Sunday Morning Wildlife Chat: Life (or at Least Finches) Will Endure

Quick garden-related note: I’ve already been, shall we say, less than totally successful at cutting back on the number of mail-order tomatoes I put on hold during the dark winter days (and it hasn’t even been much of a winter here north of Boston, just yet). Mostly because of the dozen plants I impulse-ordered during that big Burpee sale, which cost practically nothing if I didn’t pay attention to the time & effort they’ll take to nuture during the growing season. On the other hand, I’ve been thinking about experimenting with putting a few plants in a new location (along the chain-link back fence — severe northern exposure, but taking down our covered porch and the neighbors’ loss of some trees have increased the light levels considerably) and these ‘bargains’ should be good candidates…

What’s going on with your garden / renovation projects, this week?

Many thanks to commentor Tenar Arha for this most fascinating Atlantic link — “Urban Bird Feeders Are Changing the Course of Evolution”:

To my knowledge, no one has ever been killed by a plummeting bird feeder. Still, when you live on the 25th floor of a Manhattan high-rise, you can’t hang one outside the window and risk knocking off a pedestrian below…

… I missed a connection to the wild. Seeking a remedy, I discovered a small Maine company called Coveside Conservation Products, which makes a unique “Panoramic in-House Window Bird Feeder.” A semicircular mahogany platform enclosed with plexiglass, the feeder fits into an open window and juts inward, providing a front-row view of birds bold enough to enter. No part of the contraption dangles outside, presumably rendering it safe for urban use.

In reply to my enthusiastic query, however, Coveside’s owner, Jim Turpin, was less than a salesman. “Frankly, I’m not overly optimistic about attracting birds to feed in a high-rise setting,” he wrote, explaining that most species search for food at specific heights. He pointed me to the website of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, where someone had inquired about luring birds to a 17th-floor balcony. The answer—that attractive foliage can help, but don’t hold your breath—wasn’t promising, considering I don’t have a balcony and scarcely overlook a tree.

Nevertheless, I ordered the feeder, filled it with birdseed, and installed it in my window, where it interrupted the soundproofing, so I found myself working amid a cacophony of sirens and jackhammering. Two hundred and fifty feet above ground—the height of the tallest giant sequoias in the Sierra Nevada—the wind howls more often than not. Despite my best efforts to insulate the edges of the wobbly wooden feeder, freezing January air whistled through the apartment, slamming shut any door left ajar…

Then, one morning in March, as I brewed coffee in the kitchen, Jeff strode into the office and sprang back out again, announcing he’d seen a flash of red. I joined him, and we peered around the door until the startled visitor worked up the courage to return. A cherry gum ball of a head poked up from the ledge and cocked to one side, uttering an inquisitive chirp and inspecting the room from behind plexiglass. Once satisfied that all was clear, a sparrow-size creature with a blushing breast and triangular beak hopped into the feeder. I recognized it immediately as a house finch…

Native to western North America, house finches weren’t introduced to the East Coast until 1939, when a Brooklyn pet shop released a small number that had been illegally trapped in California. Over the next 50 years, these plucky pioneers established a firm footing, spreading across the continent until they reunited with their western cousins on the Great Plains. Today the finches inhabit perhaps the widest ecological range of any living bird, having emigrated from their ancestral deserts all the way to the edges of the subarctic taiga, adapting to suburbs and cities alike…

According to experts, feeding birds is probably the most common way in which people interact with wild animals today. More than 50 million Americans engage in the practice, collectively undertaking an unwitting experiment on a vast scale. Is what we’re doing good or bad for birds? Recently, researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology sought to answer this question, analyzing nearly three decades’ worth of data from a winter-long survey called Project FeederWatch. Preliminary results suggest the species visiting our feeders the most are faring exceptionally well in an age when one-third of the continent’s birds need urgent conservation. Still, what are the consequences of skewing the odds in favor of the small subset of species inclined to eat at feeders? What about when the bird we’re aiding is invasive, like our house finch?…

83 replies
  1. 1
    rikyrah says:

    Good Morning Everyone 😄😄😄

  2. 2

    I went to “Night on Broadway” here in LA last night. What is “Night on Broadway”? They close down Broadway to traffic and have a party; the old theaters turn on all their marquees with their neon and some are open with performances and you get to go inside and see the cool interiors. Here’s some pics I snapped.

