Hope's Corner: A Little Bird Told Me
"We are tree-huggers and bird-feeders around here. And when, not too long ago, all the birds deserted us, we were baffled. Turns out, they are seed connoisseurs. Who knew?" says Jackie Hope.
For the past 38 years we have been feeding the local wildlife. We’ve fed about 76 broods of robins, at least 114 broods of sparrows, 75 litters of squirrels, and 152 litters of rabbits. We figure we have fed 304 robins, 570 sparrows, 225 squirrels, and 760 rabbits over the years.
We have not begrudged a mouthful for any of them. Except when the rabbits go after the shrubberies. Indeed, we have purchased numerous ears of corn, sacks of peanuts, and a jillion bags of sunflower seeds during the course of our marriage.
So why, oh why, did the birds all desert us a few weeks ago? Why did the squirrels stop hanging around in the pine tree, waiting for the strewing of sunflower seeds in their fave feeding place? No chickadee chatter. No Eurasian ring-necked doves shouting, “Ack!” No squirrels teasing the dog and bullying the sparrows.
According to numerous sources, including the National Wildlife Federation, the best food for all types of birds are sunflower seeds. And ever since we hung up our first bird feeder, we have been serving up sunflower seeds. In past years we tried special food blends, to attract diverse birds.
We have tried thistle seeds for goldfinches. But they preferred sunflowers. We tried songbird food for redpolls. They preferred sunflowers. We scattered cracked corn for the doves. And, you guessed it, they preferred sunflowers. Chickadees hung out on the top of the sunflower feeders, and hollered to their homies, “Sunflower seeds-deeds-deeds!”
The squirrels hung upside down on the sunflower feeders and stuffed their faces. Honestly, they would eat anything and everything we put in the feeders. But they are especially fond of beheading my giant garden sunflowers just as soon as the seeds begin to ripen.
So, sunflower seeds have been our go-to for years. We always buy them at the farm store. Sometimes in 50-pound sacks. Until the pain-in-the-back incident, after which we switched to 20-pound sacks.
But once, just once, we picked up a sack of hardware store sunflower seeds. Instead of being nice, shiny black seeds, they were kind of gray. So was the day we were shopping at the hardware store, and that is probably why we did not make an extra trip to the farm store.
The birds noticed. Fewer and fewer birds came. We thought it was because of the colder temperatures. We thought the covering of ice on everything might be keeping them away. But as the sun shone more and the temperatures rose, no birds came.
We switched back to the coveted black oil farm store seeds, and the birds and squirrels returned in droves. Just goes to show you that those guys have discerning palates. Now we buy the top-seeded seeds.
Rabbits, however, will eat darned near anything. They stayed around, gobbled up the inferior seeds, and skinned the bark off our trees and shrubs.
Jackie Hope is the longest running Dickinson Press contributor and columnist. "Hope's Corner" is a weekly humorous column centered on a message of hope for residents in southwest North Dakota.