In response to last week’s column, I received several suggestions on how to discourage grackles from raiding feeders. Several readers suggested substituting safflower seed for sunflower seed. Apparently grackles do not like it at all.
One drawback is that it seems the more preferred species do not like it as much either, though they may be more tolerant of it than the grackles.
There are some feeders that are designed to flip off a heavy bird such as a grackle. The feeders can be calibrated for weight to discourage unwelcome visitors. One reader described a system that he devised consisting of an alarm and a sensor. The alarm is placed on the feeder and the sensor is inside the home, able to be moved when a grackle is seen on the feeder. Moving the sensor sets off the alarm and scares the grackles. Now that’s ingenuity. Thanks to everyone who commented on this issue.
As I write this, the forecast for this weekend calls for a high of 37 degrees on March 24; yet by this time next week there will be male ruby-throated hummingbirds entering our area on their way north. This is the species that will nest and be with us through the warmer months of the year. The wintering rufous hummingbirds will begin filtering out of the area, returning in the fall. In all, I received reports of 24 hummingbirds this winter, with 11 staying through the season at one location.
When you see your first hummingbird this spring, it is likely it will move on quickly. I often get questions from concerned folks who see an initial rush of activity and then have it drop off. The birds you see first are birds heading north.
If you are lucky, you may get hummer activity at your feeder from spring through fall. Most of the action will not come until midsummer, when the young have fledged and the birds are moving around more. Be patient. There is no population decline or crisis impacting the ruby-throated hummingbirds.
Taylor Piephoff is a local naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com.
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