    And let me note for the record this post is for the birds.

  3. 3
    swiftfox says:

    Doesn’t hurt to feed them and it does contribute data to Project FeederWatch. Most of the seedeaters and suet feeders are habitat generalists and should do ok. While house finches aren’t native by this time they are considered naturalized (as are red fox which were mostly introduced). It’s the threatened habitat species, primarily grassland, interior forest species, that need support. Best thing to do is to support Audubon, learn from your local bird club, and vote D.

  4. 4
    Baud says:

    @rikyrah: Good morning.

  5. 5
    Baud says:


    And let me note for the record this post is for the birds.

    I was about to say that. Glad I read the thread first.

  6. 6
    Immanentize says:

    Hello All. Up and out today — robotics qualifier north of Boston this morning. My son’s team’s robot is awesome — in practice. We will.find out where we are on the competition field….

  7. 7
    JCJ says:


    Best of luck to the Immp and his team!

  8. 8
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    I have 7 male cardinals coming to my feeders this winter. I don’t think I’ve seen more than 4 females at a time so I suspect I have a couple unmated first year males. I also have an infinite # of goldfinches, house finches, juncos, titmice, nuthatches (both white and rose breasted), sparrows (of various species), downy woodpeckers, doves, red bellies, a half dozen or so blue jays, one yellow bellied sap sucker, and of course my favorites the chickadees. Their chick-a-dee-deee never fails to bring a smile to my face..

  9. 9

    @Immanentize: So your son is building our robot overlords. Best of luck in his competition.

  10. 10
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Immanentize: Rooting for the Immp.

  11. 11
  12. 12
    Raven says:

    It must’ve been a boid, I hoid it chiop!

  13. 13

    One thing about lugging about with a bunch of camera equipment; I get asked to take pictures by people, but it seems mostly by young Asian women.

  14. 14
    Baud says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: Too bad you’re married.

  15. 15
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    bystander says:

    Two hundred and fifty feet above ground—the height of the tallest giant sequoias in the Sierra Nevada—the wind howls more often than not. Despite my best efforts to insulate the edges of the wobbly wooden feeder, freezing January air whistled through the apartment, slamming shut any door left ajar.

    As a New Yorker, I implore other NYers NOT to install these dumb bird feeders. If living with birds in your windowsill is so important, go somewhere else, buy a townhouse, but don’t install these bird feeders. I have zero confidence in their installation and safety (as quoted above) and I question luring birds to feed outside their normal height range.

    And while you’re at it, get off my lawn.

  17. 17
    Baud says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: wait, what? Did I miss something?

  18. 18
    Lapassionara says:

    Good morning everyone.

    Does anyone know why birds should suddenly stop coming to backyard bird feeders? My sister has about five I her back yard, which are usually thronged. But in the past few weeks, just no birds at all. She has talked to the guy who sells the feed, and he has several theories, and she has taken all the steps he has suggested. The birds are missed, for sure.

  19. 19

    @Baud: Madame and I refer to each other as husband and wife, but we’re not married anymore, nor do we live together. However we’re best friends. This isn’t a new thing, we just don’t talk about it much.

  20. 20
    Gindy51 says:

    When we first moved to our farm we had hundreds of birds visiting our feeders, I had 20 of them set up and I had to fill them every day sometimes twice esp during snowy days. Now that we have let our farm go back to nature, also planting thousands of trees for habitat and making sure non native crap is kept out, we don’t have so many because they find their native food just fine. Snowy days they show up but I am now down to 8 feeders and ill them every other day during snow days and once a week during spring through fall. I also do Project Feeder Watch and it is amazing to review the data and I can pinpoint the exact year the down turn in turn out to the feeders started… canopy in the new forest. That was the catalyst that started the birds finding their native food.

