DEAR JOAN: Hoping you can advise regarding a problem I created with hummingbirds.
A few years back I put a feeder in the backyard. It was so successful at drawing hummers that I needed to put up a second feeder. This season, the birds have gone off the charts. So many show up that both feeders are drained daily.
I panic if they are empty as I don’t want the birds to go without, but this is crazy. What do I do if I go out of town for the weekend? I’m wondering how dependent my hummers are on my feeders. I also wonder if I should cut back to just one feeder to sort of wean some of the birds off my feeding and look elsewhere.
Mike L., Rodeo
DEAR MIKE: I appreciate you wanting to keep the hummers happy, but the good news is they aren’t dependent on you for their survival. Although they may swarm your feeders and quickly drain them, the food we provide is only supplemental to what they get from natural sources, unless it’s a very bad year for flowering plants. They also eat a lot of insects.
You can remove a feeder or leave them empty while on vacation and not feel guilty.
If you want to make sure your feathered friends continue to come to your yard, try growing a variety of flowering plants that provide hummers with natural nectar and that also attract insects they can gobble down.
DEAR JOAN: Last week, I was driving home with my 10-year-old granddaughter, Zoe. Our street partially parallels an undeveloped grassy area, Orinda Oaks Park. It covers about 100 acres.
We thought we saw a turkey by the side of the road, standing in an open area of cut, dry grass. We stopped and backed up. Not a turkey, not a great blue heron, but a sandhill crane.
We were creating quite a traffic jam on our two-lane road, so we had to drive off. At home I immediately grabbed my Sibley Guide to Birds and confirmed my discovery. It’s not too likely that a sandhill crane would be in Orinda, so why would he or she be here?
Ginger Wadsworth, Orinda
DEAR GINGER: The where isn’t as important as the when. Sandhill cranes spend the winter in the wetlands of Northern California and the Bay Area, so it wouldn’t be that surprising to see one in Orinda who might have stopped to rest or feed along the flyway. However, it is surprising that one would be here now, in the summer.
The sandhill cranes begin arriving here as early as October and they may stay until February. I don’t know why one would still be hanging around, unless it was injured and unable to make the journey back north to its summer breeding grounds.
Has anyone else seen this bird? Let me know.
DEAR JOAN:I have been watching the birds I feed on my patio and have noticed an adult junco feeding a baby bird that looks like a large house finch. Is the baby actually larger than the adult?
Debbie Grivette, Blackhawk
DEAR DEBBIE: I think you’re seeing a junco feeding a baby cowbird. The cowbird is a brood parasite, which means it lays its eggs in the nests of other birds and lets them raise the offspring.
Will hummingbirds suffer if my feeders go empty?