Trenton High School sophomore Kail McCarter traveled to Bennett Springs State Park for opening day of trout fishing with his grandfather, Lynn McCarter. It was Kail’s first opening day experience and a memorable one as he reeled in a three-and-a-half pound rainbow trout in zone one at the park. McCarter is the son of Melissa and Matt King of Trenton.
By Jeff Berti
We often think of winter as a quiet time in nature. Chilling winds suppress any desire to wander outside. But the sounds of winter are waiting — if, you choose to brave the cold.
Crisp, crunching snow gives way underfoot as you venture outdoors. You may be greeted by squirrels squabbling with blue jays, as scolding titmice and chickadees mingle nearby.
You may hear the thin, lispy calls of cedar waxwings as they forage for cedar or holly berries. Their red-tipped wings and yellow tail bands make cedar waxwings one of the more attractive winter birds.
Cedar waxwings are songbirds of a social nature. They feed in flocks, choose their mates in flocks, and perform a captivating social display called the “side hop.” The side hop is a peculiar ritual performed in late winter atop a fence or tree limb. If you are patient enough to watch, you are guaranteed to be entertained.
A male picks a berry from a shrub or tree, hops to a female and tries to pass it to her, beak to beak. If she’s interested in the male as a potential partner, she takes the berry. She then hops away from the male only to return and pass the berry back to him. The berry is passed back and forth several times until one of the birds finally swallows it. No other songbird is known to have this unusual behavior.
Cedar waxwings are also unusual for the bright red, wax like substance found at the tips of their flight feathers. Biologists believe the wax indicates age or attracts the opposite sex. Birds younger than two years of age lack the wax or have very few waxy tips. When you are observing winter birds, watch for cedar waxwing flocks that flit from tree to tree. The side hop is an entertaining dance you won’t want to miss.
As you continue on with your winter stroll and evening approaches, you may hear other sounds. The descending whinny of a screech owl cuts through the darkness, while the deep hooting of a great horned owl or barred owl remind you that life has not disappeared from the winter woods.
The little screech owl likes farms, towns, woods and orchards. Its call is not a screech or hoot, but a soft, mournful whinny. The call sounds spooky if you don’t know its origin.
The barred owl prefers deep woods around rivers and swamps. Barred owls usually save their choruses for the darker hours. Their hooting pattern sounds like, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” Should you hear a barred owl, try calling back. They usually respond to imitated calls and sometimes, even approach the caller. The legendary “hoot owl” is the great horned owl. These owls prefer forests, suburbs, city parks and open country side. Their call is a series of hoots, similar in quality to the barred owl. They will also respond when you imitate their call.
As darkness falls and the temperature drops, it may be time to end your winter stroll and return to the warmth of a crackling fire. Though it is difficult to leave your cozy home for a winter walk, there are distinct sounds of nature to discover during this “quiet” time of year.
by Jeff Berti
Grundy County Conservation Agent
The groundhog is one of the best known wild mammals in Missouri, especially on Feb. 2. However, few people realize this rodent is a member of the squirrel family. Its common name, woodchuck, is an altered form of an Indian name for this species. The origin of its other name, groundhog, is obvious from the animal’s short appearance, waddling gait and habit of living in the ground.
This common Missouri rodent varies from 16 to 27 inches in length; it has short, powerful legs and a medium length, bushy, and somewhat flattened tail. The long, coarse fur of the back is a brownish gray with a yellowish or reddish cast. Woodchucks weigh 4 to 14 pounds. They are lightest in spring when they are just out of hibernation and heaviest in the fall prior to hibernation.
When North America was first settled, woodchucks were relatively scarce, but as timbered areas were opened and woodland edge, fence rows and meadows increased, the groundhog’s range expanded and the animals prospered. Now, this species is common everywhere in Missouri except in the Mississippi lowlands, where it is rare.
Woodchucks prefer to dig their burrows along the edges where timbered areas are bordered by open land or along fence rows and brushy ditches or stream banks. The main entrance to the burrow is often located beneath a tree stump or rock and is usually conspicuous because of a pile of freshly excavated dirt. Side entrances are smaller and better concealed. The tunnels lead to an enlarged chamber, 3 to 6 feet underground, which contains the nest.