  21. 21
    Baud says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: Oh, I did miss that information.

  22. 22
    O. Felix Culpa says:

    Good morning! I have lots of little brown birds and big black ravens at my bird feeders. Occasionally the coyotes steal the seed blocks. I once saw a roadrunner try to grab one of the little brown birds.

    On another note, the founder of IKEA just died. He was 91 and very rich. Perhaps they will send him off in a flat pack with indecipherable instructions.

    ETA: Apparently he also had a hidden fascist past. Not sure if that should change my view on swedish meatballs and lingonberry sauce.

  23. 23

    @Baud: You didn’t miss it, I never mentioned it.

  24. 24
    Baud says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: Didn’t mean to pry. How you handle those young Asian women who want you to take their picture is none of my business.

  25. 25
  26. 26
    Raven says:

    @O. Felix Culpa: ikea instructions aren’t indecipherable, you just have to take your time and follow them. We can’t all be Ozark!

  27. 27

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: In this case, they wanted a pic of them in front of one of the theater marquees, but the light from the marquee was screwing up the auto focus on the phone, so I reposed them and shot it landscape with them to the side of the marquee.

  28. 28

    A while back, I posted that a male cardinal was repeatedly flinging his handsome self against our windows. Well, he’s still at it. I can’t believe he hasn’t knocked himself out permanently yet.

  29. 29
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Lapassionara: Did she let them go dry for a period of time? If so they probably found other more reliable feeders. Eventually some will find their way back. It’s also possible a Coopers or Sharp shinned hawk started using her feeders as the breakfast buffet line. Once they find an easy feed they will return regularly.

  30. 30
    Spanky says:

    @Lapassionara: Hawks. You may not see them, but the birds do.

  31. 31
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Dorothy A. Winsor (formerly Iowa Old Lady): We had one doing that for 2-3 yrs. Would go at it for hours. Cracked me up.

  32. 32
    debbie says:


    Go get ’em, Immp!

  33. 33
    debbie says:


    Or learn to love pigeons.

  34. 34
    Lapassionara says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: @Spanky: Thanks. So, no remedy until the hawks move on.

  35. 35
    debbie says:


    Could the several days of warmer weather have encouraged them to head back to wherever they spend summer?

  36. 36
    O. Felix Culpa says:

    @Raven: Actually, I’m pretty good at IKEA assembly. It just takes time, as you say. I kind of like the runic figures.

  37. 37
  38. 38
    Baud says:

    I was scanning my news feed and NPR seems to be having a day for loving Trump and the GOP. You are warned.

  39. 39
    Ohio Mom says:

    My current wildlife story is that whoever is in the attic — and thumping loudly around up there right over the master bedroom — is refusing to enter the traps set up by the critter control company. Who is now telling us that it must be mice and they don’t do mice. Because if it was squirrels, they would have caught them by now (!).

    I’m going to have to find a company that actually goes up into the attic instead of just setting traps around and in the eight inch hole in the eave the it-can’t-be-a-squirrel chewed.

    I don’t like owning a home but then I remember I didn’t like being a tenant either.

  40. 40
    donnah says:

    Here in SW Ohio we have a nice variety of birds: robins, wrens, cardinals, bluejays assorted finches and sparrows, starlings, crows, and many more. I sought to attract some of the more colorful birds to my yard, so I set up a finch feeder. It took a little while, but soon we had purple finches, goldfinches and other pretty ones to look at. But pretty soon the other birds started coming and I could barely keep up with the amount of thistle seed. When it got to the point where I was spending more money per month on thistle than I would have spent to have cable, I gave it up. Now I just enjoy the volunteers who stop by.

  41. 41
    Ohio Mom says:

    @O. Felix Culpa: I have also heard he was a tax cheat. Still, homes all over the world are somewhat better decorated and more organized because of him.

    @Dorothy A. Winsor (formerly Iowa Old Lady): We had a robin crashing into the family room window a few years ago. The theory is that they think their reflection is another bird and are chasing them off their territory. We put up some cardboard to block the reflection for the duration of nesting season because I didn’t like the noise.

