Thursday, January 17, 2013

Life in the Gutter

When we say someone's mind is in the gutter, they woke up in the gutter, or just feel like they're in the gutter, it's always a negative meaning - but for birds, a gutter can be a wonderful thing. After his adventure in the firebox, I wouldn't have thought my neighborhood northern flicker (or one of them) would want to be anywhere near my house again, but while it's not technically my house, he is dropping by occasionally to the neighbor's gutter. But why?

Gutters can be bountiful for birds. In summer, a gutter may have delicious insects, fresh water or nesting material collected in its corners. In winter, a bit of water may be there, as well as windfall fruit, nuts, or other food. This was a southeastern corner, and it's my bet that the bird was probing about for food, since she and her mate haven't been shy about visiting my heated bird bath whenever they need a drink.

Birds adapt. Take away the trees or stumps where they would hunt for insects, and instead they'll search chimneys and gutters. Remove snags perfect for nesting cavities and they'll investigate bird houses. Destroy habitat with development and they'll learn to seek out bird feeders and flowerbeds. Of course I'd rather see birds as "natural" as possible, but the birds in our backyard, doing what backyard birds do, are just as natural in their way. I just wish being in the gutter was as good for me some days as it is for my flickers.

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