Nearly every morning at this time of year, my wife and I helplessly look out from our living room window at the gluttonous creatures quickly emptying our bird feeders, which were brimming full with seed when the day started.
The ravenous creatures are red-winged blackbirds, large flocks of them, which descend on the feeders in winter and rapidly gobble up nearly all of the seeds within minutes. Their piggish dining scares off most of the other feeder birds — titmice, chickadees, cardinals and the like.
We go outside to shoo the blackbirds away, and they rise suddenly in a whoosh and fly off. But as soon as we go back inside, they’re back, decimating the seed supply.
We wouldn’t mind just a few of them. Red-winged blackbirds are Georgia natives; the males, with their bright red and yellow shoulder patches on an otherwise glossy black body, are gorgeous. But when flocks of 40, 50 or more show up at a feeder, their greedy appetites make them unwelcome.
Of course, we’re not the only household with this situation. Red-winged blackbirds are some of Georgia’s most abundant birds, which means that homeowners all over the state are also frustrated by flocks of the seemingly insatiable birds depleting feeders and frightening off other birds. In this regard, perhaps few other birds have the reputation for being a nuisance as the red-winged blackbird.
Some folks tell me that they simply take down their feeders for a couple of weeks at this time of year to deter the blackbirds. But I take heart in this: Within a few more weeks, red-winged blackbirds will be more intent on nesting and will then prefer insects and other wild food. They will cease visits to feeders.
They will start breeding in colonies in open, reedy marshes all across Georgia. The males will be singing and flashing their striking red and yellow patches to attract mates. It is then that I can appreciate the blackbirds for their beauty and song.
IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: The moon is new this weekend and won’t be visible until Monday, when it will be a thin crescent in the west. Mercury and Mars are very low in the east just before sunrise. Venus rises in the east a few hours before sunrise. Jupiter is high in the southwest at sunset and will appear near the moon on Wednesday evening.
Charles Seabrook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.