The Birdfeeder Mystery – Solved

I haven’t been able to figure out two things this winter:  why the birds aren’t using the birdfeeder that they loved the most last winter, and why I found blood smeared all over another birdfeeder two weeks ago.

The birdfeeder that the birds loved last year, and the year before, and the year before that, is hung from an iron bracket that is screwed into one of the cornerboards of our house.  This feeder is in a very sheltered spot above our tiny four foot by five foot deck.  The deck is bordered on two sides by house walls – one wall is the kitchen sliding glass door (great for the cats to view the birdfeeding action), and the other wall is the non-windowed living room wall.  Not only have the birds loved this feeder, but the squirrels have loved to climb down the roof above, hang from the gutter, and jump onto the feeder.  And the feeder is sheltered by trees, too; there is a lovely old large apple tree just a few feet away that makes for a nice staging area for birds to wait their turn.  And there is also a large maple tree just three feet away from the deck’s edge which also provides cover.  A second feeder, also usually quite popular, hangs from a shepherd’s crook post stuck in the ground just by the maple tree’s trunk.

But this year both feeders have seen very little action.  I thought perhaps it was because I first mixed safflower seeds and black oil sunflower seeds, but we’re back to just black oil sunflower seeds, and still not much activity.  Maybe it was because we bought a new feeder for the spot over the deck?  Same style as the old one, but new?  Maybe it smells like people and thus repels the birds?  I haven’t lost a lot of sleep over this mystery, but I have been wondering.

And then today I was talking on the phone to my dad while standing in the kitchen and watching the birds at the feeders; today there were actually quite a few birds enjoying a post-snowstorm meal.  A peaceful, lovely scene: fresh snow, lots of pretty little songbirds eating, and even a couple of squirrels chowing down.  Then – Zoom!  Whish!  Bam!  – a Cooper’s Hawk brazenly flew in just inches from our sliding glass door and tried to pick off a goldfinch that was at the feeder over the deck.  I think the goldfinch escaped, and the other birds and the squirrels dissipated in panic.  The Cooper’s Hawk settled down on a branch of the maple tree, looking hungry and smug, until I scared it away by going up to the sliding glass door; it flew across our neighbor’s yard and settled into a large tree with a commanding view of our feeders.

Mystery solved.  If I were a bird, I wouldn’t eat at our feeders, either.  And now I think I have a pretty good idea of where all that blood came from on the one feeder.  Yikes.  A bit gruesome, but I have to admit that it was pretty spectacular to see that hawk in action.

I’d love to hear if anyone has any good ideas of how to feed the songbirds while repelling the hawk from the area of the feeders.  Or perhaps we’ll have to just give up and stop putting seed into those feeders…

6 thoughts on “The Birdfeeder Mystery – Solved”

  1. Build a large chicken wire enclosure with holes large enough for songbirds, but not large enough for hawks. Works like a charm.

  2. Jean, Hawks are very adept at picking off the small birds as they fly from the shelter of the tree to the chicken wire.

  3. Then I suggest a nice shotgun. Oh, wait. You live in Massachusetts. I bet you can’t do that there… 🙂

  4. On the other hand, you could accurately state that it’s still a birdfeeder. It’s just that a Cooper’s Hawk is the bird being fed. Personally, I’d love to have a Cooper’s Hawk frequenting our back yard.

    Jean, shotguns are legal in Massachusetts, and I know people there who own them. But a responsible gun owner wouldn’t fire a shotgun in the suburban setting where Abby lives, because of the risk of hitting an unseen person or pet.

  5. Jean, Jean, Jean – I’m shocked. The woman who won’t use a mousetrap would shoot a hawk?
    And actually, Dan, you’re right: it is still a birdfeeder. I hadn’t thought of it that way. I do love hawks, but it’s hard to see the carnage up close.
    At any rate, I put out more seed this morning, and the little birds came flocking in to eat it, so maybe the hawk has moved on. (There were also quite a few crows in the area this morning, so maybe they’re the hired bodyguards for the little birds.) All very fascinating.

  6. No, I wouldn’t shoot a hawk. I’d miss.
    As for shooting in suburban neighborhoods — um, Dan? They do that out here. More often than is really a good thing, unfortunately. And no, it’s not legal.

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