There’s Thievery About

by Curt Kovener

I, like a number of southern Indiana residents, enjoy feeding and watching the birds during the winter.

Birds of all colors flock to winter feeders: cardinal red, jay blue, shades of gray juncos, orange & white breasted towhees, gray but trying to be yellow finches, chickadees with their black cap, brownish titmouse with their head tuft, the long beaked nuthatch, a couple of sizes of woodpeckers, and sometimes even the generic “little brown bird”.

When the snow covers their usual buffet, feeders are a main attraction and, if not a life saving, then a life enhancing matter for the feathered creatures.

And it is interesting watching them establish their pecking order both on the feeders and on the ground. When bluejays or hairy woodpeckers fly in, everyone else scatters. And it is humorous to watch the usually docile morning dove defend his/her spot under the feeder chasing away all interlopers.

The birds reluctantly share their sunflower seed with squirrels. And I don’t mind that as long as the squirrels glean their grain from the ground.

Too often, though, one will climb the skinny metal shepherd’s hook and park himself on the feeder to gorge his belly. A sharp rap on the window pane will send the glutton leaping from the feeder and scurrying up a nearby tree. The force of his jump scatters more sunflower seed on the ground and the birds quickly swoop in and find the spilled seed.

Sometimes there are gangsta gangs of squirrels who attempt to take over all the feeders. Window rapping does not bother these bushy tails as they feel safety in numbers. But a turn of the doorknob and a rapid opening of the door sends them all heading for cover. And almost as soon as the door in closed, the birds fly back as if on cue.

But, by far, the worst offender of the bird feeder is the raccoon. Skulking around under the cover of darkness, the raccoon is not content with eating seed on the ground. No, these dark invaders, climb up to the feeders, work on them until they come apart dumping all the intended bird food onto the ground. Then the feasting begins.

One raccoon was so fat that he/she bent the 1/2″ metal shepherd’s hook nearly to the ground. Then detached the seed feed and ate its fill.

To combat them, I began using heavy-duty paperclips to keep the feeders from being opened by nighttime visitors. It didn’t work. The bandits simply took the entire sunflower and suet feeders with them.

I guess that explains the black mask across the little thief’s eyes.