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Bird Feeders Attract More Than Birds

I’m an avid hunter, after all, I’ve been a hunter all my life, but I also enjoy watching wildlife. As many people probably already know, in addition to my love of hunting I am also a wildlife artist and illustrator. As such, it’s important that I observe, and carefully study, wildlife as much as possible. Birds of all kinds are often my painting subjects, and that includes songbirds. Over the years, for “Pennsylvania Game News Magazine” alone, I have painted a variety of birds for their covers including a great-horned owl, wild turkeys, a cooper’s hawk, ruffed grouse, bluebirds, an osprey, purple martins, a ruby-throated hummingbird, and a scarlet tanager. I’ve also painted eagles, doves, crows and a host of other birds. One of my favorite subjects, however, are songbirds or the birds that we commonly see in our yards and around our bird feeders.

I guess it’s not surprising then that I have bird feeders and suet feeders in my yard; I even have a squirrel feeder, which the various birds also utilize. My only deterrent to having the feeders out are the bears, which also enjoy all the goodies — so far this year there have been no problems. Already this spring I have enjoyed watching and trying to identify as many different species of birds as possible in the backyard. To date, I have seen many of the usual backyard birds including mourning doves, hairy woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, yellow-bellied sapsucker, flickers, nuthatches, towhees, robins, house sparrows, a wood thrush, house finches, cardinals, goldfinches, blue jays, bluebirds, tufted titmouse, black-capped chickadees, an indigo bunting, starlings, blackbirds, and crows. I’m not real sharp at identifying some of the various sparrows, wrens, and warblers as well as a number of other birds, so I’m sure I’ve missed some.

Admittedly, some of my inspiration for some of my paintings has come from my own backyard. A couple of years ago I saw an indigo bunting and a goldfinch in the maple tree; the bright blue of the bunting and the equally bright yellow of the goldfinch complemented each other well, and I painted the pair together in a piece I called, “Blue and Gold”. Interestingly enough, I saw the same two species again this past week out in the maple tree.

Occasionally, there are surprises around the feeders out back, like what I believe was a cooper’s hawk snatching a starling only 40 yards from where I was sitting. I’m sure some other bird feeder enthusiasts have witnessed a similar situation, but the prey may not have been the not-so-well-liked starling. Needless to say, the cooper’s hawk also likes your bird feeders.

Feeders attract more than just birds. Bird feeders also attract squirrels much to the bird lovers dismay. I put up a feeder just for the squirrels, and my bird feeders are not accessible to the squirrels. On some mornings I’ll have several gray squirrels, a red squirrel, and maybe even a chipmunk rummaging around along with a couple of rabbits and a few crows, not to mention an assortment of backyard birds. The corn that is spilled over on the ground has also attracted a couple of meadow voles — the same critters that leave runways through the grass and snow. My neighbor recently told me that the voles are not particularly friends of the Christmas tree farmers; apparently, they eat the roots underground and destroy the trees.

I’ll be looking forward to seeing what other birds I can spot, or what other animals show up because of the feeders being present. Oh, did I mention too that the large black rat snakes like the woodpile next to the feeding areas since there is plenty of food available for them also. I’m OK with it, but you may not want your woodpile near your bird feeders.

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