Peanut Gallery: Wildlife Wednesday, July 2019

In my garden, I’ve never hung loads of feeders.  I’ve limited the feeder frenzy to one, occasionally two, black-oiled sunflower seed feeders at any point in time, augmented during the cool season with one feeder for commercial suet cakes.  Recently I began offering peanuts at my backyard bird buffet.  Peanuts are power food for birds.  Packed with fat and protein, as well as plenty of other avian-appropriate nutrients, peanuts pack a punch for bird nutrition, and often, for the bird-lover’s pocketbook.

Last summer I began filling a ceramic pot I’d made with unshelled peanuts.  The pot was originally crafted for a succulent (I even placed a hole in the bottom for water drainage), but I decided that, given my poor history of watering container plants and especially where I placed the pot, that it might make a more successful  bird feeder.

The Blue Jays, Cyanocitta cristata, squawked, flapped their feathers, and applauded–and then they ate!  Now, each morning, bleary-eyed and before coffee, I pop a couple of handfuls of peanuts in the little square pot and the jays have at it. There’s usually at least one Jay in the tree under which the pot sits, waiting patiently for me to deliver the goods, and then vamoose.  There have been times that the jays line up on the fence where the pot is affixed, politely taking turns swooping to the pot, each grabbing a breakfast bit and swooping off to enjoy in some neighboring tree.

I’ve seen photos of Titmice and other birds enjoying unshelled peanuts, but in my garden, it’s only the Blue Jays who partake.  Squirrels never eat the peanuts either, though I know that may bird lovers complain vociferously about the peanut-stealing squirrels.  I guess I should count my peanut blessings that it’s only the Blue Jays after the peanuts; they certainly consume enough of them.

A few months back, I purchased a feeder for shelled peanuts because I wanted to provide this yummy, healthy food to a greater variety of birds. (No dis on you jays, but I like some bird diversity munching my offerings.)

And munched they have!  The peanut feeder is the place to eat now, so much so, that I’ve had to limit the supply of peanuts.   The male Black-crested TitmouseBaeolophus atricristatus, pays no attention to me snapping his photo, as he’s focused on his snack.

He works the wire with claw dexterity.

 

The neighborhood Red-bellied WoodpeckerMelanerpes carolinus, is a shy-guy (as is his mate), but when he lands on the feeder, he is the master of the peanuts and defends his meal.

While his head is red, it’s the blush on his belly which gives him the moniker red-bellied.  And he likes his peanuts!

The female partner also visits and snatches her share of the legume.   Not as flush with blush, she still rocks that red hat and snazzy plumage pattern.

 

The biggest boon to providing the shelled peanuts is that I now observe a family of Downy Woodpeckers, Dryobates pubescens, regularly in my garden.   Daddy Downy dons the jaunty red beret.

Hang on there, buddy!

Mama gets her share of protein, too.

The pair of Downies had one chick (that I’m aware of)  this spring.  I watched Daddy Downy feed his fledgling and show her the ropes on maneuvering around the feeder. Baby looks like Mama, but with shorter tail feathers.

The number of Downy visits have lessened in the past few weeks, but I still spy furtive visits, especially in the evening.  It’s good dinner-time entertainment.

Green goblins!  Austin hosts several colonies of Monk Parakeets, Myiopsitta monachus.  Not native to this area, these gregarious greens fly over my house often, squawking their squeak, but rarely stop in my garden.  One afternoon, I spotted two in the oak tree where the peanut feeder hangs.  One popped down for a nosh.

 

This ninja bird is otherwise known as a Great-tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus,  the Gracks have become nuisances at the peanut bar.  Like the so many others, these brassy birds share a love of the nut, but also scatter the smaller birds like titmice, chickadees, and Downy woodpeckers when  they zoom in for the feed.

Peanut in beak, ready to eat!

 

I usually see Red-winged Blackbirds, Agelaius phoeniceus, in spring, but this handsome dude has hung around all June because of the available peanuts.  Red-wings breed in this region, though none have ever spent time during summer in my back garden.  I’m glad there’s something to attract him.

I hear him before I see him because of  his melodic, high-pitched call as he perches in the tree where the feeder hangs.  He’s cautious about flying to the feeder, but once arrived, he’s is all in.

 

The tiniest is the the quickest!  Carolina Chickadees, Poecile carolinensis, are nut lovers too, but so quick at their snacking that it took some time for me to get an unblurred photo.  This little one picked bits of peanut from those behind the mesh.  Do you see that peanut mush at his beak?

Scoping out choices: which peanut should I grab?

 

An unwelcomed visitor is this fella, a European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris.  It’s rare to see only one at a time and this summer there’s a whole clan swooping in daily to gobble up the peanuts.  I  admire Starlings’ beautiful plumage, but they are bullies and I don’t like them muscling in on the peanut action.  When I first offered peanut pickings, I filled the feeder in the morning and it was empty by late afternoon.  Per advice from Wild Birds Unlimited and since the native songbirds mostly nosh mornings and evenings, I’ve mitigated the Starlings’ peanut gluttony by offering only a small amount of peanuts in early in the day and another small amount in evening, leaving the feeder empty for the afternoons.  The schedule change has allowed a slight decline in Starling visits and I’m not emptying my bank account keeping them in peanuts.

 

The poor, hapless White-winged Doves, Zenaida asiatica, have no game at the feeder.  They land on top, bumble around trying to figure out how to work the mesh. Inevitably, fluttering to the ground because they can’t hang on to the cylindrical feeder, they feed on fallen peanuts.. Doves are ground feeders and competently snatch up leftover peanut bits–as long as they’re terra firma.

