In the community of naturalists and environmentalists, there’s pretty much so always been an active discussion about the merits of backyard bird feeders. This might come as a surprise to some of my readers, but it’s true (really!).
Bird feeders (the pole-mounted kind as well as the people) provide important food to local wildlife, some say. Others say that putting out food detracts from a wild animal’s ability to forage for itself. Some say there’s no harm--the impact isn’t that great--while others say any amount of intervention is significant.
The argument is totally lost on my mother. It just doesn’t matter. She’s a bird feeder (not the pole-mounted variety).
Since moving from my childhood home, my parents have always had a birdfeeder, or two, or three, and maybe a squirrel feeder in their back yard, just outside of their kitchen window. Oddly enough, there are rarely birds, though. Squirrels? Now that’s a different story.
The occasional bird comes through, but the most common consumer of bird seed outside of my parents’ kitchen window is the eastern grey squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis. (At this time, the reader is supposed to say to him or herself, “Ooh, he took the time to look up the genus and species.” If you haven’t done that yet, go ahead...I’ll wait.)
Grey squirrels. Lots of them. They come In two varieties: Eating, and looking-put-out-because-the-feeder-is-empty. I’ve spent more than a little time watching them over the past few days (road trip!) and enjoy them a lot. I walked outside yesterday and actually had one of them give me a healthy dose of what for, but other than that, it’s been a positive experience for all parties involved.
My parents’ suburban nature sanctuary attracts other animals as well: Chipmunks that have gotten out of bed way too early with the flirtation of spring-like weather, a growing family of rabbits that resides under the shed, possums that wander through late at night, and a monster-sized raccoon that comes from who-knows-where. In addition, there’s a red-tailed hawk that is fond of sitting in the pine tree in the adjacent yard. (My mom has kept a few pinecones just inside the door in case she ever has to throw them in defense of the smaller mammals, but I’m not sure she’s ever actually pulled that one off).
It’s a regular wild kingdom out there.
The for-or-against argument? Sure, it’s there. For now, though, I think I’ll pour a cup of coffee, take a seat, and watch the show.