By the end of October, most woodchucks are curled up in a deep sleep in their underground nest. Their sleep is so deep that, even if an animal is warmed up, it requires several hours to awaken. Woodchucks usually hibernate all winter, although during periods of mild weather, some individuals may wake up.
In Missouri, emergence from hibernation begins as early as the first week of February, but severe cold weather may delay this. As the daily temperatures rise and plant growth increases, groundhogs spend more and more time above ground. During this period, the main activity is feeding and basking in the warm sun.
The woodchuck is almost a complete vegetarian, eating leaves, flowers and soft stems of various grasses and field crops such as clover and alfalfa. Certain garden crops like peas, beans and corn are also favorites. Groundhogs occasionally climb trees to obtain apples, which are considered a delicacy.
The breeding season begins in mid-February soon after the animals emerge from hibernation. Pregnancy lasts 31-33 days and the annual litter is born toward the end of March. At birth, the young are naked, blind and helpless. They measure about four inches in length. The eyes open when the young are about four weeks old. By midsummer, the young are 20 inches long and weigh about four pounds. At this time, they may dig temporary burrows near the nursery which they use for a short period. Later, they will move farther away and establish their own homes.
The role of the woodchuck as a builder of homes for other animals is important; because of this, the woodchuck plays a vital role in the wildlife community. Skunks, foxes, weasels, opossums and rabbits all use woodchuck burrows for their dens.
The woodchuck’s taste for garden and agricultural crops often places it in a hostile position with farmers. Their preference for burrowing under buildings and porch steps can also be a nuisance. Occasionally, groundhogs can burrow into levees and pond dams and create erosion problems.
When woodchucks become too plentiful, they can be killed in their burrows by using smoke canisters. However, this should only be done if the burrow is away from any “stick built” structure. Trapping with wire-mesh box traps is preferred over the use of leg-gripping traps, since the woodchuck is such a strong animal it often pulls free from the trap. Hunting with guns can control a local population and provide some recreation as well. Groundhog season will open the day after the close of spring turkey season and will continue through Dec. 15. A young, lean groundhog is said to be good to eat. However, I cannot confirm this, as I have never eaten one.
I hope that I have provided you with a little bit of information about groundhogs. Now, on Sunday, when you wait to see if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, you will know everything about him, including his ability to predict the end of winter. Happy early Groundhog Day!
By Jeff Berti
While running our dogs in the woods behind our house the other day, we came upon some cedar trees that had been rubbed by a buck. My daughter, Rylee, asked me, “When are the bucks going to start losing their antlers?” I thought about it and answered, “Anytime now.” My other daughter, Lilly, said, “I want to find some deer antlers.” It looks like we have a new winter activity that we can all do together.
Hunting shed deer antlers offers a way to fight cabin fever. With winter weather being less than ideal, hunting shed antlers is an incentive to venture outdoors during the next few weeks and get some outdoor exercise to work off those “holiday dinners.”
Usually, around this time of year, whitetail bucks begin dropping the antlers they nurtured and groomed before the fall rut. The exact timing varies from year to year and from place to place, but you can be sure that there will be a lot of antlers on the ground in Grundy County as well as throughout the state.
Just looking for antlers puts you in closer touch with nature. If you are a deer hunter, it can also provide clues to the location and habits of bucks that survived the hunting seasons. This information can be filed away for next year’s hunting plans.
In mid-winter, bucks spend most of their time looking for food. Therefore, smart shed hunters focus their attention on places where food is readily available. Travel corridors between feeding and bedding areas are also worth checking. Other promising places to look include winter wheat fields, harvested grain fields, places where corn has been spilled on the ground during harvest and food plots.
Although you still need permission to look on private land, shed antler hunting doesn’t have to be confined to areas where hunting is allowed. State parks, such as Crowder, are excellent places to look for antlers. Golf courses, orchards and subdivisions near forested areas are good spots to search as well.
Game trails, wooded fence rows and stream corridors are natural travel lanes for deer and should be hunted frequently. South facing slopes are favorite bedding areas for deer, because they offer maximum exposure to warm sunshine on clear winter days.
Hunting shed antlers is like any other kind of hunting. The more you do it, the better you become. Veteran antler hunters in productive areas can bring home dozens of antlers a year. Don’t be discouraged if you fail and come up empty handed the first year. More than likely you will find other rewards that will keep you coming back to the woods at this time of year, when only a few Missourians take the time to experience this “treasure hunt.”
