Saturday, August 28, 2010

Yard Vermin..... bird feeding gone wrong

This is the first in a series of entries I'm planning to blog, about the more common yard pest vermin, that has plagued my yard and environment, and the people that think they are doing good things by feeding them , and attracting them. This is not so much to critique the people that feed them, but to better educate them.... and present the facts, so that they can maybe (hopefully) make better choices, so we can all enjoy a greater variety of the wildlife, that is constantly around us, while not allowing our property to be contaminated and damaged, by over populations of these pest species. People can possibly get sick and ill from this problem. Just because they haven't yet, doesn't mean it can't happen. For all we could have happened, already(?)
Let's talk about a species, the House Sparrow (or English Sparrow) that is an invasive species here in N. America, and has caused great problems, and devastated native song bird populations. Here in New York, it has greatly reduced the population and former range of our State bird, the Eastern Bluebird. These House Sparrows (or puttz's...called by many NYers) are cavity nesters (like the Bluebirds), but are much more aggressive by nature, and have 3-4 broods of young each season, to the Bluebirds 1, or 2 broods.
When I lived at my former residence on the western NY lake plains, near L. Ontario...the first several years I lived there, I saw no Bluebirds. I did my research and talked to some knowledgable folks, and joined the NY State Bluebird Society. I began building nest boxes, and placing them in pairs, on my property, and on State lands (where I had permission). I also took measures, to guard against the House Sparrows, by trapping them in the boxes, and in large cage traps, on my property.
Within 2 years...I'm pleased to say, that I had nesting Bluebirds, and these areas were no longer dominated by the non native (and unprotected) House Sparrows. There were farms nearby, so this was a constant battle. The invasive Sparrows, flourish on farms, due to the grain feed that supports them, and ample nesting opportunities. The farmer has no time, to deal with this problem...thus, the farm hopping spread of this species marched across the entire continent...from a few pairs that were released in NY City (brought over from England), around the turn of the century. If those well meaning folks...had only realized what they were really doing, and the consequences that would come of it !
To prove something to myself, I leg banded several of the trapped sparrows, and released least 10 miles away from my property. The same year, I spotted one of the individuals again, and eventually re-trapped it. This time, I destroyed it, and all of the other ones I trapped...which numbered in the thousands, over the years I lived there. While monitoring my nest boxes, I personally witnessed cases, where House Sparrows had pecked to death, the little bluebird fledglings, and sometimes, the parents...and had constructed their new nest (in the newly taken over box), right over the top of the dead bluebirds...and began to mate and lay eggs. This long as I have breath in my lungs, will never breed on any property where I live or reside on.
Let's look at the facts on what else can happen, when large flocks of this species are fed, and allowed to breed and flourish. First, ask yourself...what happens when over populations of humans or any species tales place...without the needed sanitary facilities or means to accommodate them ?
Here's what's happening in our yards, from a large pole feeder that is constantly supplied with cracked corn-millet cheaper spread feed:
There are large flocks of up to hundreds of these birds (I've counted over 400), that are in the trees, roofs, and sitting on the fences , gates, and walkways...that are a white wash of fecal matter. These flocks often go into our open garage, where I find the fecal droppings on the floor, and everywhere else...where I frequent, and where my little daughter plays and my family walks. I have to restrict my daughter from going to the area near the feeder (on the border of the yards), because of the constant mess and activity there. I tried to put out a kiddie wading pool for my daughter, last year. Changing the water daily, was not I saw these flocks of birds drinking and crapping, on and in the pool...constantly. This summer, I only set up a sprinkler for her to run through in the yard, and had to decide...that having a little pool for her, is not a good idea.
Ok, here are the facts on the diseases and problems that these birds are known to cause:

Makes me wonder on the recent bed bug outbreaks, this hot summer...around the country. So..who likes bed bugs?
Does anyone that reads this, and Now knows the facts...really want their family, a neighbors family or visitors, sitting around in this kind of outdoor environment, getting this fecal matter on their shoes, clothes and hands...and then coming into the house (it can enter, by many means...including your window fans and air conditioner) ?? How about the innocents (like my daughter) that just want to play out in the yard ? The problem is (again) the large flocks of these birds, that are always around, producing this filth. A bird feeder that has a moderate population of birds that visit, does not present this problem, and any fecal matter.... is localized, and easy cleaned up... on or around the feeder. This is much more than just my opinions or angry ramblings....these are indeed, the facts.
We all enjoy feeding birds, and watching the feeders. Yes, I do also....and I want my neighbors and relatives to continue to enjoy it, as well.
There are things that can be done, to help prevent this from happening, and still be able to enjoy the same feeder watching pleasure...without, the large unchecked flocks of vermin, disease ridden invasive birds, that Are polluting your yard, and your neighbors yards.
First, make a change on what you are offering at the feeder. The cheaper cracked corn, millet small seed feed the main problem. Instead of putting this in the large hanging feeders where people walk, close to the house, put this feed (if you really must) in a platform feeder...Well away from the houses , near the very back of the yard. Refill your hanging (close to house) feeders, with Safflower seed:

Thistle seed is great also, but more expensive.
You will get the same birds you enjoy seeing, but far less of the flocks of House Sparrows, and other pest birds (grackles, blackbirds, cowbirds) that you've been feeding with the millet seed.
I've learned from this info, also...and I am going to make adjustments. I have been putting out black oil sunflower seeds for years...but now realize that House Sparrows will eat them, readily...just as soon as the millet-cracked corn seed runs out, next door. Here's a little more info on what is best to put out, and what is not:

What people don't know, can hurt them, and others close ways we never considered before. I post this... as a solution to help my neighbors, my family, and for anyone else that chooses to read this blog. Thanks for reading, and for considering these facts, and the information that I've gathered.

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