some alarming information concerning the House Sparrow.
While not native to North America, it is widespread. I have been in all 50 states and have seen a House Sparrow in all states. Why? For one, they are VERY prolific. House Sparrows average '20' chicks per season (2-3 clutches in a year). If left unchecked, a single breeding pair of house sparrows might grow to over 2,000 birds in 5 years. And to boot, these birds live on the 13 1/2 years. WOW....
Now compare that to the innocent Chickadee. They might have 3-5 eggs per season (as opposed to 20 for the House Sparrow), so you do the math. In addition, their life span might only be 2 1/2 years. WOW, what a difference.
That is just the numbers...now, what more makes the House Sparrow not a good species? For starters, they kill Chickadees as well as Bluebirds. You can do your part by preventing House Sparrow inhabitation of nesting boxes by 'not having a perch' on the birdhouse. House Sparrows are perching birds while Chickadees are clinging birds and do not need a perch. So the simple lack of a perch will help, but that won't stop them for long.
House sparrows will take over a nest.....and by taking over, they take over. You might begin to notice a case of hematomas on the top of Chickadees heads or even Bluebirds. This is where the crown is featherless, as House Sparrows will attack other birds and peck away at them. Sometimes the victims will die and the House Sparrows will just leave the dead bird in the nest, ....just cover it up to hide their innocence of the crime I suspect. Juveniles might have broken necks, or eyes pecked away. They will starve the young and toss out the corpse. But to cover their crime, they will pick up the corpse and move it away from the nest.
Then...watch the food in your feeders. Who is it attracting? When you purchase bird seed, well....it is perfect House Sparrow food. House Sparrows are a bit lazy and like to take the easy way out in terms of feeding. So instead, purchase Striped or Black Sunflower Seeds as a way to slow down their love for seeds. Mix a bit of Fruit like food into the mix and use Saffron Seeds. You will note that the minute you change the food within your feeders, initially the House Sparrows will visit, as they are used to visiting, but they will hang around the feeder like an middle school boy in sock-off, yet rarely eat since they don't like that food.
While it is nice to hear the chirping of House Sparrows....as I did last night after our BBQ, I would sooner hear the morning alarm of the Carolina Wren, or view the splash of blue as Bluebirds do a fly-by. Or listen to the call of an innocent Chickadee ....
The Chickadee by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Then piped a tiny voice had by,
Gay and polite, a cheerful cry,
"Chick-a'dee-dee' saucy note
Out of a sound heart and merry throat
As if it said, "Good day, good sir!
Fine afternoon, old passenger
Happy to meet you in these places
Where January brings few faces.
Why is Mother nature cruel? Or is she...? Perhaps it is just us as humans and our sentimentality that we bring to the table that creates this cruel illusion. While many are seemingly the recipients of this cruelty, are they aware of it? Are birds aware of how cruel Mother Nature is?
I bought Deb a few Blue-bird houses for Christmas and in the stark of winter, with cold, rocky ground to contend with,....I dug a hole, placed in a pole....and hung the houses. We awaited for Bluebirds to take root as we could watch them just outside our windows. There were three bluebirds who stayed the winter, two males and one female. During this time they found a home someplace, a few backyards down. They would visit our suets so why not our houses we wondered?
Back in Jan/Feb, activity became apparent on top of the bird houses. Chickadees, robins, cardinals and yes, even the bluebirds would sit on the top of each house. Cool....there were events to come it would appear.
A little over a month ago nature made inroads. Chickadees adopted the houses. Both..... Both houses of congress were now under the influence of Chickadees. The one closest to our window was packed full of nesting material overnight. The second house was stuffed so full of Chickadee nesting material it buldged from the bottom as I forgot to clamp it shut. Chickadees....sweet little guys who would poke their heads out and visit our feeders and then return. A quick shoot 'to and fro'... Although black and white, they have an air of color to them.
Today....just this morning they woke up to a world that changed their life. Catastrophic events ruled their life now..... For the Bluebirds decided to displace them. There were two males and two females vying for the house. One male bluebird would enter and wait for the female who came in with a beak full of new nesting material. Why she was inside, the male bluebird would 'take out' something. Whitish, like a cotton ball. This must be a fecal sac as they clen the nest but the existing young in the nest are chickadees, not bluebirds. So are they taking care of the Chickadees, thinking that they are Bluebirds?
This continued all morning with one of the couples winning out over the other. They defended their new home. The Chickadee...oh the sweet Chickadee would venture back to the house and then poke it's head inside to be immediately prompted to scram. Sometimes the Chickadee would come with a mealworm or some enticing moth to feed the young. But on all occasions, no luck...no entrance, no free pass...just a cruel awakening. So sad to watch. And yet it was only a few months ago that we wanted the Bluebirds in the house but now, in order to have that occur, we must accept the demise of the innocent ones. The ones on the lower end of the pecking order. Mother nature....
