This chimney breast with its nice little triangular entrances is a perfect home for any bird that likes to live up at roof level and raise its young. It’s dry and defendable and has a great outlook. I can see the back of this house from my house, it is in an adjoining road. I guess they don’t use their chimney.
We used to see swifts return in May and swoop into this chimney breast to raise a brood over summer, they would eat the flies, never came down to the ground at all and we enjoyed them careering around the sky through the summer months before they left for Africa in the autumn. One year however, they came back to find that a family of jackdaws had moved in and they had lost their summer home. We were sad, not a particularly rational sadness because that is the nature of things but sad nonetheless.
The jackdaws are quite polite birds, from a human perspective, they don’t bully the other birds that much, they don’t make that much of a mess, but they are very very keen on hoovering out the contents of the seed feeder that we put up and I am concerned that if they have such a large and ever available supply of food on their doorstep they will lay more eggs, raise bigger broods and before we know it we will just have twice as many as now.
The whole feeding wild life in the garden issue is fraught with potential issues.
I will list some of them here:
- you create an artificial food source and the population swells, you stop feeding for some reason, the creatures starve as they can’t find other food:
- you don’t clean and disinfect the feeders which become intensively visited and therefore parasites and disease pass easily from one bird to the next;
- you feed the wrong types of food and they get ill: you feed whole peanuts which get fed to fledglings which then choke; you get all sorts of strange things growing under the feeders which have rooted and maybe are not what you want growing in your garden;
- you get guano where the birds sit and wait for their turn on the feeders;
- you get mice and rats visiting if there is lots of food being dropped on the ground;
- you get birds that, for your own ‘human’ reasons you don’t like, or just too many of one sort and you start to think of Hitchcock and The Birds, you get crows and feral pigeons, or starlings in large numbers whilst lamenting the photogenic goldfinch or the endangered tree sparrow;
- you have a small dog who eats any fat the birds chuck about and gets very ill indeed;
- you get cats and sparrowhawks lying in wait for the birds and predating them and then you get to see nature red in tooth and claw and to a tender-hearted soul this is not a pretty sight;
- you get blackbirds ‘stealing’ your precious homegrown fruit, (Zeb guards the one little blueberry bush from the blackbird and gets very cross with it).
In short, the catalogues that bounce through our letter box with pretty bird feeders gleaming in the sunlight festooned with little birds being fed by our bountiful kindness doesn’t paint the whole story; many people give up feeding the birds when they come across these issues and I can’t say I blame them at all.
Stubbornly though we like to feed the birds and have them in the garden, we like to hear their songs and see them fly about, they are a key component of what makes a garden a garden for us but we have cut back on what and how we feed.
We have one small feeder with niger seed for the goldfinches and a taller one for the smaller birds and a ground feeder with a cage over it for those who prefer to hop in. We don’t feed fat pellets any more, but mainly a mix of seeds, corn and dried mealworms.
Yesterday while watching the jackdaws doing their hoovering trick once more I looked on the internet and found At Last a Pigeon Proof Bird-Feeder by Ianvisits with its delightful illustrations.
We purchased a pair of hanging baskets, fixed them together with cable ties and have attempted to put sticks in at angles in the style of Ian’s post. It has temporarily baffled the jackdaws and the smaller birds are delighted. The jackdaws are smart birds though and I am not counting on them not finding a way to get the seed out.
In the meantime dunnock, robin, chaffinches, blue tits, great tits and goldfinches and all the smallies are having a great time!