Thom Smith | Naturewatch: Be careful what you wish for ...
Q: I have never seen bluebirds in my life till last week. I was excited to see them. Now, how do I get rid of them? First it was one, then two, and now so many I cannot count them all. They chased away my woodpeckers, tufted titmouse, nuthatch, and all other small birds. I took away the food they like, but they come back when I sneak some out for my birds. Help!
— Geri, Hinsdale, Mass.
A: This is most likely a winter flock looking for sumac, dogwood berries, honeysuckle, small crab apples, juniper berries, generally not bird seed. They have been reported to sometimes eat peanut and sunflower bits or chip (small pieces). Don't confuse these small birds with the larger blue jay.
Geri: I looked them up and they are Eastern Bluebirds. I know they are not blue jays. They seem to like my suet mostly, then the fruit and nut bird seed. I stopped putting those out for now and use just sunflower seed. They eat it, but not much. They leave, [and] twice a day they are back looking.
A: That answers it, bluebirds do occasionally eat suet and fruit and berry seed mix, probably picking out the morsels of fruit and berries. Their favorite feeder food is a beetle larvae commonly called the mealworm. This winter, I hung out a suet cake with mealworms that attracts the same birds as other suet cakes I have used in the past, woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches. I thought this may also attract bluebirds. No luck. The feeder I use for suet is the bottom feeding style, probably not suited for bluebirds
WHILE ON THE SUBJECT ...
If you have bluebird nesting boxes, and have not already cleaned them out, put on a dust or surgical mask and latex gloves, and clean now. Put waste in a bag and seal for disposal with other waste. And if you already have, say last fall, make a quick check to be sure mice haven't moved in. That is, of course, if there is no sign of bluebirds already nesting.
On March 4, I saw a song sparrow; after the big snow, there are more now, at least three. This seems way early, so I thought you should know (if you don't already). Also on March 4, a flock of robins came in at once, mixed with starlings, and landed in a holly bush. About 20 robins got into this little 2-foot-high holly. Within minutes starlings separated and formed their own flock of about a dozen, not interested in those holly berries, which were gone anyway.
— Charles, Middlefield, Mass.
A. First, the song sparrows you saw are not particularly early, although with the wintery weather it may seem so. It is normal for song sparrows to arrive in early March, and it is not uncommon for this species to be seen during Christmas Bird Counts. The last Berkshire Counts were held on Dec. 17 and 18, and Jan. 1. In North Berkshire, on Dec. 17, five song sparrows were counted, while on the following day in Central Berkshire, two were counted, and on Jan. 1 in Southern Berkshire, nine were counted.
Robins, at this season, feed much like bluebirds, searching out fruits and soft berries until the snow melts and the ground thaws.
A REMINDER TO ALL
Bring your bird feeders in, as a bear left the side of my house muddied trying to get to mine last night.
— Michael, Richmond, Mass.
Thom Smith welcomes your questions and comments. Email him at Naturewatch@live.com or write him care of The Berkshire Eagle, 75 S. Church St., Pittsfield, MA 01201.
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