  42. 42

    @Ohio Mom: Oh man. We had raccoons in the attic this summer. (And that is not a metaphor.) What a pain.

  43. 43
    Baud says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: You’re a good man, Bill.

  44. 44
  45. 45
    rikyrah says:

    Good luck to Little Imma and his team 😄

  46. 46
    rikyrah says:

    The pictures look great. Looks like a good time was had by all

  47. 47
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Baud: Loomis on labor is always good but this leaves something out:

    The ultimate problem with labor is a complex conglomeration of issues that include automation, free trade, globalization, capital mobility within the United States, the decline of some American industries to more efficient foreign competition, terrible union leadership in some unions, the fact that for many workers racial and gender and heterosexual identity matters more than class identity, harsh corporate opposition that has funneled many millions of dollars against them for decades, a Republican Party that hates them, and yes, Democrats who didn’t understand how badly they needed unions for a successful party.

    Here in STL construction, one of the greatest enemies of labor has always been labor itself. The issues are complex but instead of working together to sort them out the various unions took to fighting amongst themselves over an ever shrinking labor pie, cannibalizing each other over some of the most stupid shit in the world. The carpenters union was one of the worst offenders and you’d have to go far to find a union carpenter who in private would not rail against the CDC leadership.

  48. 48
    debbie says:


    Just how management likes to keep them!

  49. 49
    HeleninEire says:

    @Immanentize: Good luck to the Immp. My young friend, Megan, was just accepted onto the Girls Robotic Team at Bronx Science High School in NYC. Very excited and proud. Perhaps she and Immp will meet at a competition in the future.

  50. 50
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Ohio Mom: If you have an 8″ hole, you have something other than a squirrel in your attic. 2-3″ is more than comfortable to a squirrel and it would stop at that.

  51. 51
    Baud says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: It’s also my impression that a substantial number of union members don’t really care about unionism as a concept.

    ETA: Contrast business. Even competing businesses care seem to work together to pursue common goals more effectively.

  52. 52
    OzarkHillbilly says:


    It’s also my impression that a substantial number of union members don’t really care about unionism as a concept.

    My own experience was the exact opposite. Every carpenter, electrician, pipefitter, ironworker, bricklayer, cement mason, glazier, laborer, operator, etc etc etc, cared deeply about their union and very much knew who it was who ensured the buttering of their bread. A lot of guys hated going to meetings, felt it was all a bunch of useless talk and political ass kissing, (not an entirely incorrect impression), but I never heard anyone complain about paying their dues, just the ways their dues got spent. (an important distinction)

    But again, my experience is limited to construction unions and that may make a difference.

    I also have to add a caveat that just because they knew their union ensured their economic security doesn’t mean they necessarily voted that way. Guns triumph all for some guys and racism is rampant in the STL trades.

  53. 53

    @Baud: One thing he misses a bit is that unions in the mid to late 60’s really were in an IGMFY mode. He notes the racial aspect, but there was also a large influx of workers(Boomers) that were causing a disruption in the status quo for unions. So with the Civil Rights Act you had an increased workforce, but you also had the influx of Boomers. So you had more people bidding down wages and unions just wanted to proceed as they were always doing and failed to adapt.

  54. 54

    @rikyrah: It’s the first year I’ve gone(this was the 10th anniversary of the “Night on Broadway”), I should have gone earlier in the day so I could have seen more of the theater interiors. I hear that the interior of the Los Angeles Theater is spectacular.

  55. 55
    Baud says:


    cared deeply about their union

    The point I was trying to make–and I may be wrong about this–is that many union members (not most) don’t buy into the idea of unions, even if they appreciate what their own union is doing.

    Again, I could be wrong, or it could depend on the industry or geography.

  56. 56

    @Baud: I do the best I can. 😀

  57. 57
    Baud says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: Someone in the comments there also noted the friction that developed between liberals and unions, specifically based on views of the Vietnam War.

  58. 58
    debbie says:


    It seems to me that the noise heard about workers really preferring right to work is coming from corporate management, similar to Russia’s campaign of disinformation.

