Blue jays are prone to gobbling great quantities of dough, but I don't mind it. They're just bearing it away to cache it for later. Sometimes I give them the bum's rush when I think they've taken enough. But I adore them and they know it. Well, that's enough of good bird photos. On to the crappy ones.
It's that time of winter, when the cold clamps down and supplies of natural bird food are dwindling. As I write, the temperature is plunging through the twenties, despite brilliant sun and blue sky. Tonight's going to be in the single digits, brrrr!
When the ground freezes, European starlings come in hordes to my feeders. I am an unrepentant snob when it comes to feeding good suet dough to starlings. Hence my newly coined term, "Snob feeding." If the starlings would just take a little food and leave, like all the rest of the birds do, that would be fine. But starling style (dare I call it Eurostyle?) is to descend in a pack of a dozen or more, crowd, squabbling, into the dish, and vacuum up every bit of food. Before they depart, they unload the foul contents of their caecums into the food dish for me to clean up. (No, clearly I dare not.) What doesn't go into the dish goes all over our front stoop. They sit all day in the sumac on our north border and watch for me to put out more food, and they try to beat the bluebirds, Carolina wrens, cardinals, titmice and woodpeckers to it. Usually, they succeed. If starlings weren't exotic birds, and so aggressive and abundant, I'd probably put up with their gluttony. But the filth they leave everywhere puts me over the edge.
There had to be some other solution, given that the "bluebird feeders" I have are both failures, from a number of standpoints.
I really like it when the bluebirds feel comfortable enough to turn their backs on me. That is something I can assure you the starlings NEVER do. A subtle refinement of this new system is to pile the suet dough on the side of the dish nearest the window, so the birds have to come right up against the glass to feed. The starlings don't like that, and I have seen only one house sparrow venture on this feeder. That's saying something.
Action like this right by your kitchen window is its own reward. I know these pictures are awful, but it was the darkest rainy day ever, and I haven't had a chance to get up and clean the outside glass. I just had to show you what all goes on now outside my window as I'm cooking and washing dishes. As you can see, sunny days are worse yet for photography! This is a bluebird with a cardinal. Check out the hind toe length on this white-breasted nuthatch. Nice hook to hang by.How nice to see Mr. Redbelly conquer his shyness! Help yourself! We're all friends here at Birdie Cheers.
If you're around at predictable times a day, and you're having trouble with starlings eating all your good Zick dough,** you might want to try something like this. A large, high-quality cage excluder feeder is a good place to start. But it's really rewarding to train the birds you like most to trust you and eat in your presence. And they'll like you, and trust you right back.
**There. I wrote it. I still have to suppress a startled "Waaak!" when I see people I've never met calling it Zick Dough on their blogs. I keep forgetting that we're all out there, introducing ourselves, every day.