BIRD WATCH: Birds are well aware of environmental changes

BIRDS ARE WELL aware of the changes that take place in their environment.

They’re super-sensitive to what is happening or has happened on their home turf.

It’s part of their survival mechanism.

If you want to survive in the wild, you must be on constant alert.

I was reminded of this recently.

I enjoy “visiting over the fence” with my neighbors.

That’s one of the best parts of sunny summer days when we’re out in our yards more.

The subject of the changing bird population came up during one of these visits.

We began reflecting on birds we no longer see in the neighborhood or others that we don’t see as often.

Decades ago, there were few houses where we live.

Fields and a forest were the setting for no more than four or five homes.

The street in front of these homes was a dirt road.

Yes, that was a long time ago.

The addition of more homes was spread out over many years.

There came a time when the fields were gone and the ring-necked pheasant that once chased grasshoppers in those fields came no more.

He was aware of the shrinking habitat and food supply.

My neighbor complained he didn’t see the pileated woodpeckers anymore.

That’s not the case in my yard or of the neighbors’ on either side of me.

We still have many mature trees, but closer to the street and the nearby hillside, the large trees are gone.

The pileated and other woodpeckers no longer move to that part of the neighborhood.

What attracted them is no more.

When you no longer see or seldom see birds you once saw regularly, it’s depressing.

Changes in the habitat made it less attractive to them.

Not all changes are unwanted ones but they are noticed by the birds and sometimes in amusing ways.

This was the case when I had work done in the garden where the bird bath is located.

It has sat in this spot almost since we moved here.

Thick brush in the form of Oregon grape had grown to surround it.

Their slow creep went unnoticed until I started working in that wilderness of sharp stickers.

Oregon grape leaves are no fun to weed.

One variety can grow quite tall and that is the plant growing in this part of the yard.

A real clean-out began.

When finished, the ground around the bath was clear.

Several larger plants remained and the bird bath area was much more open.

This is important because predators can’t sneak up on unsuspecting bathing birds.

However, those tall Oregon grape leaves hanging over the bath were gone and one chickadee noticed it immediately.

Birds are creatures of habit when it comes to their daily routine and the chickadee’s reaction to the open area was sudden.

“Where’s the Oregon grape I always land on?” That had to be the thought in its head.

Instead of dropping onto the edge of the bath, this little bird just bounced and hovered in the air trying to locate his familiar perch.

He hopped about in the air over the bath and all around the area.

Then he flew to one of the trees.

You could see him surveying the scene, trying to figure out what had happened.

His yard and bathing area had changed.

It didn’t take long for him to adjust and unlike other changes, accept it.

If you make some major or noticeable changes in your birds’ habitat, the kind that improve it, your reward is the continued color and entertainment they add to the yard.

That’s a good kind of change.


Joan Carson’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at P.O. Box 532, Poulsbo, WA 98370, with a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply. Email: [email protected]

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