saw a northern mockingbird in Prescott Valley earlier this week by the YEI! Antelope Point facility where our birdseed ingredients are stored. It is interesting how when I saw this bird, a thought popped into my head … and then one thought led to another and pretty soon I had a topic for my newspaper column.
What was my initial thought? How mockingbirds are one of those species that people either love or hate. Why? The main reason people love mockingbirds is for their incredibly complex, beautiful songs. On the other hand, some people don’t like mockingbirds because of their propensity to sing all night long on moonlit nights during breeding season. It is certainly hard to sleep if you have a mockingbird singing outside your window!
Then my thoughts went to other birds that people don’t like. There are those who have no love for — or appreciation of — the industrious acorn woodpeckers in our area. It is not uncommon for homeowners living in wood-sided homes amongst the forest to have acorn woodpeckers pecking holes into the sides of their homes.
There is also the issue of barn swallows building mud nests under the eaves of homes near golf courses, such as at Prescott Lakes and Antelope Hills. Some customers love having them around, while others don’t want anything to do with them.
Last week I exchanged emails with someone in Chino Valley who was understandably upset with a pair of Swainson’s hawks. The person wanted to know if there was someone who could be called to remove the hawks’ nest from her yard. The birds were not only attacking her dog, but the homeowners, themselves, were getting attacked when they went outside!
I explained that both the birds and their nest are protected by law, and recommended using an umbrella when they venture outside, at least until the birds leave the yard. It may sound silly, but an umbrella is a great deterrent for birds that are trying to dive bomb you!
While we specialize in helping individuals create and strengthen their connection to nature through the enjoyment of wild birds, we also try to be a resource to individuals who are unhappy with birds for one reason or another. Fortunately this scenario is less common, and when we educate homeowners about certain bird behavior, most people become more tolerant of the situation.
The benefits of having birds in your yard, in my opinion, far outweigh any negatives. Birds fill our lives with song, color and entertainment as we watch their behavior. We experience sorrow when a bird hits the window or gets eaten by a Cooper’s hawk.
I can’t imagine a world without birds. For example, if we didn’t have swallows, swifts, flycatchers and phoebes, we would literally be overrun with insects. Think of it as free pest control — and it’s environmentally friendly.
There are many bird species that serve as pollinators — another benefit provided by wild birds. Hummingbirds, like bees and butterflies, move from flower to flower and carry pollen in the process. Not only do they entertain us with their speed, brilliance and personality, they play an important role in our yards and in nature.
Birds are also part of nature’s clean-up crew. I can’t imagine what nature would be like without something as simple as vultures. Many birds keep things like mice, pack rats and squirrels in check. We would be inundated with vermin in a world without owls, hawks and other birds of prey.
Thank heaven for birds. Until next week, Happy Birding!
Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with three locations in northern Arizona – Prescott, Sedona 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.