Skip to comments.Your Birdfeeder Is a Battleground, But the Bigger Birds Don't Always Win
Posted on 02/18/2018 10:07:42 PM PST by nickcarraway
Have you heard of bird feeder fight club? If not, thats probably because I just made it up. But it totally could be a real thing, according to scientists using Cornells vast Project FeederWatch data set.
Feeder Watch is one of several bird related citizen science projects managed by Cornell Universitys Lab of Ornithology, which also include eBird and Nest Watch. More on those projects another time, but I will say that if you are not using eBird yet, you should be.
The brilliance of these projects is that they harness the collective observational power of hundreds of thousands of ordinary people to produce data that is useable by researchers all over the world. And scientists have produced a mountain of peer-reviewed research with the data. According to the lab, over 150 scientific papers have used data from these projects since 1997, looking at everything from the effect of invasive species on native birds to the epidemiology of an eye disease affecting House Finches. An old grad school buddy of mine, Ben Zuckerberg, has made a cottage industry out of using Project FeederWatch data to study the effect of climate change on bird distributions.
But a collaborative of university scientists recently published what may be the coolest FeederWatch study of all. They looked at bird interactions at feeders to determine which species tend to win when it comes to bird on bird fights over food. While Im sure they just wanted to look at a whole bunch of bird fights to see who is toughest, in order to get published they included some high-end math, as well as appropriately sciencey language like the following sentence: Pagels lambda varies from zero to one, where one indicates that variance in dominance is well predicted by a Brownian motion model of evolution. Got it?
Despite that muddy language, the results were fairly intuitive in that size generally predicted dominance. But, there were several surprises. It turns out that woodpeckers are even tougher than their size would indicate. Though I guess its not that surprising that a bird with a chisel bill and a jackhammer neck would do pretty well in backyard brawl. Plus, I cant imagine a Tufted Titmouse is all that tough of an adversary. Woodpeckers also have special skull and bill adaptations that allow them to repeatedly smash their bills into a tree at high velocity without sustaining brain damage, meaning that, unlike human fighters, they are essentially concussion proof.
There were also some interesting three-way species dominance relationships that sounded more like a game of rock-paper-scissors, as pointed out by Rachel Lallensack writing for the journal Science. When all three species were present, House Finches dominated Purple Finches, who dominated juncos. But, in a real head-scratcher of a twist, Juncos dominated House Finches.
I dont know what you guys are seeing in your yards, but my feeders seem disappointingly tranquil in terms of bird fights, and my woodpeckers mainly manifest their violent tendencies on my cedar shingles. Nevertheless, based on this research, I wouldnt want to meet a Downy Woodpecker alone in a dark alley. If you watch birds at your feeder, and can do two hour-long observations each week, then youre the perfect candidate to contribute data to Project FeederWatch. If your feeders are particularly busy, make some popcorn, pull up a chair, check out those feeder fights and document who wins. If things get boring, find a partner for a spirited game of House-Finch-Purple Finch-Junco to pass the time. And, of course, dont forget to calculate Pagels lambda confirmation of the Brownian motion theory of evolution depends on it
But, the doves often show up like ferals invading a shopping mall, and mob the feeder. Luckily, I am often outside having morning coffee. I have a pumper squirt gun that the doves hate. For a short time, the finches and sparrows eat in peace.
I’ve seen plenty of Blue Jays backdown
from cardinals....as far as fights.. seems the Jays fight more amongst themselves....chickadees don’t stick around long enough,although they usually arrive in a group....
The Starling Army raid feeders and I am always chasing them off. They act like many kinds of people.
Starlings will kill every last songbird or woodpecker in the neighborhood given a foothold, but there are ways of dealing with them if you have the patience. Our pair of neighborhood sharp-shinned hawks kill a lot of our favorite birds and nothing whatsoever can be done about them. Blue jays are frequently cowardly when confronted by other birds. Eastern goldfinches will beat the hell out of other eastern goldfinches. At least in our neighborhood, cats are overrated as bird/egg predators, while thirteen-lined ground squirrels ("picket-pin gophers") are underrated. Grackles are annoying but tolerable. A white-breasted nuthatch will move aside for a downy woodpecker, and a downy woodpecker will move aside for a red-bellied woodpecker... who doesn't move for anyone but a blue jay or a group of starlings.
My woodpeckers, all of them, dont seem to mind other birds including the occasional blue jay. Even the Downeys dont flinch when the jays are present.
My cardinals tend to give the blue jays space, as do the smaller birds like chickadees and titmice. But the blue jays tend to stop in, eat quickly, and be on their way.
We strew seed on the ground between a couple “bird baths” (easy water sources) and many birds/squirrels, and even the occasional deer come to dine - often little squabbles but the most impressive is when the occasional hawk swoops in and picks off a Blue Jay....for real battles, the Hummingbird feeders have the most action during their season....
I’d have a bird feeder but it would just draw rats.
If you’ve never had a veggie garden rats will eat most *anything* you grow.
I have a Daystate .177 PCP air rifle that I’ve been using to rid my feeder of those damn house sparrows. I’ve noticed a remarkable increase in the numbers of goldfinches, purple finches, house finches and juncos now that the sparrows are almost all gone......
Those rifles look sweet. I could use one for my chipmunk problem. But alas ... they are out of my price range.
You are my kind of guy! I keep a .22 PCP on standby when those darn furry varieties raid our feeder. I think I mostly have them trained :)
I have witnessed Bruce Lee Hummingbird go for the eyelids of a beefy mockingbird. No more mockingbirds. These HBs have good PR for being little birches.
One morning, my bird feeder got commandeered by a blue jay who drove off everything. Then this chickadee showed up and just would not be driven off, no matter how aggressive the blue jay got. Finally, probably in frustration, the blue jay flew off and the chickadee could eat in peace.
What impresses me about the PCP's is their incredible accuracy. I got hooked on a couple of Youtubers who demo and critique all the various PCPs currently on the market and the new ones coming out......TedsHoldover is one of them
I have a Benjamin Discovery. I wish the gun would hold its air. I have found that over a period of a couple of days, it will gradually lose its charge.
It takes @ 75 pumps to get it into the upper green “safe” range. I guess I get some good CV exercise every time I need to pump it up.
It shouldn't be losing air. You obviously have a bad "O Ring" seal leak which can easily be replaced once you find the leak.
Or try this one......
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