Nature Alert: Hospitality, greed, competition on my patio

By Don Messersmith
Member, Riderwood’s Wildlife Habitat Management Project

Nature Alerts are provided by Riderwood’s Wildlife Habitat Management Project (WHMP)

When I moved into my patio apartment, I bought a small table and chairs. Later I put out a paper plate with raisins hoping to attract birds. Soon a mockingbird saw this and began coming for a few raisins. However, other birds soon discovered my hospitality and arrived to eat some raisins. Initially, these were mostly starlings and House Sparrows. However, the naturally aggressive mockingbird had decided the raisins were put out only for him (or her). If another bird came to the table when the mockingbird was nearby, the intruder was immediately attacked and driven off. The mockingbird also trained me (according to my daughters). If the plate was empty, he (or she) would stand on the table staring into my living room. If I noticed the bird standing there, I would drop whatever I was doing and put out more raisins while the bird perched about five feet away in a small tree. As soon I turned to go back inside the mockingbird was on the table swallowing a raisin or more. Two summers ago a robin discovered this free lunch and began coming regularly to the table, only to be chased occasionally by the mockingbird, if it saw the robin. However, last December a bird sat on the patio that the mockingbird ignored. A Cooper’s Hawk flew against the glass and was stunned. It flew onto the table and sat there for over five minutes getting its senses back together and giving me time to photograph it.


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