I have been doing some yard work this past week. In the process of pruning an over-grown scrub oak tree in my bird feeding area, I found two suet feeders down on the ground that went missing at least six months ago!
We have a pair of ravens that nest in our yard each year, way up in the top of a large ponderosa pine tree. Needless to say, the ravens spend a lot of time in our yard. They also enjoy the water feature we have in our back yard, frequently drinking from the waterfall.
‘My’ ravens and I have a love/hate relationship. They love stealing the suet I put out for the songbirds, and I hate being outsmarted by them. I admit, I do enjoy the ravens, but they sure get the best of me! Each time I think I’ve figured out a secure way to hang my suet feeders, they turn up missing. It is a bit embarrassing to acknowledge that I keep getting outwitted by birds!
Even this past week, I noticed that one of the suet cages that is hanging by a chain in my front yard had been pulled up and wedged on a tree limb—and of course, the suet feeder was empty. You would think that by now I would have bested them, but the battle continues. I’ve tried wire, I’ve tried carabiners, I’ve tried chains. These buggers are smart!
Ravens have long been recognized as one of the smartest bird species in the world. They are wily and cunning. They are problem solvers.
They have even been observed using tools. Anyone who has spent time hiking in a remote area knows he/she is being watched. If you do any hiking in the back country, or even in high use areas such as the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, the ravens are watching.
They are opportunistic. Leave a saddle bag on a motorcycle unattended and they are likely to use their beak to unzip the bag as they search for trail mix and other snacks. The same is true of backpacks. If you set your backpack down and leave it unattended, chances are they’ll come and explore whether there is food that they can access.
For now, I’ve come up with a solution. Only time will tell who’s smarter. I’m hanging my suet feeders from long, inflexible S-hooks, about 18-inches in length. The feeder is too far below the branch it is hanging from for them to reach, and they can’t pull the hook up like they can with wire or a chain.
On a different note, I have been doing a lot of birding lately—trying to ride the wave of spring migration. This week has been amazing! Just in the last few days, I’ve seen over forty Franklin’s gulls, a California gull, four ring-billed gulls and a Caspian tern—yes, right here in Prescott.
I also saw my first blue-winged teal of the year, and I saw 42 red-breasted mergansers!
On Monday when it was stormy, I was out birdwatching and saw white-faced ibis, black-necked stilt, spotted sandpiper, and six marbled godwits. I think the storm forced the birds to land and sit out the weather before continuing on. A lot of songbirds are showing up too—I’ve seen vermilion flycatchers, Cassin’s kingbirds and Bullock’s Orioles this week!
I’m happy to say that Jay’s Bird Barn is still open. You can come into the store, or, if you would prefer, feel free to take advantage of our curbside service. We appreciate your continued patronage during this difficult time.
Until next week, Happy Birding, and be well!
Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with two locations in northern Arizona—Prescott and Flagstaff. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.