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Starlings and Bluebirds

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bluebirds wait for the tenth welfare handout of the day.

I'm not done with Guyana, not by a long shot, but this has been such a ravishingly beautiful winter--the most beautiful I can remember, with a fresh new layer of snow nearly every day to cover the old, not to mention four days of solid ice, and all the brittle beauty that goes along with that. I've decided to post my ice pictures before the woodcocks arrive on February 19 and hurry us all toward spring.

The mundane, transformed by a gleaming coat.
A sassafras bud, waiting for spring, coated in a protective glass layer.

Of course, the transformation of their habitat and food sources into a wilderness of brittle ice was less than delightful for the birds. Ice storms are one of the single greatest population drains on the eastern bluebird. A bad winter can kill them by the millions.

And so the ice transformed our bluebirds into beggars--eight of them at once.

Here, a field sparrow crouches, heel-deep in suet dough, while bluebirds feed all around him.

I had to sit by the patio window whenever I put suet dough out, or a huge and ravenous flock of starlings would come in and clean it all up within seconds. Starlings are only a problem for us when the ground is covered with snow and/or frozen. They clear out as soon as it thaws, bless their dark little hearts. I gradually moved my rocking chair up until my toe touched the window, so bold were the starlings. Any bird that wanted the good stuff had to look me right in the eye.

We're not sure we want to do that. You don't seem to like us much.

You have to admit they're beautiful birds, if a bit on the gluttonous, pot-bellied, poopy side. Never fear, I put out tons of old fridge and freezer food for them; they were cleaning chicken carcasses and eating sausage and buns and dog chow and fancy ravioli like there was no tomorrow. I just was not into giving them the Zick dough, the costly, hard labor of mine own biceps.

One of my favorite ice storm revelations: When I'd rise, arms waving, and holler BOOGA BOOGA at the starlings, which would rise up and fly off in a panic, the bluebirds would just sit there in the willow, watching, never ruffling a feather. They knew what I was doing and why, and they knew that as soon as I got rid of the starlings, they could come in, say a polite hello, and eat in peace.
You got that right, Captain Cobalt. Zick loves you.


Hah! First comment!

The starlings around here know I hate them, and they bolt off at the first tap on the window. Rarely do I need to revert to the screaming, window-pounding virago within. Yet, even when I have a meltdown, the good birds usually stay close by, or return quickly, as if knowing the meaning of the curse-word: "STARLINGS!"


Oh, I love them too! And I'm trying to figure out how to feed them here in this woodland of racoons and squirrels. As soon as I get the feeder stand figured out I will await with pattering heart!

Your ice and snow photos have been exquisite. Nature gives something back each time it takes away...

I have the same problem and find that dog chow works very well. I put some of that out as well as corn in another part of the yard to keep them busy. I open my window and scream at them when they go for the suet. I wouldn't mind one or two but I can get up to 40 at a time!!!

I love your bluebird pictures. You are right about the ice. We have had a couple of really bad ice storms and have been searching for my beloved golden crowned kinglets for weeks now and can't find even a single one. :o(.

Wonderful post.

I may not have a chet baker - but my dogs are quite skilled at birding - they take great pleasure in running off the starlings and the house sparrows while weaving between morning doves and juncos who are left alone and seem to now know the drill as they just scoot out of the way.

Captain Cobalt indeed.

OH, I love this! I am not the only one running out the door to BOOGA BOOGA the starlings away. My God, they don't leave much for any other bird...and those Bluebirds are smart to wait and let you do a good job. You served worms also, I'll bet. Can birds adore? I think the Bluebirds adore you.

It has certainly been a beautiful winter in Ohio.

By the way, that last shot of the male on ice is fantastic.

"When I'd rise, arms waving, and holler BOOGA BOOGA at the starlings, which would rise up and fly off in a panic, the bluebirds would just sit there in the willow, watching, never ruffling a feather."

That's because the starlings aren't David Steinberg fans, while the bluebirds are. (Or were, way back when he was a standup comic.)

I can just imagine those bluebirds chatting it up, "Heck, when is that woman going to flail her arms and get those guys out of here?" :c) So glad they had the Zick dough to get them through.

"heel-deep in suet dough"

That is going to become my new preferred phrase for expressing personal satisfaction and contentment.

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