Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Big Drawdown

Observing feeding rates at your bird-feeders will give you some good information about your ‘clients’ or ‘customers’ - your backyard birds. We have two thistle feeders for the bright goldfinches and two more with a sunflower/cracked corn/millet/etc. mix that provides for red-headed house-finches, wrens, towhees, parasitic cowbirds, chickadees and others.

Of course feeding is strong and continuous all during the nesting process. Food must be brought to the nest sitter and so the more vivid males are seen more frequently than their mates. This all becomes ‘normal’ spring into summer.

The first ‘Big Drawdown’ comes when the young fledge and are brought to the feeders by the parents. After a visual diet of bright yellow male birds, the light gray young remind you of going back to a black and white TV after your color set goes out. The young have the same color patterning as the adults, just in blacks and grays. The young male goldfinches have the same black facial mask, and otherwise they would be hard to distinguish from other species of young birds! The rapidly-growing broods come knowing how to eat, and the seed levels drop quickly.

The second ‘Big Drawdown’ isn’t from the increasing population of birds, but from a more hidden force. The same young and their parents come, but the seed levels in the feeders again drop at an accelerated rate. Instinct tells young and old alike to prepare for the big migration South. I’ve never seen a truly overweight wild bird, but its certainly not from a lack of trying! This spurt of feeding came about the 20th of August this year, and continues a month later.

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