Q Why aren't there pigeons in the suburbs? I like pigeons. I'd accept them at my feeders.

A Well, there are pigeons out there. They live under bridges and in parking ramps. That more or less removes them from most residential areas. If the birds congregate nearby, you might be able to attract them with grain scattered on the ground. Be careful, however, of what you wish for.

How to shoo out a bird

Q I was carrying dishes into my kitchen from the deck. The deck door was open, and the feeder hangs near the door. A chickadee made a wrong turn and flew into kitchen. We tried to shoo it out. Difficult to tell who was most stressed by this, me or the bird. There must be a better way.

A If you had made the kitchen as dark as possible, close to totally dark, the challenge would have been much smaller.

Darkness will calm the bird. With a flashlight illuminating the bird, but not in its eyes, gently, calmly drape a soft cloth over the bird and thus confine it for removal. If the kitchen could not be darkened, you should shoo the bird into a room more suitable.

Remove nests with care

Q Do birds re-use nests in birdhouses or should used nests be removed?

A Remove them. This is the time of year to do that. Wear gloves. Don't stand downwind as you pull the dusty nest out. The dust is nasty. Also watch for hornets using the interior or underside of the box as a platform for their nest. Hornets are worse than the dust.

Birds pick at foundation

Q Sparrows are picking at loose mortar on the foundation of my garage. Why, and how do I stop them?

A Sounds more like a mortar problem than a bird problem. Patch the weak spot. The birds likely are using mortar grains as grit, a digestive aid.

Nixing squirrel poison

Q Can I poison squirrels?

A You may not. Squirrels are a game animal, protected for seasonal hunting. In addition, any kind of poison used outside is a really bad idea.

Getting cold feet

Q Will the metal perches on the bird feeder we just bought harm birds' feet in cold winter weather?

A Bird toes and your toes are quite different. Bird toes are mostly skin and bones with little flesh and few nerve endings. Most likely they deal with cold weather better than you do.

Black oil sunflower seed

Q Why do birds find black oil sunflower seed so attractive? Why is it so highly recommended as feeder fodder?

A The seeds are nutritious and heavy on oil, in this case a non-polluting energy source. Plus, the shells are thinner, thus more accessible to the small birds -- chickadees, nuthatches, finches -- that are likely to frequent feeders here.

Hunting regulations

Q We hear of diminishing bird populations. In that case, why allow hunting?

A The populations of those species for which hunting is allowed are carefully monitored and maintained by both state and federal governments, as well as by hunters themselves. Hunters pay a lot of money through license fees, hunting-stamp purchases, and contributions to various game organizations, such as Ducks Unlimited or Pheasants Forever, to ensure that game bird populations will support a seasonal take. Hunters often get flak for shooting birds. Really, we all should pay as much attention -- and as much money -- as they do for favored species.

Suet prices

Q Why is suet so expensive? I mean a buck seventy-nine a pound for bird food?

A Butchers, even supermarket butchers, once gave suet away. Then they discovered they could package it and sell it. That's why. Try butchers in smaller towns, at the edges of the metro area. I'd tell you where I buy mine (about 50 cents a pound), but my source has a limited supply.

Lifelong birder Jim Williams can be reached at woodduck38@gmail.com. Join his conversation about birds at www.startribune.com/wingnut.