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Woodland Recycler

4-7-17 chickadee on scat 116The ability to find food is crucial for all creatures.  It involves looking in every potential location, including the waste material of other animals.  Nothing goes to waste in the natural world, and I was fortunate to observe an example of this recycling phenomenon recently in bear-inhabited woodlands.

Even though feeding birds is discouraged at this time of year due to the seeds’ appeal to hungry, emerging Black Bears, many find it a hard habit to stop. Inevitably Black Bears will smell the seeds in feeders and help themselves to them.  If this continues long enough, the bears will become habituated and eventually this can lead to their being considered a nuisance, which can lead to their demise. Thus, it’s best to stop feeding birds now that Black Bears have emerged from hibernation.

That said, those who continue to fill feeders in the spring and have had them raided by bears need not fear that their birds are without recourse should they find the feeders empty or missing. Much of what goes in comes out, and bears deposit their seed-laden scat throughout the woods, creating ground “feeders” for all kinds of creatures. In this instance, a Black-capped Chickadee repeatedly helped itself to uncracked sunflower seeds amongst a great deal of millet and sunflower seed husks in the scat of a Black Bear.

This post is dedicated to Sadie Brown, Solid Waste & Recycling Coordinator for the town of Melrose, MA.

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10 responses

  1. Alice Pratt

    I’m glad we don’t have ravenous Bears around here. I’d rather see birds on my feeders. I’d probably have a Bear climbing on the bulkhead to get at the (suction cupped) feeder & see it peeking thru the kitchen window 😮🙈 I did hear lots of Spring Peepers at 2am & it was a chilly 38°

    April 6, 2017 at 8:33 am

  2. Catherine Fisher

    Mary, your posting today reminded me of another instance of a chickadee recycling matter found in scat. It was in mid April, and as I approached a trailside stump that foxes often use as a territorial scent post, a chickadee was working hard tugging something out of a dry pile of fox scat. As I stood and watched, the bird gradually accumulated a beak full of fur and flew off. On closer examination, I found that the scat was full of red squirrel fur, so I backed off again and waited to see if the chickadee would return for more – she sure did. Three times she came to harvest fur to line her nesting cavity!

    April 6, 2017 at 9:16 am

    • Jane Marshall

      Love this story!!

      April 6, 2017 at 9:22 am

    • What a great story, Catherine! It did occur to me that it would have been fun to see the chickadee collecting bear hair that clung to trees where bears had rubbed but no such luck! Your tale beats mine by a mile!

      April 6, 2017 at 9:48 am

  3. When I was a kid in Albany, lots of delivery wagons were still horse-drawn, and there was food everywhere on the street for the flocks of sparrows. Also ammunition for my catapults, but that’s another story.

    April 6, 2017 at 10:35 am

  4. I love how nothing is wasted in nature. Humans should take note!

    April 6, 2017 at 11:19 am

  5. Bill On The Hill...

    The above photograph really does show nature at its best, i.e., ” Waste not, Want not. ”
    Bill Farr…

    April 6, 2017 at 11:40 am

  6. Diane

    No bear where I am but have had to take all my feeders down after dark due to deer.

    April 6, 2017 at 9:00 pm

  7. Cheron barton

    Hummm… this is interesting!!

    Sent from my iPhone


    April 7, 2017 at 1:23 pm

  8. collette59

    I love the photo of the chickadee feeding off bear scat. That is a treasure. Thanks.

    April 7, 2017 at 10:44 pm

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