You might find shed antlers throughout the year, but the best specimens are available now through early March. Mice, squirrels and even deer gnaw on shed antlers for the nutrients they contain. Whole antlers don’t last long in the wild.
There are a lot of uses for shed antlers including making knife handles, picture hangers, towel racks and even chandeliers.
With all the bucks in the state today, there are bound to be some antlers lying around for the taking. Besides, antler hunting will help sharpen your eyes so you can see all the mushrooms that will be popping up later this spring.
By Jeff Berti
Since most birds fly south for the winter, you may be wondering why there’s a hawk sitting on many of the local fence posts and power line poles. The fact is, many hawks (and other “birds of prey”) also fly south. However, birds that begin their migrations in the northern U.S. and Canada often discover that Missouri is far enough south to suit their needs.
The influx of these migrating raptors certainly makes them more visible in the winter. When you add the migrants to the ones that live here year-round, it creates a tremendous population of hawks.
Compared to the warmer months, the winter population of hawks is much higher in Missouri. A long spell of very severe weather can “push” many migratory hawks farther south, but they are content to stay here most of the winter.
Red-tailed hawks are the most common birds of prey in Missouri (year-round). “Red-tails” are distinguished by their broad wings, large size and distinctive fan-shaped tails. Birds which are less than two-years-old do not exhibit the familiar rusty-red tail, so these “juvenile” birds are harder to identify.
Other key characteristics include vivid white breast feathers, which are underscored by a dark band at the base of the chest. Red-tails are commonly observed in “open” country and their prey includes rabbits, mice and rats.
Another common bird of prey in Missouri is even more distinctive. At just eight inches tall, the American kestrel (also known as the sparrow hawk) is North America’s smallest raptor The slender, pointed wings identify this bird as a falcon. Male kestrels have striking colors of blue-grey and rust, which contrast with patches of white.
Kestrels are so small that many Missourians fail to recognize them as birds of prey. They’re commonly seen perched along roads and are easily identified by their habit of “hovering” for prey. By fluttering their wings, these birds can maintain their position in the air (like a helicopter), in an effort to locate prey. Mice comprise much of the diet, along with large insects (during the warmer months).
Another species commonly seen during Missouri winters is the northern harrier (also known as the marsh hawk). These birds are smaller than red-tail hawks, with slender bodies that resemble sea gulls.
Northern harriers share a habit with the owls; they locate their prey by “sound”, rather than “sight.” They’re often seen swooping low over the ground, so the distinctive white patch (at the base of the tail) is very easy to spot. Male harriers are slate grey, while the females and juveniles are brownish. And like the red-tail hawk, harriers are more apt to be found in open areas.
In contrast, the Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks are creatures of the forest. These medium sized hawks have short wings and long tails, which allow quick maneuvers among the trees.
These two species are very difficult to tell apart. However, Cooper’s hawks tend to be larger, with their tails rounded at the end (rather than “square”). Both species are sometimes referred to as “blue backs” because of their slate-grey color. Their small size and the “crossbars” on the tails distinguish these from the other hawks commonly seen in Missouri.
Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks prey primarily on smaller birds. In fact, backyard bird feeders are virtual “smorgasbords” for these graceful raptors. Every year, MDC receives complaints from homeowners, who are upset after watching a hawk dart in to catch a wintering songbird.
In reality, predatory behavior by hawks is just a natural part of the cycle of life. Yes, hawks have to eat too, and they perform a valuable service by “culling” animals that are poorly equipped to survive (because of age, injury, poor nutrition, etc.).
Hawks represent the “day shift,” while the nocturnal owls don’t “clock in” until just before dark. It’s interesting how these two groups of similar predators (with similar diets) are able to coexist.
In summary, now is an excellent time to learn about the hawks that winter here in Missouri. Birds are currently sharing the local landscape with our “resident” populations, so there’s no better time to observe these fascinating predators!
Grundy County Conservation Agent Jeff Berti poses with his award from the Missouri National Wild Turkey Federation. Berti was named the Wildlife Officer of the Year by the organization on Saturday.
Grundy County Conservation Agent Jeff Berti was named Missouri’s National Wild Turkey Federation’s Wildlife Officer of the Year at Missouri’s National Wild Turkey Federation Statewide Conference, held Jan. 11 at the Lake of the Ozarks. Berti was recognized for his exceptional efforts in wildlife resource enforcement, outreach and education efforts, public relations, attitude, enthusiasm, and his professionalism with all of his work duties.
