For the Birds

Our car is getting dive-bombed with bird droppings. So is our white picket fence. Our brick walkway is covered in pink and white splats. There are birds EVERYWHERE! Why? Because our neighborhood has so many bird feeders. All kinds of bird feeders. Seed feeders. Hummingbird feeders. Large and small feeders of every conceivable variety.

Auburn is a bird sanctuary. Countless birds fly in from the river canyon and the surrounding countryside. Do we really need feeders to draw more birds into our neighborhood? And not only birds, but squirrels. Squirrels are all over the place, running on our roof, chittering at us from the trees, and crashing through our attic space. Mice and rats are infiltrating our house and cellar.

“Why are there so many rodents?” I asked my pest control agent. “It seems like an unnaturally high population.”

“It’s these bird feeders all over town” he sighed.

“Auburn is rodent central. Bird seed gets knocked from the feeders onto the ground, and they love it. This whole area is a smorgasbord for them. If we could recommend one thing, it would be to eliminate bird feeders. But of course, people love seeing birds and squirrels. No one likes seeing the mice and rats, but if you put out a food source like birdseed, you can’t limit who comes to the table.”

Last year there were squirrels nesting inside our roof. Inside! They were crashing around in the rafters:

“Thump, thump, thump, crash, bam, bump!”

They woke us up at 5 am, raising squirrel families and driving us nuts, no pun intended. We hired a company to seal up all the open areas in the roof. We also sealed up all the openings in the cellar to keep out the mice and rats.

“Well, that should take care of the problem!” the workmen said.

“I’m not so sure” I replied doubtfully. “How well do you guarantee your work?”

“What do you mean?” they asked warily.

“If the squirrels get into our attic again, will you return and seal the openings? And what about the cellar if the rats and mice return?”

“Lady: we covered up all the holes we could find. If you find spots we missed, call us and we will patch them shut. But you can’t expect the squirrels and rats to boycott your property. Your place is surrounded by bird feeders!”

Again, the bird feeders. There must be some way to address this issue. I decided to ask a neighbor for some insight. I trusted his opinion when it came to community questions. I explained the problem to him, and told him I needed some perspective. Perhaps I was overreacting?

“What do you think if I were to ask some of the neighbors to move their bird feeders further away from my house?” I asked him.

He looked at me with a funny smile, and pointed to his own collection of bird feeders on his deck.

“I’d much rather see all the birds than live in a neighborhood with no birdsong” he replied. “You were a park ranger. Don’t you like wildlife?”

“This is not wildlife; this is a feathered invasion! There are dozens of birds out there in our yards right now; just look at them all!”

“I know. I love seeing them” he smiled as he gazed out the window.

I followed his gaze and saw hummingbirds and finches congregating around his bird feeders. A squirrel ran up a nearby tree. It loudly scolded the postman walking by.

“You might want to change your perspective” he said.

“But look at your truck! It’s pelted with bird droppings!”

“I’ll rinse it off. Look at those hummingbirds over there.”

I was defeated. I knew he was right. I loved seeing the birds, too. I just didn’t like their ‘calling cards’. But I was outnumbered, by the birds, by my neighbors, and even by my husband:

“We belong to a car wash club,” he said. “I’ll take the car in each week to get it cleaned. It’s not that big of a deal.”

“What about the picket fence and the brick walkway? They are covered in bird droppings.”

“I’ll hose them off” he said.

I thought about it; then I looked out our window. A little hummingbird, its feathers an intense electric green, hovered in the quince bush outside. A few more joined it, very tiny and bright.

It will be spring soon, I thought.  There would be more plants and flowers blooming, and many more birds would arrive. I thought of my childhood neighborhood where I had grown up. It was a soulless tract home development with cookie cutter lawns and no trees. Other than plain old blackbirds and the occasional seagull, we saw no other bird life. And there were no squirrels anywhere at all. I did not miss living there. Maybe I needed to adjust my thinking. I would give up this crusade and live with the situation, bird poop and all. I looked out the window again. The squirrels were laughing at me. Or was I just imagining it?

Rosanne S. McHenry is the author of the book Trip Tales: From Family Camping to Life as a Ranger. You can learn more about her at

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