Monday, November 20, 2023

Drama at the bird feeder

I started filling the bird feeder a couple weeks ago. I only fill it during colder months, as during summer and fall I don't young birds to grow up thinking there will always be free food at the feeder, and thus never learn to find it themselves.

Collectively I refer to the small birds as LBJs (Little Brown Jobbies), a universal term my grad school ornithology professor used, since sometimes they kinda all look similar and can be difficult to identify at a glance.

But unlike years past, when small birds dominated the seeds (Cassin's finches, pine siskins, goldfinches, lesser goldfinches, Oregon juncos, etc.), this year larger birds are jockeying for position. The most frequent visitors are Steller's jays, California quail, and ringed turtle doves.

Among the bigger birds, by far my favorite is Steller's jays. They're showy and quarrelsome and greedy, but I enjoy them.

We're also inundated with ringed turtle doves.

Next, California quail.

We even had a starling, which is actually an infrequent sight.

And of course, when the bigger birds aren't around, flocks of LBJs gather.

What I've been noticing is the pecking order among these various species.

Pecking order: Starlings > doves.

Pecking order: Quail > Steller's jays.

Pecking order: Quail > doves.

Pecking order: Doves > Steller's jays.

Pecking order: Quail > doves.

Pecking order: Quail > Steller's jays.

Pecking order: Doves > LBJs. (Actually, everything > LBJs.)

What it seems to come down to is Starlings > quail > doves > Steller's jays > LBJs.

Bonus photos: Red-shafted flicker. They don't eat seeds, but spend a lot of time winkling bugs out of crevices.

I have mixed feelings about red-shafted flickers. They're showy and handsome birds, and most of the time they're harmless and even beneficial. But in our last home, their quest for bugs led them to do severe damage to the side of our house to the point where we had to have the whole siding replaced.

Because of that experience, whenever we hear a flicker pecking on our walls or roof, we do our best to chase it off before it can do any damage.

So there you go. That's all the drama at the bird feeder.


  1. Love it! Better than any Soap Opera.

  2. Starlings are the onions of the bird world...blech!
    Nasty things. I'd shoot em

  3. Once, we were startled and fascinated that four tiny birds were chasing off a larger bird, forgot which. They were after food from fast food bag. But, the little birds were not having the big bird around. Big bird always retreated to skies when chased away. We never have figured that out.

  4. I love your term, Little Brown Jobbies! MY mother used to call sparrows "sputsies"

  5. Hi patrice, are you sure that's a turtle dove? Looks like an invasive Eurasian. We had open season all year on them in AZ. I think turtle doves have different feather patterns. Eurasians have that ring neck black band... I think.