Bird Feeding Fatigue
I’m suffering from BFF. Not Best Friends Forever, but Bird Feeding Fatigue. Normally scrupulous about keeping my various birdfeeders well-stocked, for about eight weeks I didn’t put out so much as a single seed.
After a long hiatus, on Wednesday I filled the feeders with fresh suet, safflower, and nyjer.
Part of the reason is that we just finished up a very busy period at work, one that required lots of weekend hours. Something had to give during this time.
But it’s also true that this has been an uninspiring year for Chicago-area bird feeding. This has been confirmed by Tim, the manager at the local Wild Birds Unlimited store. (Tim knows his birds.)
We saw fewer orioles, woodpeckers, and grosbeaks, but so many, many house sparrows. House sparrows are actually finches that were introduced from Europe. In North America they have multiplied beyond the limits of good manners.
And speaking of bad manners, I must add that house sparrows are ravenous eating machines. They are the locusts of the bird world. They eat the safflower I put out for northern cardinals, they eat the nyjer seed I put out for the goldfinches, and they devour the peanuts I put out for the woodpeckers and nuthatches. They even learned to like the grape jelly that I put out for the orioles.
Now, you can say that we must not use human standards to judge the worth of birds and other animals. From a philosophical point of view, that may be correct.
But here’s the thing. I’m the one paying for the bird food, and I do it for myself as much as for the birds. I do it so that Judy and I can watch the birds we like from our back porch. In my opinion, house sparrows are remarkably dull little birds. What’s more, they are birds that need no help from me to be fruitful and multiply.
So here’s my new plan. No more blank checks at the bird food store. The all-you-can-eat bird buffet is closed. I will not give up on feeding the birds, but there are limits.
I will keep fresh water in the bird baths throughout the year, including in our heated bird bath during the winter. Water can be harder to come by than food for wild birds.
I will not put out safflower during the summer, after the rose breasted grosbeaks are gone. I will put out peanuts only during winter. And I will put out grape jelly only while the orioles are around.
Suet is the one food I will put out throughout the year, because nobody eats it other than the woodpeckers. Disgusting stuff, but I like woodpeckers. (Suet is rendered beef fat, in case you were wondering.)
My least favorite birds will probably still consume a majority of the bird food, but I will no longer be pouring birdseed down a bottomless pit.
Do you feed birds in your garden, and if so, do you ever suffer from Bird Feeding Fatigue?