When I was a teenager I had parakeets and loved them. They died when I was in college, and my husband was not eager to have birds in the house, or bird feeders either. I do agree they can be messy. But a few years back my granddaughter gave me a Baltimore oriole feeder for Christmas. “Grampa, they only eat grape jelly. That can’t be messy on the ground.” Right!
So started my journey in learning how to attract them. The first year, nothing. The second year a pair found my feeder and were constant eaters for two or so weeks. They flitted in and out so fast I couldn’t take pictures. Then they disappeared. I was unhappy, thinking a hawk might have got them. The feeder was put away, but I learned they were probably too busy finding protein for the babies.
The following year, I had a pair come and switched to worms when they no longer came for the jelly. What a wonderful time watching when the three male chicks and one female showed. They fought like kids over the four roosting spots on the feeder. My husband caught me one day yelling, “Can’t you kids get along?” The poor female always lost out and was last. The babies had no fear and would just back off to a nearby tree when I checked and filled the feeder again. When I said, “Soup’s on,” they were at the feeder before I hit the back door. I got many wonderful pictures.
I learned that the wasps showed up in August. Trying to keep them away from the birds was a full-time job. I tried different things with paltry results. Finally, a friend gave me a beehive-type wasp catcher. It worked wonderfully.
Last year was so different: Two females arrived. They didn’t supply all the drama of the year before.
Disappointingly, the birds showed up later than usual this year and were not the mature birds of earlier years. From what my birding friend tells me, the visitors are probably completely new birds, with the former ones not having claimed the space.
The babies showed up at the feeder, too, but some of the first ones there couldn’t manage to land on it. They finally managed to land on a nearby hanging plant, and the adults would get some jelly from the feeder and feed them.
Now there is much drama as they do try to bump each other off the feeder. It’s fun to watch them figure out how to land.
Of course, they splatter jelly onto the nearby garage. Neatniks, they’re not.
Barbara Aslakson, St. Louis Park
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