Berti is a 20-year veteran with the Missouri Department of Conservation and has served 19 of those years in Grundy County. He has a balanced conservation program, providing resource enforcement, outreach and education efforts. This past fiscal year he contacted 1,045 resource users, documented 248 resource violations, and made 112 arrests and 31 assisted arrests. Berti’s enforcement work is balanced throughout the year and included cases related to fish, deer, waterfowl, furbearers and littering. In addition, his enforcement efforts resulted in the detection of wild turkey resource violations in five months this past year. In total, 42 violations and 30 arrests were related to the illegal take of wild turkeys. Berti has been a leader in integrating technology in his enforcement duties and has worked with several other states on wildlife resource investigations.
Berti is an active member of his community. Currently, he is in his fifth year of service to the Pleasant View R-6 School District school board and currently serves as board treasurer.
Berti helped start the Green Hills Chapter of the NWTF in 1999. He was instrumental in bringing the inaugural group together to found the chapter. During the 14-year time span, Berti has served as chapter president, banquet chair and currently as treasurer. He was influential in organizing the chapter’s first JAKES, Wheelin’ Sportsman’s and WITO events and has assisted with every event thereafter. This year they teamed up with the Trenton Police Department and put on a “Cops and Bobbers” and “JAKES” event where the police department took care of the fishing events and the NWTF chapter provided pellet guns, archery and hatchet throwing events for the kids. Over the years, Berti has made successful application for several Superfund grants that have targeted youth outdoor education, landowner habitat management and furthering shooting sports with an emphasis on youth recruitment. He has assisted with fundraising for the local Share the Harvest, Turkey Hunters Care, additional funding for the chapter scholarship and funding to support the local FFA trap shooting team.
Each year, Berti coordinates MDC’s booth at the Grundy County Fair to afford the visitors the opportunity to learn about conservation programs and talk one-on-one with him. The exhibit is open for four nights and Berti is there each night to meet people and answer questions. He also uses media resources to inform and educate citizens on conservation related topics. This past fiscal year Jeff submitted 49 news articles and 394 radio shows, which were the most radio shows of all NW protection personnel.
Berti provides unique educational opportunities which support hunting heritage. He actively works with the Trenton High School FFA students and the Conservation Agriculture Class. He is a hunter education and NASP instructor who actively promotes both programs. He also promotes the Protection Volunteer Program and utilized a volunteer numerous times with various duties.
By being the recipient of this award, Berti is nominated for the national wildlife officer of the year award which will be presented at the national NWTF convention in February.
By Jeff Berti
A small investment of lumber, nails and a little elbow grease to build bird houses can double as an activity to cure the winter blues and provide bird-watching enjoyment throughout the spring and summer.
Missouri has 26 species of cavity nesters, or birds that nest inside a hole in a tree trunk or limb. These birds, which include bluebirds, warblers, wrens, chickadees and tufted titmice, will readily use nest boxes. If you live in an urban area or along a stream where many of the old or dead trees have been removed, you should put up bird houses to attract birds that you can enjoy watching throughout their nesting period.
Building or refurbishing bird houses now will ensure they are “open for business” when birds arrive this spring.
To provide nesting habitat for the early birds of spring, put up houses for purple martins. The largest of the swallows, purple martins are named for the glossy bluish-purple appearance of adult males. The first males to arrive are called “scouts.” They appear in southern Missouri around mid-March and usually reach Grundy County by April 1.
Although martins historically nested in rock crevices and hollow trees, the birds have adapted to houses provided by humans and now depend almost entirely on them. One way to attract nesting martins is to suspend several gourds from cross-pieces on a pole. The most common purple martin house is the apartment-style box. Instructions to create both types of houses are included in the Missouri Department of Conservation booklet “Missouri’s Purple Martins.”
Missouri’s state bird, the Eastern bluebird, lays eggs as early as April 1, so January is a good month to put out birdhouses for them. Bluebird nest boxes can get a lot of use as bluebirds sometimes raise three broods a year.