The feeder hangs close to this ceramic pot holding graceful Basket grass, Nolina texana.  The doves (and some other birds) root around the plant, pecking and picking peanut droppings.  There’s no peanut mess for me to clean up, but birds poop on the foliage.  It’s always something.

 

I started this peanut gallery with Blue Jays and will end with them.  Jays like peanuts:  shelled, unshelled–they love’m all!

How is your wildlife?  Are they foraging in your foliage or feasting at your feeders?  Please share your wildlife garden stories and remember to leave a link when you comment here–happy wildlife gardening!

21 thoughts on “Peanut Gallery: Wildlife Wednesday, July 2019

  1. hello Tina, what a lovely lot of visitors to your peanuts feeder, the black-crested titmouse looks a sweet little bird, whereas the great-tailed crackle looks scary with that stare! Love the downy woodpecker family.
    I also have some startlings in my post, though over here in their native habitat they are in decline and though at times loud not bullies to other birds. I know though that they are one of the non-native birds brought to the Americas by European setlers, that are now endangering some of the native populations of birds, nice you found away to fox them at the feeder!

    Here’s my July wildlife post:
    https://islandthreads.wordpress.com/2019/07/03/wildlife-wednesday-july-3/

    thanks for hosting, Frances

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  2. I’m grateful for the suggestion from the Wild Birds person, though I’d pretty much come to the same conclusion. That’s funny about the woodpeckers at the hummingbird feeder. I’ve seen photos of that very thing on bird group sites.

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  3. Pingback: Wildlife Wednesday – Sith Lords and other Cloaked Beauties | Frogend dweller's Blog

  4. There’s some new birds to me here today. The red-winged blackbird looks super suave, with typical familial vocal talents by the sounds of it. And I don’t think I’ve seen a downy woodpecker before either. Nice that you’ve got a whole family. This was interesting because I’ve never put out peanuts in summer, but may I should try it!
    Here are my Wildlife spottings: https://wp.me/pM8Y1-7qF

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  5. You take the best bird photos – they are such a treat to see! I might try putting a few feeders in again. I stopped because we had rats. Not sure how to prevent them from coming back, though. It might be best to not chance it…

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  6. I put whole peanuts out in winter, and we get a lot of the same birds – downy and red-bellied woodpeckers, bluejays, chickadees, etc. I stop putting them out when the weather gets warm because the house sparrows and grackles just demolish them in what seems to be a matter of minutes.

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    • I think I remember seeing your whole peanut feeder and I wish I’d purchased that kind. I’m having more grackles just recently and am considering taking the feeders (both) down for a couple of days. Typically, the gracks only bathe and very occasionally eat from the feeder, but this summer, they’re being real pests. Grrrr.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m so interested in Jason’s comment, because nothing touches my whole peanuts except bluejays and cardinals. The pigeons amuse themselves by pushing them around, but that’s the best they can do. I swear they view the peanuts as playtoys as well as food; it’s really quite funny.

    I do think the bluejays have fledged now. I’ve gone from providing five pounds every two or three weeks to five pounds per week, and I never look out without seeing bluejays. It’s been interesting to watch the change in flight patterns, too. While the mother was sitting on the nest, and after, the peanut gatherer flew back and forth in one direction only. Eventually, about the time the peanuts started disappearing faster, they clearly were being carried to youngsters in different locations — east, west, north, and south. Poor, frenzied parents!

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    • And I’m interested in yours, because I’ve never had cardinals feed on either types of peanuts I offer. Best guess? Birds are weird. 🙂

      That’s fascinating about the doves playing with the whole peanuts. I definitely haven’t seen that, but I’ll bet it’s fun to watch.

      Bird parents really work hard to raise their babies. That back and forth and constant search for food. Then, they do it all again!

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  8. Great series of photos! I don’t usually put whole peanuts into feeders. We buy chopped peanuts on their own or combined with sunflower seeds. I find that the babies especially like this more manageable size.

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  9. A red-winged black bird! I saw one last week for the first time in longer than I can remember.
    There was a nesting pair of them in a long ditch of blackberries at the base of my parents’ hill. Most times we’d drive that way they’d be up on the power lines together, singing.
    Someone cleared those blackberries out of the ditch after I moved away, and the pair (or one like them) were gone for over a decade.
    We visited last summer and someone had let the blackberries return. I heard them first, like you, and couldn’t stop smiling all the way to town.

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  10. Hi, Tina,
    We live in Oak Hill, in SW Travis CO. I put up a bird feeder in the winter time and am interested in using peanuts, but wanted to ask, which ones should I buy from HEB, salted or unsalted, roasted or unroasted? My favorite book on birds is: Book of Texas Birds by Gary Clark. In our yard we have native or adaptive plants. All garden beds are fenced due to heavy pruning by deer.

    Your blog is wonderful,

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  11. Hi Sharon and thanks for reading! I usually get my shelled peanuts from Petsmart–they carry several kinds of wild bird feed. I can’t recall the brand, but basically there’s only one brand. I costs about $17, but lasts a while. You’re near (or not far from) Wild Birds Unlimited, https://austinsouth.wbu.com/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=local&utm_campaign=localmaps&utm_content=187

    They’re a little pricey, but have great quality. Also, they share a parking lot with Barton Springs Nursery, so you can plant shop, too. 🙂

    I’m not really clear what the difference between “human” peanuts and “bird” peanuts are, but for the shelled, I always get the bird appropriate. As for the unshelled peanuts, you’re right that HEB carries some and I get the Hines Raw Jumbo Peanuts (green bag). There’s a red bag too, can’t remember what the difference is, but both are in the produce section. Have fun and watch those rascally squirrels!

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