Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   


From the Pen of Robert L. Cook

I enjoy watching birds. So, like many of you, I have struggled for years to find the perfect backyard bird feeder. Most well-built feeders will keep the bird food dry and clean; no self-respecting chickadee should have to eat moldy, dirty millet and sunflower seed. My biggest challenge has been my platoon of backyard squirrels. I have tried just about everything to foil these raiders, who routinely empty and then destroy my bird feeder. It took my squirrel about 24 hours to bypass the obligatory metal shield, and after that he treated it like a freeway overpass until he completely demolished the feeder and sent it crashing to the ground. Not to be deterred, I then spent two days with pulleys and cable-wires to suspend my feeder halfway between two trees that were about 40 feet apart. Working together, it took two high-wire-act rodents about 45 minutes to figure that one out. Greased wires, trick doors, alarm bells, shiny mirrors, I tried them all ... all failures. Finally, I decided that I would distract the little pests by offering them easy access to ears of corn in an effort to satisfy their insatiable appetite. You guessed it … I successfully recruited three more squirrels to my backyard. They smiled at me and each gained about a half-pound!

Then, this past Christmas, my beautiful 4-year-old granddaughter, Emma, who knows that her Peepaw loves to attract and watch birds, gave me the perfect gift, a squirrel-proof bird feeder. The furry little daredevils made repeated attempts to get past the feeder’s defenses for about a week, but now they don’t even try to get on it.

So now — At Issue — I wonder if I am doing the right thing feeding birds in my backyard in the first place. You see, I quit feeding my raccoons, possums and the occasional coyote two or three years ago, because I figured out that I was “domesticating” them and that they were becoming dependent upon my supplementing their natural diet. In addition, I still see too many stray cats hanging around my bird feeder, smirking at me, just waiting. They lie nearby, sometimes in the vines or bushes just under the feeder, and I’ve seen them jump almost to the feeder floor plate, which is more than 6 feet from the ground. I’ve never seen them catch a bird, but I’ve found clumps of feathers in the yard several times that make me wonder. I wonder if I am contributing to some kind of change in the bird world with my well-intentioned backyard feeder. I think that I see too many jays, too many white-wings, too many sparrows. There are dozens and dozens of backyard feeders in my neighborhood alone. In comparison, I do practically nothing to benefit the insect-eaters; in fact, I probably harm them by doing everything I can to shoo away all the bugs. Am I part of a bigger problem?

Emma solved the pesky squirrel problem for me. Now, I have to decide if I am creating more troubles, more problems, for our wild birds just because I want to help a little. On the other hand, I may continue to feed the birds just to aggravate the squirrels.

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    Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine