Friday, July 10, 2009

All Predators Great and Small (with apologies to James Herriot)

Baby birds certainly have a hard time growing up in this big, wonderful world. They have quite a battle on their wings before they even take their very first flight.

I think we all are aware of the common predators to birds. There are snakes, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, cats and even other birds vying for the eggs or for the chicks. But, there are a couple of predators we didn’t even have on our radar screen this year. Our observations this year are that size really does not matter when it comes to predators.

We have had a bit of a problem this year with ant infestations. I am guessing they are fire ants but I can’t say this with a total degree of certainty. All I know is that these little devils do bite. And, I also know I’m a lot more alert about where I step when I step out of that golf cart!

We are treating the areas around some of the boxes where we observed the ants and we’re hoping that this doesn’t continue to be a major problem going forward. It is a mystery why we have had several boxes infested with ants this year when it didn’t seem to be a problem at all last year. We did have a great deal more rain this spring than we did last year and perhaps that is one factor that might account for the increase in ant infestations. Susan Holland’s photograph above shows the sad sight of what these tiny predators can do to a nest box full of chicks.

So, now you’re wondering aren’t you, what the “Great” predator is since I’ve already told you about the “Small” one. Well, it certainly was a surprise to me, but after reading up on the American Crow, I found out that they eat just about anything. Susan’s grandson Peter joined us on our rounds this morning and he happened to see an American Crow with something quite large in its beak. From a distance it looked like it could have been a mouse so we decided to drive over and take a closer look. Our crow had dropped his little snack and it looked to us like it was a bluebird chick. Who knew?

Well, enough of the bad news about predators. Let’s talk about the good news!! The good news is that we are still seeing a great deal of activity in many of the nest boxes. We have 27 bluebird eggs and 10 chicks in the boxes right now. We are confident that we’ll count several new chicks in the boxes in the coming weeks. There is still a lot of summer left for the birds and a lot of summer left for us to enjoy them.

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