Knowing where to place a bird house is as important as knowing when to put one up. Cats and other predators should always be considered when putting up houses. When young birds first leave the nest they are going to hit the ground. If a nest box is placed where there is no cover, the birds will be easy prey. When putting up bird houses, try to place them in areas where thick vegetation or shrubs grow. If the house is in your yard, let the grass beneath it grow tall for added cover. If tall grass is undesirable, try planting some taller flower varieties under the house. This will not only provide cover, it will also attract a variety of bugs, which is food for many bird species.
Placement also can help determine the species attracted to a bird house. Houses designed for bluebirds often are used by other birds when placed in habitat undesirable to bluebirds. Bluebird houses should be placed 4 to 6 feet above the ground on a pole, with the entrance facing the nearest large tree. A bluebird house placed 10 to 15 feet above the ground in a wooded area may be used by wrens, chickadees, titmice or even flying squirrels. The same house placed on a pole or in a dead tree could get tree swallows or prothonotary warblers as occupants. Remember to space the bird houses out. Most birds are territorial, so several houses in the same location will be a waste of time. Bluebirds, for instance, need at least 100 yards between houses in order to compensate for the birds’ home range.
Twigs and other old nest material can harbor parasites that plague young birds, so remove the old nest between broods. When cleaning out a nest, removal of the nesting material is sufficient. Cleaning the house with household cleaners may harm the birds or cause them to quit using the box. If you are building your own birdhouses, always remember to put a hinged lid on it for easy cleaning.
The Missouri Department of Conservation booklet “Woodworking for Wildlife” has easy-to-follow instructions for building, installing and maintaining houses for a variety of birds. For a copy of the booklet, you can log on to the Department of Conservation’s website at www.mdc.mo.gov. With the number of woodworking projects in the book, your winter doldrums will be a thing of the past.
By Jeff Berti
Missouri’s rabbit season opened October 1, 2013, but most hunters don’t give rabbits much thought until there’s some snow on the ground. The season runs through February 15 and hunters can take a daily limit of six rabbits.
The winter months remind us that good habitat plays a major role in wildlife survival. With that in mind, the information in today’s column could help to produce more rabbits on your property. As a result, “productivity” can also be increased during your rabbit hunts with family and friends.
Rabbits prefer brushy areas and forest borders. Yes, they will venture into open areas, but they usually try to stay close to brushy fencerows, brush piles, thick stands of grass or weed patches. During most of the year, a rabbit makes its home in a “form”. A form is simply a resting place concealed in a clump of grass or under a brushpile. It consists of a shallow, scratched-out depression in the ground.
Cottontails don’t migrate during the winter, but those living in more open areas often move to heavier cover nearby. During periods of heavy snow, they’ve also been known to utilize the underground dens of other animals (such as groundhogs). Rabbits are most active in the early morning and at night. In fact, peak feeding periods occur around sunrise and during the early evening hours. Most of the daytime hours are spent resting in cover.
Succulent, green vegetation ranks high on the list of foods eaten by rabbits. In fact, the three most preferred foods (during all seasons) are bluegrass, wheat and white clover. Other favorites include red clover, lespedeza, crabgrass and timothy. Cultivated plants like ladino clover, alfalfa and soybeans are also relished. During the winter, common foods include waste corn, winter wheat and small fruits. Ice and snow can certainly reduce the availability of many foods, but rabbits are able to adapt and they can “make do” with buds, twigs and bark.
In Missouri, rabbits usually begin to breed in mid-February and the young are born through September. Pregnancy requires 26 to 28 days and during the peak of the breeding season, females can be both pregnant and nursing. When a mild winter brings an early start to the breeding season, a female rabbit can produce as many as eight litters in a year! Litters commonly contain four to five young, so a female can bear about 35 rabbits during a single breeding season. A sizable number of the juveniles breed during the year of their birth, so lots of rabbits are produced in a short period of time. During the fall, there are three to eight juvenile rabbits for every adult. In spite of rapid reproduction, only a small percentage of rabbits survive to breed. In fact, many will die during their first month of life. Rabbits that survive to adulthood will seldom live over five years.
Hawks, owls and crows, along with coyotes, foxes and bobcats put some serious pressure on rabbit populations. Other predators include snakes, dogs and house cats. Yes, Man is also a predator. However, “regulated” hunting has no significant effect on rabbit numbers. During the early 1900s, Missouri’s rabbit population was extremely high. For decades, thousands of Missouri rabbits were killed, sold and then shipped to markets (primarily in the eastern United States). Commercialization ultimately took its toll on Missouri’s rabbit population. The Missouri Department of Conservation began wildlife management activities in 1937 and stopped the commercialization of rabbits in 1955.
