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LAURENCE PRINGLE'S BLOG

Happy Nuthatches!

For many years, I put beef suet in a wire feeder attached to an oak tree near our house, easily visible from my office window. I watched as birds came for this highly-prized food. I watched red-bellied woodpeckers boss the blue jays and the jays boss the smaller downy woodpeckers and the downies boss the smaller white-breasted nuthatches, etc. There was sharp competition for the "honor" of being at the feeder. (This could be called a "pecking order.")

Witnessed the waiting lines, I tried something new: put a piece of suet in the feeder but also smeared suet on the rough bark all around the general area. Wow, what a difference! Here is what happens at, say, 7 a.m. I spread suet around the rough bark. A nuthatch calls, a long excited message, maybe just meant for nuthatches, but other species hear it. Even before I'm back in the house, several species of birds are sharing the suet. The battle over one specific spot is gone. Nuthatches, chickadees, titmice, 2-3 species of woodpeckers, blue jays, cardinals come in. Even juncos and white-throated sparrows, usually ground-feeders, leap up to share the feast. Of course the suet supply doesn't last a long time, but witnessing this sharing is always a treat--another special moment in the life of a nonfiction nature- and science-writing author!
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