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May 12, 2006

Birdie Birdie Birdie


My father-in-law
put up a bird feeder on our front porch the other day and the birds figured it out about a day later; now they're sucking down birdfeed at a truly astounding rate. They're also availing themselves of the birdbath, as you can see here. I have some mild concern that the cats will one day look out the window and think hmmmm... smorgasbord, but so far that hasn't happened, and the birds around here seem to be sufficiently paranoid to avoid the claws of the cats. In the meantime, it's nice to be able to look out the window and see all sorts of feathered things.

Posted by john at May 12, 2006 12:49 PM

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Smurf | May 12, 2006 01:01 PM

You should build a squirrel launcher:


andrew | May 12, 2006 01:39 PM

When I was a child of maybe nine, my sister had this insane, hunter-killer cat—”Patches”—who used to hide around the house and occasionally leap out in a flurry of teeth and claws and attach itself to my legs. It actually stalked me around my own home. In fact, my sister was the only member of our household loved by that malevolent creature.

Anyway, this cat used to leave heaps of bird and rodent corpses on our back stoop until we finally put a small bell on its caller. Apparently "belling the cat" is not just some quaint aphorism or Disney cartoon; it drastically cut down on the genocide in our backyard. Just a tip for you John.

andrew | May 12, 2006 01:42 PM

...and, of course, by "caller" I mean "collar"...d'oh!

Stan | May 12, 2006 02:09 PM

My mother-in-law's cat could even catch hummingbirds. He's just wait patiently at the base of a bush that they'd commonly land in.

If feeders become popular, they can also attract hawks who come to feed on the song birds and doves. It's like a miniature savannah watering hole.

Tripp | May 12, 2006 03:19 PM

Maybe someone here can help me identify a bird.

It looked like a regular red-winged blackbird except the red patch on the wings also had a bright yellow stripe next to it. I don't recall seeing anything like it before here in Minnesota but there was a flock that I think was passing through, traveling back north.

Does anyone have any ideas?

Stan | May 12, 2006 03:36 PM

Tripp, it might just be a regional variation.

I found a pic of a red winged black bird that had a yellow stripe:

Mary | May 12, 2006 03:48 PM

Tripp, all the red-winged blackbirds I've seen in Quebec and Ontario had red and yellow stripes, so you probably saw a flock of ours heading back.

TallDave | May 12, 2006 04:13 PM

You know, I thought my Burmese kitten brothers would eat birds, or at least attack them, but they really only evinced intense but rapidly waning interest, eventually ignoring them completely.

We even had one in the townhouse for a few hours, and they pretty much left it alone once they sniffed it a couple times.

I guess if they're indoor cats, they only attack birds when they're hungry or excited (by way of contrast, they attack each other several times a day).

TallDave | May 12, 2006 04:19 PM

Oh, possibly interesting tidbit: cats are apparently a non-trivial threat to birds' survival.

Worldwide, cats may have been involved in the extinction of more bird species than any other cause except habitat destruction.

Cats kill at least 9% of Wisconsin's summer bird population.

His research showed there are:
18.9 million adult birds at beginning of the breeding season
16.1 million more young birds are born each summer
35.0 million birds total

Of these:
3.25 million birds are killed by cats!

Bill Marcy | May 12, 2006 04:20 PM

If the cats did follow their nature and do the claw thing on the poor, defenseless birds, then we can rest assured IT WAS ALL BUSH'S FAULT!

Uh, sorry, wrong thread.....

John Scalzi | May 12, 2006 04:21 PM

Both of our cats are indoor/outdoor. Lopsided cat spends most of his time outside, Ghlaghghee spends most of it inside. Both have brought us little "prizes," although in each case not recently.

Rex, my cat who is no more, liked to hunt. I remember once when I lived in Fresno I saw him leap up on my patio and bat a bird right out of the sky. The bird managed to escape before Rex could follow through, but you gotta admit -- that's still pretty damn cool.

Bill Marcy:


Now, now, Bill. Politics in the politics thread, birds and cats in the birds and cats thread.

Tripp | May 12, 2006 04:53 PM


Tripp, all the red-winged blackbirds I've seen in Quebec and Ontario had red and yellow stripes, so you probably saw a flock of ours heading back.

Is that in Canada somewhere? (Sorry, bad joke)

The Red-winged blackbirds of my youth in Illinois all had just the red patch. Maybe the yellow stripers are able to travel farther. They were muttering something about curling but I couldn't get the gist of it.

Tim | May 12, 2006 04:55 PM

Bill Marcy,

Ok, your post was inappropriate on this thread.

But it was still funny.

Tripp | May 12, 2006 05:00 PM


Thanks for the link. I found this interesting bird gossip:

The Red-winged Blackbird is a highly polygynous species, with one male having up to 15 different females making nests in his territory. In some populations 90% of territorial males have more than one female. But, from one quarter to up to half of the young in "his" nests do not belong to the territorial male. Instead they have been sired by neighboring males.

Tripp | May 12, 2006 05:11 PM


I know it has been a year or so since I last visited here much so I have to ask what's with all the Angry White Men(tm)? Is it because of Old Man's War?

John Scalzi | May 12, 2006 05:15 PM


Timothy McClanahan | May 12, 2006 05:30 PM

Look, we're just tired of this little birds on our damn lawn!

Regan | May 12, 2006 05:34 PM

Give me a heads up if you catch a glimpse of hope.

I hear rumor that Pandora thought she had tossed it in the bottom of a box last time she moved.

(And I love the fact that I have the sort of friends who will actually comprehend (and put up with) a series of bizarre references. Happy belated. I had "send John a card" on my list of things to do, so that almost counts.)

John Scalzi | May 12, 2006 05:41 PM

Heh. No worries, Regan.

Laura | May 13, 2006 12:29 AM

I too love feeding birds. If yours start to really eat you out of house and home, may I recommend feeding them safflower seed? Aggressive, heavy-eating birds like blackbirds (a real nuisance in these parts) will not eat safflower, but pretty, nice birds will. It costs a little more than other seed, but it ends up lasting longer. And hummingbird feeders are equally fascinating.

Leigh | May 13, 2006 12:28 PM

The house where I grew up had the birdfeeder right outside a big picture window. The cats, both indoor cats, would sit on the sill of that window and watch the birds, their heads moving up and down, watching intently. We called it "Kitty TV".

Tripp | May 15, 2006 11:43 AM



Oh - I was referring to Bill Marcy and Tim and CoolBlue for the most part. Looking back I suppose they don't really make up a huge part of the comments.

John Scalzi | May 15, 2006 12:17 PM

Ah. Well, the readership here has gone up significantly in the last several months, so there are a lot of new folks. I'm not entirely sure what to attribute that increase to.

Anonymous | November 16, 2006 11:23 AM

Very good site. Thank you.

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