Total Bird Brain

I have a bird brain now. No, I’m not stupid or shallow now. What I mean is that I’m really getting into bird watching right now. Part of it is because I just finished a lab in my biology course that involves watching the birds at the feeder for certain interactions. My group decided to watch the interactions between the Brown Headed Nuthatch and two woodpecker species, the Downy and the Red-Bellied. It was interesting to watch the species interact, but it was also interesting to watch the other birds that I wasn’t studying interact. These are just a few observations I noted.

Contrary to how one would assume a Red-Bellied Woodpecker would choose to eat, the woodpecker rarely landed on the suet block which would be the easier landing site for the woodpecker. Woodpeckers are usually seen on the sides of trees trying to get to the bugs and larvae that live under the bark. The sort of hand off the side of the tree, whereas other birds perch on branches. The suet block is a block that hangs from the feeder, but doesn’t have a dish like the seed feeder does. Instead it’s enclosed in a cage, so the birds can eat it while also having a place to grip. Based on how a woodpecker would typically land on a tree, one would think all woodpeckers would go for the suet. But this dingo of a woodpecker just HAS to have his seed (I just assume all birds are males unless their species is sexually dimorphic). SO, whenever I saw the Red-Bellied Woodpecker land at the feeder, he always went for the seed. This is a large bird. The Red-Bellied Woodpecker is a bit bigger than a Northern Cardinal, so he doesn’t fit on the seed dish as well as other birds. I saw this woodpecker perch in two different, distinct ways. One way was hanging off the seed dish, looking like he was doing a chin up on a bar. The other way was siting sideways in the dish. I thought it was interesting and hilarious, watching the Red-Bellied Woodpecker land and eat from the seed section and try to ward off other birds from its awkward position.

red-bellied-woodpecker-on-feeder

Another thing I noticed was which birds were put off by other birds. The Blue Birds generally didn’t care who was there as long as they were friendly. The little guys, the Chickadees, Nuthatches, and Titmice, were okay with the Blue Birds, but if a Jay, Cardinal, Black Bird, or Mockingbird visited, they shortened their visits. Speaking of Black Birds…

The Red-Winged Black Birds became the bane of my existence for this lab. They were feeder clearers. If one of them landed, it was like hitting a reset button on the feeder. Everybody left as soon as one of them appeared. And it was even worse when the whole flock came to visit. Whenever the flock came, they took over everything. The top of the feeder, the seed, the suet, even the ground. The only other bird that would stay nearby with them were the Mourning Doves.

Of course the ultimate data skewer was the hawk. There are two hawks on campus. One of them is a Red Shouldered Hawk and constantly hangs out around the feeders. There were a few times that the hawk was nearby and the birds would stop coming. Once a Blue Bird was frozen at the feeder while the hawk sat int the tree that was directly above the feeder. But it was always amusing to see the crows chasing after the hawk.

Wrapping up this post of various bird observations is the Mourning Doves. These birds were always hanging out under the feeder eating the dropped seeds. From time to time though, one of them would fly up and sit on the seed feeder. Just sit, not eat. They would sit there for several minutes before going back to eat off the ground. Once a second Mourning Dove came close to landing on top of the one that was on the seed first.


My take away from doing my lab was that birds are so interesting and each species has its own personality. Some are friendly, others are dominant and territorial. Some just really don’t care. And Robins just sit in trees all day and only land on the ground to get a worm (seriously, I walk by trees full of Robins in the quad). Until next time, Sanders out.\


Total Bird Brain

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