Why Do Birds

Solutions to the bird strike problem I told you about last month proved more complicated than I thought. The simple stickers some of my friends recommended are, it turns out, totally ineffective, as are the silhouettes of birds of prey. What are recommended by websites focused on reducing bird strikes are window markers that create a pattern across the entire window, with ideally no more than five centimetres between the visual elements. Despite the total coverage, the markers apparently don’t impede the view outside, or light transmission, too much.

In the end, we more or less solved the bird strike problem by removing the proximate cause: the bird feeder, which encouraged transient bird flocks, who were not familiar with the surroundings, to stop in for a feed. Now that the feeder is no longer around to attract the finches and other seed eaters, and the migrating birds have moved on to their northern breeding grounds, the birds have done a shift change. The insectivores have taken over—which is handy, because we’ve got a lot of insects for them.

This month we spotted a Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula) for the first time, albeit briefly: it’s apparently a tough bird to lock eyes on. We’ve had a pair of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (Sphyrapicus varius) move in, and they seem to be sticking around. Like most of the other woodpeckers we have around here (and we have a lot of woodpeckers: just ask the side of our house), they’re personable sorts, with a call that sounds like a squeaky toy. And for at least the second year we’ve seen Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater), with a trio of two males and one female turning up a couple of weeks ago.

More on those cowbirds in a moment.

The Eastern Phoebes (Sayornis phoebe) are back this year, too. They’re a regular presence in the trees around the house, hunting insects and wiggling their tails. They’ve rebuilt last year’s nest atop our front porch light: there’s usually one in the nest at any given point; it’s rare to see them together away from it. I did manage to catch two of them together in the third photo, above (which I’m very proud of myself for catching): they appear to be having words about who’s neglecting the kids.

Eastern Phoebe nest

Speaking of the kids: Because the nesting bird usually flies off when we go in or out through the front door, Jennifer was able to peek into the nest and get a photo. Behold, five phoebe eggs—and one egg belonging to the Brown-headed Cowbird, which is an obligate brood parasite.

I knew the cowbirds were up to something, but I won’t judge: that’s just how the cowbird do, and based on last year’s shell fragments it’s not the first time they’ve done it with these phoebes. Last year the phoebes managed to raise a full clutch of birds to fledging; it’ll be interesting to see them do that again this year.