Nature Talks: Peanuts attract birds, squirrels and chipmunks

By STACEY COLE May 23. 2014 10:04PM

THIS PAST winter flocks of “winter” American robins and cedar waxwings have been rough on holly berry and other landscape bushes, according to mid- to late-February correspondents. Several photos of these hungry birds were enclosed to illustrate the point. One reader wrote (address not on letter) in part: “Approximately 40-50 birds fed about five feet from my window. Ten to 15 birds would fly from a Tamarack across a driveway, feed, and then return to where they came from. At one given time, they all flew away, a beautiful expressway to witness.”

A good friend, Alice Calvert, former State Representative from Alton, stated in a telephone conversation that her holly bushes were “completely stripped” by hungry deer, as well as large flocks of both winter bird visitors.

A reader (no address on letter) wrote in part: “Our son lives in West Seattle, Wash., in an urban area. His backyard is small but he has many trees, bushes, flowers, etc. He feeds the birds and squirrels with sunflower seeds and peanuts. His backyard is filled with wildlife, crows, blue jays, hummingbirds, squirrels and a mother raccoon with two lively babies. The squirrels come to his back door for peanuts. He called one of them Nancy. When he got married in a tent, Nancy sat there through the ceremony waiting patiently for her peanut. When he goes for a walk he takes peanuts with him and he has crows hopping along behind him.

“When we got home from our trip we decided to try putting out (unsalted) peanuts. We have always fed sunflower seeds and suet. My husband attached a couple of aluminum cups to the top of 4-by-4’s to feed peanuts on the deck. The blue jays swoop in to get their peanuts and then off to the maple tree. (We call it the peanut tree because under the tree is a pile of peanut shells.) We have a blue jay that grabs a peanut. Then there is the one that gets a small one down his throat so he can take a second one. The chipmunks get one in each cheek and a third sticking out of its mouth. In that way it can get three at a time. One clever chipmunk sits, opens the peanut, carries away the peanut and leaves the shells. The red squirrels chase everybody away.

“We started with the blue jays taking the peanuts. The other birds must have been watching. Pretty soon it was a red-bellied woodpecker. Every day he would go to the cup to get his peanut. The poor nuthatch tried and tried but couldn’t open the shell. He would hit the cup and it sounded like a tin drum. (I went out and opened some peanuts for him.). Next, the male cardinal took one. The funniest is the tufted titmouse. He grabs a peanut and it sticks out straight. It is almost bigger than he is. We’ve had hairy woodpeckers, but the shock was the Goldfinch sitting on the cup — I guess, to see what the fuss was all about.

“Just before Christmas, we had a black squirrel eating the suet. He had a reddish-brown belly. The other squirrels came for peanuts but he liked the suet. Then he found the sunflower seeds. The other day he discovered the peanuts. Every morning he is the first one on the deck looking for peanuts. Of course, as did the woman with the black chipmunk, we called him “Blackie.”

Last year one of our readers picked up a young crow from a highway. It was soaked with rain and he determined that the youngster could not make it on its own. Currently it is against the law in New Hampshire as only licensed animal rehabilitators legally can possess wild animals.

The crow, assumed to be a female, was named Hazel and we received frequent reports of her care. In a few days, she was released from a shed where she slept and was fed outside. She hung around the house, calling for food when hungry. On Sept. 30, 2013, she did not return to the house for food. Our correspondent heard the wild crows and walked out into their field, hollered to Hazel, and she flew down and landed on my friend’s arm and was fed hamburg. Early on the morning of Sept. 29, Hazel was called down, and landed on my friends head. It was not seen again after Sept. 30.

My friend wrote: “We have had a great time with her, lots of fun. She liked to untie my shoes or try to hide stuff in them. I hope she stays around this winter. Will miss her if she leaves.” On April 8, 2014, my friend wrote: “I was returning from a trip to Brattleboro and lightly tooted my horn at my daughter. She began flapping her arms as if trying to fly. Hazel was back! She took food from my daughter, but is a little skittish of me. It sure was a surprise to see her again and I hope she comes around to me. We’ll see what the summer will bring.” Great news!

Stacey Cole’s address is 529 W. Swanzey Road, Swanzey 03446.

Nature Talks

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