  59. 59
    Jager says:

    @Dorothy A. Winsor (formerly Iowa Old Lady):

    Up here in the canyon the raccoons drive me crazy, I was on the roof a week ago cleaning the gutters and apparently when they get bored with peeking in our bedroom skylight they shit on the roof.

  60. 60
    gbbalto says:

    Just noticed that BJ is on Kevin Drum’s list of blogs that he follows. Almost fame!

  61. 61
    oldgold says:

    I am certain that my “bird feeders” are not causing the birds of East of Eden to evolve.
    As to the damnable squirrels, I suspect so.

  62. 62
    Baud says:

    @gbbalto: We’ll hit the 10,000 mark in no time now!

  63. 63
    OzarkHillbilly says:


    –is that many union members (not most) does buy into the idea of unions, even if they appreciate what their own union is doing.

    I assume there is a not is missing between the ‘does’ and ‘buy’ above, but again in my own personal experience that is not quite correct. In what you quoted of my comment, you quite correctly emphasize my use of the word ‘their union’. I purposely use that word because we were quite often divided by our leadership fighting over scraps. For the most part we respected each other and each other’s unions and wanted nothing more than to just get along and get the job done. On smaller jobs this was hardly ever a problem but on bigger jobs their was always at least one asshole who would enforce their union’s line about what was or was not allowed in so far as who did what work. Back in the 70’s – early 80’s this led to physical confrontations and some bad blood between members (my first union job a guy I worked with had his ribs broken by an IL Laborer’s rep for a most minor transgression. When I was sent to another IL job a superintendent begged me to help a laborer with some particularly onerous job and I told him and the laborer to go fuck themselves and why, and told the laborer to tell his Rep what I said). For the most part physical confrontations no longer occur (and when they do it’s nearly always personal) but other stupid shit will happen (sabotaging another trades work) but again, it is nearly always driven by leadership’s squabbling over trifles and the deeds are done by just hardliners. (and again, in the STL my personal opinion is that the CDC of the Carpenter’s was among the worst offenders)

  64. 64
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Baud: He brought up issues with resistance to unions in the South that I hadn’t given much thought to– like the link between the red scare and anti-semitism, but also “paternalistic capitalism”. Seems to me that came up in a recent This American Life episode about immigration in one-industry towns– specifically industrial poultry– in Georgia.

    It also didn’t address one of my pet theories, i.e. one for which i have no data, that gun/hunting culture in places like MI creates a drag among people who, economically, should be Democrats.

  65. 65
    Baud says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Fascinating. Thanks for sharing.

  66. 66
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @debbie: I believe there was a recent vote on unionization in an AL (?) auto plant, where management poured big money into anti-union ads, and the discussion on the ground became heavily radicalized. The pro-union vote lost narrowly.

  67. 67
    WaterGirl says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Good morning, Ozark. Glad to have you back. I want to ask how your son is doing, but I don’t want to pry.

  68. 68
    bystander says:

    @debbie: But don’t feed them. Pigeons actually are pretty entertaining. Not up to crow standards, tho.

  69. 69
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @debbie: Most non-union guys I know of know that RtW is bullshit. Don’t want to pay union dues? Don’t work for a union contractor.

  70. 70
    debbie says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    I was thinking of Ohio, when the newly elected John Kasich tried to get Senate Bill 5 passed. It would have:

    Senate Bill 5 would have impacted the state’s 400,000 public workers, restricting their ability to strike and collectively bargain. The bill would have limited public employees to collectively bargain for wages, preventing them from collectively bargaining for health insurance and pensions. It would also have prohibited all public employees from striking and could have increased employee contributions for pensions and healthcare.

    Kasich thought he was being clever by specifically exempting police and firefighters, but they showed up in surprisingly large numbers to support the impacted workers in State House demonstrations. Kasich had to back down, and even now, whenever other legislators try to bring it up again, he refuses to entertain it. Hopefully, Ohio voters will keep this in mind when they vote this fall. Should the GOP win, this will be one of the first things they try.

