An Unexpected Result
As I mentioned in a previous article about the cool new bird identification software called BirdJam, I found it to be a quick and accurate way to identify birds in the field. It allowed you to greatly reduce your pack weight and reduce the chance of missing an ID because you were fumbling through your guide.
What I didn’t expect was being able to deter nuisance birds from my backyard during the critical nesting season.
What Am I Calling Nuisance Birds?
From the first time I was told to just throw up a platform feeder only to be assailed by grackles, I vowed to pay attention to what was feeding in my backyard. I know this will strike some people as anal retentive and some might even see it as hypocritical but I have NO interest in feeding or supporting the proliferation of species that compete for food or nesting with those that really need our help.
My list includes such birds as cowbirds, house sparrows, grackles and european starlings, among others. The threat these birds pose runs the gamut from discouraging my favorite birds from feeding to physically killing other species’ young. Since I have taken an active part in their displacement my backyard has become a haven for everything I want to attract which has increased my enjoyment of birding ten-fold.
I Found A Surprisingly Powerful Ally
At this time of year I have bluebirds, chickadees, wrens, cardinals, woodpeckers, titmice and goldfinches all looking for places to nest. The last thing I need is a growing flock of nuisance birds trying to take their food or nesting places when they are deciding if they want to nest in or near my backyard.
A week or so ago, I started seeing my yearly cowbird pair. I don’t know how much you know about them but they are notorious for parasitism, or laying their eggs in other birds’ nests and letting them hatch and raise them. That is, until the grow big enough to starve their siblings by taking all the food and, in some cases, killing the host parents. As I have a nesting pair of cardinals which are high on their list of targets, I couldn’t take that chance.
Just for fun, I thought I’d see what reaction they would have to hearing the calls and songs of their species. I connected my Macally Podwave speaker and played the cowbird audio so they could hear it. I almost fell over when the recording got to a certain point and the pair bee-lined away from my yard! Subsequent, testing revealed the same result at approximately the same place in the recording. I have not seen them back since I did this.
Since that day, I have successfully used the BirdJam recordings on house sparrows and starlings with similar results.
A Word Of Caution
It would be irresponsible of me not to mention that you should be very careful with this method. Even the BirdJam site warns about playing any of these recordings for birds you want to attract for the same reasons. You may scare a nesting pair out of your yard. That’s why I’ve only been using this method on nuisance birds.
I would also like to point out that you should not use this method on predatory species because their calls are SURE to frighten MANY species away from your yard.
Finally, I want to say how proud I am to have year-long pairs which include cardinals, wrens, titmice, chickadees and woodpeckers. I fully believe that my approach to backyard birding has played a big part in their success.