I’d bet many people think that “Ask the Bird Folks” is produced by a well paid, highly efficient staff of writers and researchers, that is on par with the team at CBS’s 60 Minutes. The answer is yes we are, except for the well paid and highly efficient part. In reality many of the bird questions we receive never make it into the paper because: the timing is wrong (i.e. hummingbird questions in January), or the question and answer are too simple (Q: Are robin’s eggs blue? A: Yes.), or the question is too difficult and we have no idea what the answer is (Q: Are Bald Eagles really bald? A: How should we know? We’re not hairdressers.). With that in mind I’d like to wrap up 2006 by answering many of the questions we couldn’t fit in during the past fifty-one weeks. I won’t include the person’s name though. It’s bad enough that their question is lumped in with all the year-end scrap, they don’t need all of America to know who they are.
The first question is about turkeys. One guy was surprised when he saw a turkey sitting high up in a tree. He wanted to know how it got up there. The answer of course is that the turkey flew up in the tree. Some people mix up the Wild Turkey with those fat, white, dopey, domestic turkeys. You know, the ones with the pop-up timer. Wild Turkeys are embarrassed to be related to those brain-dead creatures. But who doesn’t have relatives they are embarrassed about? The wild birds are strong flyers, reaching speeds approaching sixty MPH. However, their flights are usually short, typically less than a mile. Turkeys mostly walk or run, but they use flight to escape danger. They also fly up into trees, where they roost at night. And if you ever see a turkey at the beach, don’t write in. Turkeys can swim too.
One lady witnessed a female cardinal sitting on a nest for several days. The cardinal suddenly abandoned the nest and there were no signs that eggs had been laid. She wanted to know if cardinals ever had “empty nest syndrome.” I guess her thinking is that Mrs. Cardinal’s kids had grown up and flown away but the lonely bird continued sitting on the nest, pretending to still have babies. Personally I don’t get this empty nest thing. The thought of someday getting a bit of peace and quiet around my house is the only thing that gets me through the day. Birds aren’t much different. After a summer of raising fledglings, the parents desperately need some alone time to prepare for the coming winter or long migration. They don’t have time to be missing whatever hatched out of those eggs. More than likely the female cardinal was sitting on eggs, but abandoned it after they were stolen by any one of a dozen or so predators. Nearly three out of every four cardinal nests are lost to some kind of predation. Evidently, in addition to being beautiful birds, cardinals are also delicious.
A woman from Western MA added a new suet feeder to the assortment of feeders that she already had. She was concerned because birds had not yet used her new feeder and it had been out for nearly three weeks. Then she wrote the words that made my day. She asked if she was doing something wrong or “should I just be patient?” Yes!! I could have kissed the lady or at least baked her a plate of muffins. Finally, somebody realized that there are no automatic guaranties when it comes to bird feeding. Sometimes birds jump onto a new feeder right away and sometimes they ignore it. They may continue to use the old feeders that they know are productive and safe. To speed things up you can let the old feeders go empty and force the birds to investigate the newer feeder, but other than that having a bit patience is what works the best. And while I’m at it, during the early part of mild winters (like this one has been), many birds eat natural food and spend less time at feeders. Please don’t think the birds hate you or that your birdseed is bad. When the natural food is gone or when the weather turns nasty the birds will return. In the mean time just be “patient” and don’t call me to complain. Remember, I sell birdseed. When birds don’t come to feeders, I’m the one who suffers the most. It would be a sad day if my ’83 Plymouth Horizon had to be hauled away by the repo man. I only have twenty-two payments left.
Darn it. I’m out of room and I still have a stack of questions to answer. Oh well, back in the pile they go. I’ll try to fit them in next year. Right now I have to get ready for New Year’s Eve. I got a sweet deal on some tickets to see Guy Lombardo. I can’t wait.