Sunday, November 23, 2008

Take care of the birds

Birds are an important part of an organic garden. If you have made a commitment to not use chemical sprays to kill bugs, then you can no doubt appreciate the birds that eat insects in your garden. Not only do they provide a valuable service, but the birds are enjoyable to watch and listen to (especially if you have indoor cats!).

It may seem that feeding birdseed would make birds less likely to eat insects, but in reality what you're doing is providing an inviting place for the birds to live. A steady supply of seed will encourage them to nest in your yard because food is plentiful, and most of the birds that are attracted to your feeder eat at least some insects as part of their diet.

If you have large windows in your house, bird strikes may be a big issue. Often the reflection in the window looks like more sky, and when birds fly into the window full force they can get badly hurt, even killed.

Bird splat on one of the back doors

Some birds, like sparrows, are more prone to fly into your windows in spring when they're nesting and feeling particularly territorial. They see their reflection in the window and try to protect their little place in the world.

However, I've had a particularly bad time with doves hitting our windows this fall. I think it has more to do with the position of the sun and the lack of leaves on the trees than anything else: due to the reflections they just plain don't see the glass and think they're flying into blue sky. We have a couple feeders in the tree outside our kitchen window (Cat TV), and as a result we have a LOT of doves.

It got so bad last weekend -- 5 strikes before noon last Saturday -- that we ended up putting large masking tape X's on the kitchen windows in hopes that the tape would break up the reflection and keep them from flying into the windows. Masking tape does work moderately well. After applying the tape, we had one or two doves hit the window over the last week but not nearly at the rate they did before. So this weekend we went looking for a more appealing solution: something tmore effective while at the same time better looking (I'm just glad the kitchen faces the back yard!).

We ended up at WalMart, looking for those tacky beaded curtains. You know, the kind that, back in the old days, used to signal that something very naughty hid just beyond the doorway. I've seen them back in stores in the last couple of years, as pre-teens continue their worship of all things 70's.

We didn't find any beaded curtains (thank goodness, we were spared putting up anything in the color "princess purple" outside our house!), but the lady at the craft department pointed us to some by-the-yard gold garland that had become popular with people taking belly dance lessons (go figure!), but were now on clearance for $1/yard. So we decided to make our own.

I strung a few lengths of the garland on a wire, making a knot above each length to keep them spaced at about 10" apart. I purposely left the length a bit long, so the ends would drag on the ground. Although these will still move a bit in the wind, I want them to be heavy enough to more-or-less stay put.

Here's a photo of the finished project. I hope that the shiny disks will draw the birds' attention long enough for them to figure out there is a house there. If it works, I may try making some more bird-strike-avoiders out of beads.

1 comment:

Diana Wind said...

I like what you did with the "belly dance" garland.We feed the birds too and get occasional bird window strikes, usually when they are in a rush to escape a hawk. Thanks for the great idea!