No, “Anteater and the Bird Feeders” is not the name of a new rock group. Instead it is what played out in my backyard last week. Let me explain…
For years I never put up a bird feeder. I thought that it was like feeding the ducks at the park and it was something you were not supposed to do to ensure the long-term health of the animals. But, after reading some articles on whether it was OK or not (there is a good one on this site by Susan J. Tweit that you should check out), I decided to take the plunge. I figured that since I had already done a lot of things to attract birds to my yard, that adding a feeder was just the proverbial icing on the cake.
Man was it ever. Last year there were battles of hierarchy between Jays, Sparrows, Chickadees, Nuthatches and Squirrels (of course). Steller’s Jays were the kings of the feeder. Whenever they came by to visit, all of the other birds took off and hid in the trees and bushes in the yard. They waited until the Jays were done, and then they quickly returned to eat. Last week I learned that the Jays are not quite the top backyard feeder bully. That title now belongs to the beautiful Northern Flicker. As you can see in the photo above, the Jay was feeding when the Flicker arrived and somehow sat on the plastic roof of my kids’ playhouse.
Here’s a closeup of the Flicker. See its feet? Flickers are woodpeckers, which means they have “zygodactyl” feet with two toes forward and two toes back according to The National Audubon Society’s The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior. This helps them to grip vertical surfaces…
…like our birdhouse. After scaring away the Jay and eating its fill, the Flicker flew a few feet over to take a peek inside. Was it looking for more food? Just exploring? I don’t know, but either way the Flicker was attracted to it. This is yet another reminder that there are people-made features that can be included in a Wildlife Garden.
After eating some seeds, the Flicker jumped down on to the grass and started poking around in the ground. It was concentrating on the areas that were either bare ground (my kids play back there a lot) or wetter areas that were mossy. What was it eating? My best guess is that it found an ant colony since Flickers love to eat them on the ground. Ants and flickers have also been seen before in my rain garden. It’s possible it also could have found some grass seeds or weed seeds.
In Susan’s post that I referenced above, she writes:
And don’t just put out a bird feeder. Create habitat for native birds by planting wildflowers, grasses, and shrubs that provide seeds, berries, and shelter for these winged neighbors.
Yes, that’s it! I believe that the birds come to my backyard because of my efforts to keep parts of it wildlife friendly. The feeder is just, well, the icing on the cake.
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