  71. 71
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @bystander: Dirty, disgusting, filthy, lice-ridden BIRDS! Used to be able to sit on the stoop like a person. Not anymore. Birds!.

  72. 72
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @WaterGirl: His leg has more titanium than bone in it but, so far, so good.

  73. 73
    laura says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Sadly, I have no doubt a significant percentage of my Members voted for Trump, because they’ve been conditioned to hate her for 30+ years. In every service assignment I’ve had as a Union Business Agent, I’ve found that workers want to be heard and have their contributions acknowledged, and trust that someone has their back. The developing of trust only comes with time and contact. But the last 10 years have been nothing short of stripping away benefits, shifting costs from employers to workers and no appreciable wage growth in the public sector, wage growth that would have immediate positive economic impact in the local and state economy due to the virtuous cycle of dollars circulating because they can’t afford to save.

  74. 74
    OzarkHillbilly says:


    Sadly, I have no doubt a significant percentage of my Members voted for Trump, because they’ve been conditioned to hate her for 30+ years.

    Yep. Never let it be said the Right Wing Noise Machine doesn’t work.

  75. 75
    Gelfling 545 says:

    @O. Felix Culpa: I’d say it depends on how young he was and whether he more or less atoned in his later life. Or alternatively, how much you love Swedish meatballs & lingonberry sauce.

  76. 76
    WaterGirl says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: That’s great news! Perspective is an amazing thing, isn’t it?

  77. 77
    Ohio Mom says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Then it must racoons, I guess. Definitely time for another critter company.

  78. 78
    Ohio Mom says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Whew! Glad to hear that.

    Seems to me that most of us, eventually, end up part bionic human, with various parts replaced by something manmade: hips, knees, heart valves, eye lenses, etc. And titanium legs.

  79. 79
    chris says:

    Put this in the wrong thread so moving it up.

    Dead thread but on topic. Here is my $2 squirrel-proof feeder. (It’s old, I need to make a new one.)Added image link.

    A widemouth jar is best but I have used juice jugs, a $2 funnel and some old wire. Cut a little port in each side and let the fun begin. There is no place for the red squirrels to get a grip except for the wire but they sure tried. They tried off and on for several years but now the local population doesn’t even try. Our squirrels is learning!

    It gets better. The label is left on because, amazingly, the flying squirrels can cling to it and I like feeding them. They grab the label, slide down to the port and hang there stuffing their faces. Two feet from the window where Steve the mighty hunter is going mental. Too cute.

  80. 80
    J R in WV says:


    Some of the interior pictures remind me of the old theater in Chicago where we went on weekend liberty while I was in the Navy training school in Great Lakes, IL. Kind of run down after so many years of neglect, but beloved of the hippys of the day for supporting Rock ‘n Roll shows.

    Lots of marble, mirrors, gold leaf, moorish influences, dammit the name won’t come back to me, north of the Loop but still downtown to this small town boy. It was nearly 50 years ago, we saw Jethro Tull and many other RnR greats. Still open the last time I looked it up.

    You could tell that in the 30s, 40s and 50s the big swing bands came in there, shows of all kinds, people in tuxes, smoking cigarettes, drinking martinis. I like to think vibrations from all the musical acts that ever performed in such a place linger on in the corners and high places.

  81. 81
    Rob says:

    I see the thread is not quite dead. For those who like to watch bird feeder cameras, this one came online only recently and has a plethora of tropical birds.
    (back to occasional lurking)

  82. 82
    Miss Bianca says:

    Just put up a winter bird feeder as the complement to the summer hummie feeder. So far, the majority of birds I’ve been seeing have been nuthatches large and small, and the chickadee-dee-dees. Occasionally a woodpecker. Something with a grey body and red wngs has started hopping up too, must look it up to see what it is!

    ETA: Oh, and yesterday went to a bee-keeping class put on by the extension office. The last presentation was on creating a pollinator-friendly habitat, so I am in plotting and scheming mode now.

  83. 83
    something fabulous says:

    @J R in WV: Dead thread, but just in case you come back:
    The Riviera?
    The Chicago?
    The Green Mill?

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