Garden Variety

The modest investment I made in bird feeders when I moved into my new house in Maynooth has paid a considerable dividend in terms of entertainment. As well as a number of starlings and sparrows, I have quite a variety of more exotic species. The other morning, while I was drinking my coffee while looking into the garden before leaving for work, I saw a robin, a great tit, a blue tit, a chaffinch, and (I think) a hedge warbler*. And that was all just in the space of 10 minutes or so.

The show was then brought to a sudden end by the arrival of two jackdaws who scared everything else off and then tried to wreck the nut feeder.

I went outside and chased them away. I have nothing against the jackdaws – they’re actually rather amusing – but I won’t have vandalism in my garden.

The hedge warbler (or dunnock or hedge sparrow, although it’s not a sparrow) is not particularly rare in Ireland but is extremely shy and never gives you a long time to look at it. I’m pretty sure the bird I saw was one, though it was gone in a flash.

The local robin, by contrast, is not shy. I see him very frequently. I think it’s male because of the very bright red of his chest colour; females of the species tend to have colours that look slightly washed out. Male or female this one is very well nourished. In fact it’s so plump as to be almost spherical.

Anyway, all these birds (including the jackdaws) are passerine species, defined by the shape of their feet: they all have three toes pointing forward and one pointing backwards. The order Passeriformes includes perching birds of all kinds, from sparrows and finches to crows and a lot more besides. In fact over half the known bird species belong to this order.

9 Responses to “Garden Variety”

  1. You can get bird feeders that can only be used by smaller birds such as finches and robins. We have crows, jackdaws and blackbirds in the garden but they cannot use the feeders – some of the seed falls out and they can get that. (Two of the blackbirds live in a bush next to the house and I put seed down for them).

    Biggest problem we have at the moment is that the garden is now being visited by a family of badgers. They are really cute but destroying the lawn…. Apparently one solution is to feed them so am trying that.

    • telescoper Says:

      The jackdaws can’t use the feeder. They just tried to smash it.

      • We clearly have a better behaved group of jackdaws where we live.. Indeed can see one in the garden at the moment, just pecking for food on the ground.

        We do have a couple of squirrels that can feed from our squirrel-proof feeders….

    • We get all of the above. Badgers are a nightmare, and the best solution is to exclude the from the garden. If possible. They come for the bird food, we noticed. A lot of small birds (we now get bullfinches, but a sparrowhawk grabbed one of the feeder) (‘birdfeeder’?), woodpeckers and nuthatches.The magpies are always squabbling and fighting, with each other and with everyone else. The jackdaws are much more cooperative, and rarely fight.

      • Excluding them is not easy. We have a pretty ‘wild’ garden – lots of trees, thick bushes etc and the entrance to their set could be anywhere – or they may even just be digging under the fence and the set is on the other side (which is just open land). This is actually more likely – there has been a lot of building recently on the open land and the wildlife has been ‘pushed’ out into gardens etc, which is why we also have a fox, hedgehogs and squirrels – and even a wild pheasant!

        We also have a sparrowhawk and considered ways of getting rid of it, but RSPB advised to leave it alone. It needs to live just like other birds, and if it wasn’t killing them in our garden, would be doing so elsewhere. I just get a bit fed up disposing of decapitated pigeons….

      • telescoper Says:

        I’ve yet to hear of a sparrowhawk that had any interest in sparrows. In my experience they always go for larger prey like pigeons.

      • Male sparrowhawks go for the small prey (the clue is in the name), and in our garden on occasion the doves. The females are larger and go for the pigeons but we rarely see them. Decapitated pigeons sounds more like cats?

      • It is definitely the sparrow hawk and not one of the cats – I’ve seen it kill one of the pigeons and start to eat it. I chased it away when I should have left nature to take its course (according to RSPB).

  2. Magpies dismantled a pigeon on our lawn…

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