After a few hours of this towards mid afternoon, the Chickadee would pop by with something in it's mouth and would enter when no Bluebird was present. Then come out again, empty beaked. The female Bluebird would come by with a spider or the like. Enter the nest and come out empty too. Were both birds feeding the Chickadee young? Not sure. But some activity continued in the nest and both species were upon it. UPDATE (5/28/17) Bluebirds 'out', Chickadees 'in'.
Have you wondered about this pecking order? Who comes first...who is the top bird and how is the lowest. The lowest on the pole who might vie for a 'casa' are the Prothonotary Warblers, followed by the Carolina Wren..... Then the innocent Chickadee. I call them innocent for I remember an article by Peter Dunne upon his retirement that stated how he just wanted to watch the innocent chickadees.
Following the Chickadee is the Nuthatches, then the Titmouse, the Tree Swallow and finally the Bluebird. At times, the Chickadee does 'win' back' their nest, as evident by our recent adventure with them. But moving on the order continues to House Wren, perhaps a woodpecker, house sparrow (this is one bugger of a bird and is one of the worst birds to have at your feeders) and finally the starling. But, it does depend on the size of the hole, or if it is a tree cavity etc. The houses have pretty small holes so some of the latter ones such as a starling might not have a chance. ...
Hopefully, we have witnessed the last of the 'changing of the guards'.... or is that Advanced Guards? Do you recall that song as they looked out the window and saw the tall grass in the winds; just standing there like advanced guards, waiting for the battle to begin.
I was an elementary teacher for 17 years.....so when I come upon a class (of anything), I expect them to pay attention. I saw a 'scoop' of Skimmers during once recent low tide and my instincts as a teacher began to set in. "ok guys, look at me"
"Now today we are going to learn how to carefully skim the surface and below the water line with your beak. This will be a fun activity and along the way, you are going to have a treat'.
'Johnny....look at me. Ruth, come on now, do you have to pass that note to Gloria right now? '
'Henry, ...get you hands out of your desk'.....
"okay class..... Class, CLASS, CLASS CLASS....LISTEN TO ME...."
Enjoyed another waterfowl survey at Forsythe NWR with Al Martens, Roz Herlands, and summer intern Abby Gormley. We didn't see the female ruff, but we did catch the two black-necked stilts, as well as 3 bald eagles, 2 wood ducks, a lone blue-winged teal, a peregrine falcon, 18 ospreys, 43 black-bellied plovers, 120 glossy ibises, 3 American oystercatchers, 83 semipalmated plovers, 2 greater and 4 lesser yellowlegs, 45 whimbrels,3 ruddy turnstones, 2 least terns, 53 black skimmers, and 84 short-billed dowitchers. None of my photos were very good, but Anne Marie Mason Morrison and Eric Curtis Cummings graciously agreed to let me share their photos on my page.
I know enough about birds to know that I don't know enough about birds....Today, being a glorious day was a perfect time to visit Forsythe. Still plenty of peeps floating in and out.
I decided to do a bit of digiscoping too, using a new tool (phone-scope) I picked up for my spotting scope. Really, handy....easy to use. Google it.
Anyhow....I ran across many cool looking birds with breeding season here...Dunlins, Turnstones, and Black Bellied Plovers..... semi-palmated Sandpipers and Dowitchers and Yellowlegs and of course ,this one here on the video. You see, I know enough to know, I don't know what it is.
Recently at Forsythe, all sort of birds are being found with Ruffs (no, this isn't a Ruff)-- Short Billed Dowitchers?.....(no, can't be as it was next to a few of them and it was a bit smaller and coloration wrong-- Yellow Legs?, (perhaps but smaller and the bill on this one has a slight downturn), Could that be a Stilted Sandpiper?....(no because the size wasn't that much smaller than a Dowitcher...but the bill is downturned)....
I am not sure....I am not an expert. I don't make money from birding and am not accountable to anyone person, organization or institution. Given that, I can be wrong and no one cares. I can be right too and no one cares. For I am the only person that matters. Given that ambiguous state of mind, I can also say, I just don't know and I won't get fired for saying it. So if you have a guess of what the bird is, good for you.
As an update....I asked John and Les their opinion....Accordingly they think it is a dowitcher based upon the size and shape of the bill as well as the spangling of the feathers on the back rules out a Yellow Legs...., also the line above eye. I can go with that, for they are the experts...