Backyard Birds

bluejay-photo-d-stewartMy knowledge of birds is minimal. There’s brown ones, speckled ones, starlings, other big black birds, robins, doves, cardinals and jays. We have all of these in our backyard and I’ve got to know some of them and their little bird sounds. My husband feeds them and last year he moved the feeding platform closer to the house. So sitting at the kitchen table or standing at the sink, I can watch them at the feeders and in their main tree. It’s quite a world.

A loose cannon cardinal

For two years now, we’ve had a loose cannon cardinal and his long-suffering mate. Bucko believes in fighting anything he sees. His career in aggression began, at least at our house, by flinging himself hard at the basement window and pecking at it. The window is birds-photo-d-stewartdirectly above my husband’s desk. Thud, thud, ping, thud – non-stop all day long, hitting the window. Lights, decals – nothing stopped him.

Then he expanded his arena of activity. The car side mirrors he would fly at in a frenzy. While flying from basement window to driveway, he noticed a window at the front of the house and began attacking it. That window provides a lot of entertainment for the cats, with a chair conveniently located for them to watch the neighbourhood. A bird flying straight at the window provided a cat mega-show with front row seats.

We worried the cardinal was going to injure, even kill, himself but he hasn’t. He must have a very hard head and beak. His mate is around, although you don’t see her as often. I think she goes to cardinal violence support group meetings. To give him his due, he hasn’t been fighting at the window since spring, so I think he’s helping out with the nesting. In the past week we’ve seen a young male and female cardinal, last year’s now grown up children, I think.

A Budgie escapee

Last fall there was a rare visitor to a backyard bird neighbourhood. A yellow budgie. Escaped or lost, it was flitting around by budgie & friends photo d stewartitself around several houses near ours for a couple weeks. I tried to coax it to me, but nothing doing. It started spending more time in our backyard trees and I noticed it hanging around the other birds, the little brown over-wintering ones. They’d fly en masse from their tree to the feeder and back. After staying a bit apart, the budgie started flying with them.

One late fall day, with snow and gusty winds, I feared for the budgie and figured I’d never see it again. Although it was becoming a hardy wild bird, it wasn’t meant for weather like this. I was amazed, and happy, to see it fly to the tree with the little brown birds, all buffeted by the winds but soon settled in snugly. But a real winter storm with more snow and higher winds hit the next day. I spent a long time watching, hoping to see the flash of yellow. But I didn’t. The brown birds were all around, but I never saw the budgie again. It survived several months outside, was accepted by the other birds and, I like to think, had a grand adventure. Better than just falling off the perch.

Hawks cruising for birds

baby-hawk-photo-d-stewartOn and off over the past few years, we’ve had hawks. One, early this spring, was very bold – sitting right on the deck. Even one time fighting with a metal ornamental rooster that lives on the deck. Even when I can’t see a hawk, I’ve come to know when one is around from the frenetic activity and squawking of the little birds. And hawks have to eat too. We’ve had three deaths so far this year in our bird town – a tragedy for the bird families, lunch for the hawk.

starling photo d stewartThe starlings hang out in the big trees while the little birds are eating. Then they decide it’s big bird time. Two or three of them move to the feeding platform and the little birds – even macho-man cardinal – fly back to their trees. The starlings sit on the platform, bopping their heads to their internal rap beat, looking cool. Their iridescent neck feathers glint in the sun. They peck at food, they bop, they survey the scene, peck and bop. Then they fly away and the little birds flutter back.

Doves sit on the fence soaking up the sun, they scratch around in the spilled seed below the feeder. They snooze on the feeding platform. The redwing blackbirds flit and trill their song, and I watch them all.Redwing Blackbird photo D Stewart

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, June 1, 2010