Today, the biggest problem facing rabbits (and other wildlife) involves changes in land use. For example, the use of fescue for cattle forage has reduced bluegrass, clover and other preferred plants. In addition, field sizes have increased, brushy fencerows and idle areas have been “cleaned up” and herbicide use has increased dramatically.
So here’s the bottom line; without good “rabbitat”, you won’t find good numbers of rabbits on your property. However, if you take a few simple steps (such as building brushpiles, reestablishing brushy fencerows and maintaining idle areas), the rabbits will QUICKLY do the rest!
By Jeff Berti
With bone chilling temperatures forecast this week, birds will be looking for lots of food to keep their internal furnaces stoked. If you didn’t know, one of the ways that birds keep warm is by eating more food when the thermometer drops. If you are one of those people that are helping the birds make it through the winter with a bird feeder, then you are taking part in an increasingly popular winter activity.
If you take part in bird feeding, then you are among more than 1.5 million people in Missouri who enjoy this activity. Although birds benefit from easy access to birdseed, humans are the primary beneficiaries of the recreational activity. The opportunity to view birds at close range provides hours of entertainment just outside your home.
Believe it or not, people in the United States spend more than $500 million each year to feed birds. However, to get the most for your money, you need to know what types of food birds like. If you buy the pre-packaged seed, many times you are wasting your money on many types of cereal grains such as milo, wheat and oats, all of which rate fairly low to a hungry bird. Generally, packages of birdseed mix are put together to attract people more than birds. Rather than buying mixes, you may want to spend your money more efficiently by buying bulk amounts of certain seeds.
Studies have shown that most birds that prefer large seeds tend to favor the black oil-type sunflower seed even more than the more common striped varieties that humans enjoy. Birds that prefer smaller seeds, such as sparrows and mourning doves, will show a preference for white provo millet and cracked corn. Niger “thistle” seed is good food to use to attract both purple and American goldfinches; however, most other birds will not eat it.
How you feed your birds depends on the types of birds you want to attract. Sparrows and dark-eyed juncos prefer to feed directly on the ground. Cardinals and blue jays will feed either on the ground or on a platform. Goldfinch and chickadees prefer hanging cylinder feeders. Chickadees will also visit small, feeders that attach to the outside of your window with suction cups. If you want to attract a greater variety of birds, you might want to use several feeder styles and locations. No matter what type of feeder you choose, the most important thing to remember is to locate your feeding station where you can relax and enjoy watching it from a window.
To increase the popularity of your feeding station, furnish water whenever possible. The Carolina wren and the eastern bluebird may be enticed to feeding stations in the winter if water is available. An easy, although pricey, solution is to use a heated dog watering bowl during the extremely cold temperatures. During long periods of ice or snow, provide grit along with the seed. Grit can simply be sand or ground up egg shells. This is essential for birds in order to grind up the seeds in their gizzards.
Another type of food enjoyed by all of the woodpecker family and nuthatches is suet (hard animal fat). Suet can be hung on trees or poles in a variety of ways. One of the best ways that I have found is to use a small mesh sack (such as an onion sack) to put the suet in. Tie the sack to a limb on a tree or a nail on a pole. Again, be careful of the manufactured suet blocks Most of the time, these blocks will contain grain or berries mixed into the suet. Most birds that feed on suet will not eat the berries and grain; therefore it usually goes to waste. They may look pretty, but they are not practical.
If you have a bird feeder, or are thinking about getting one, be sure that you keep it clean. Many diseases and parasites can be transmitted to the birds that are using them. Make sure that you clean the feeder in a mild bleach solution at least once a week. This will also ensure that the grain is fresh and the holes are not plugged with rotten seed.
Many people believe in the myth that once you start feeding, you should continue constant feeding throughout the winter. However, there is no scientific proof that birds will starve if feeding is stopped. Birds often visit many feeding stations in an area. Therefore, they will get plenty to eat elsewhere if you cannot continue to feed. Bird feeding is both exciting and relaxing. Once you start a bird feeder, I think you will enjoy the many colorful returns. Good luck and enjoy!