Preventing Bully Birds at the Feeders: Scooter talks about Florida’s REAL… Angry Birds!
While Scooter plots his next intrusion into the Wild Birds Unlimited’s feeders behind the Clearwater/Safety Harbor store, he’s also fearful of being spied upon and beaten by the local neighborhood bullies. While they are all beautiful, Florida’s wild birds can be, well… a handful. With most of Florida’s wild birds busily preening feathers and plumping chests eager to attract a mate and start a family, others are doing so by dive-bombing feeders with strafing runs and blood curdling screeches across wide vines and leafy hiding places. These would be your “bully birds”, otherwise known as pests, nuisances and bothersome annoyances.
Scooter… hide your milk money! The bullies are definitely in town!
Perhaps highest on the list of Florida’s “angry birds”, the beautifully appointed -cornflower blue- Blue Jay, shrinks not from its reputation. This muscle-bound rogue is known for its absolute lack of social skills when it comes to bird feeders and nesting territories. Related to the family of Crows and often most aggressive during mating and nesting seasons, Blue Jays are considered “omnivorous” and will eat both meat and plant life. The meat part can include… *gulp*… other birds!! So, yes. Blue Jays are, in fact… CANNIBALS! Although the majority of their food preference is centered around fruits, seeds and berries… they have been videotaped dining on other birds and are well known for going on the occasional “murderous” rampage through the nests of rival birds. Oh c’mon… we all have one’a those in the family. Ok, well, maybe not a cannibal, per se‘… but that crazy distant relative who just can’t seem to cooperate and play well with others. That, my now grossed-out friends, would be the Blue Jay.
Scooter…get out from under the covers and hone your fisticuffs. Creepy Uncle “Jaaay” is coming to visit!
Second on our list would probably be the Northern Mockingbird. Its lovely, lilting tunes aside, this guy can make a UFC fighter cower in a fetal heap! Often assaulting mailmen, girl scouts, small children and the occasional landscaper, mockingbirds generally save their fights of fancy for the more obvious times during mating or nesting when territories, and mates to share them with, are at a premium. Although they usually eat berries, nuts, seeds and fruits, they will indulge on invertebrates like worms, and insects like beetles, spiders and grasshoppers. Nooooo… calm down. Scooter couldn’t find anything relating to Mockingbirds eating hatchlings or adorably small, furry creatures with cherubic, bulbous eyes…. or squirrels.
Denizens of Clearwater’s Northwood Commons WBU Backlot can rest a little easier knowing only one feathered cannibal prowls its lovely foliage.
So, aside from recognizing bully birds, what can be done to drive them away from our feeders and nesting areas? Believe it or not, there are some solutions. Now, they cannot be guaranteed as birds pretty much own the skies and, unless we can devise some flying monkeys to guard our clouds, we pretty much have to concede that we have already lost the air battle. But, we can try! Below are a few quick and dirty suggestions from WBU Clearwater’s bag o’tricks:
- Don’t use seed that bully birds will generally prefer. Only use seed for certain types of more docile birds. WBU Seed Blends featuring ingredients like safflower and sunflower chips, peanuts, millet and striped sunflower seeds will attract more of Florida’s even-tempered wild birds like titmice, nuthatches, twohees, juncos and chickadees.
- Use select feeders. Utilizing small feeders, or cage feeders, that are more usable for Florida’s smaller wild birds, can help keep larger, more aggressive wild bully birds from perching to feed.
- Divert their attention. Use diversion tactics like suet feeders and seed aimed at the bully birds’ preferences. In Florida, these bully birds would most likely include those listed above; the Blue Jays (Scrubs, too!) and Mocking birds. Place these feeders several feet away from any other types of feeders. Create an oasis just for the bully birds.
- Choose weight-specific feeders. Although Scooter detests them, feeders which are weight specific are excellent to keep Florida’s larger, more aggressive bully birds from hogging seed and beating on the little ones. Wild Birds Unlimited’s Squirrel Proof Feeder is a perfect option and can help deter Florida’s heavier bully birds from indulging in their antics.
- Make them work for it. While smaller birds such as titmice happily cling in any direction, Florida’s larger bully birds don’t often care to dangle from feeders. Applying seed or suet in an awkward position which would require a wild bird to hang or cling to the feeder’s edges is an excellent way to inhibit bully birds from being… bullies.
All things considered, Florida’s bully birds serve a valuable purpose… even the jays… whose appetite is, decidedly… questionable. In the grand scheme of things, and according to the ladder of natural succession, larger, more aggressive birds serve to teach their younger, more docile counterparts that there are dangers worth learning to avoid even in the most beautiful of spots.
Scooter! Grab the Fava beans and a nice Chianti! Uncle Jay is makin’ dinner!