Grasses for birds

W Hartford, CT(Zone 5b)

Does anyone know if birds eat seeds from bentgrass or Bulbous Tall Oatgrass (Arrhenatherum elatius var. bulbosa)? Are all or most grasses useful for birds (if left to go to seed)? My lawn was taken over by one or both of these species, probably from a near-by golf course. When I search in DG or university plant sites, they enumerate certain grasses for birds, but the lists differ and are without any explanation. I haven't found a site that says birds like bentgrass or Arrhenatherum, but then most people mow it to 1-2". Mine is unshaven, 2' high, 3' with pannicles. [[email protected]]

Killing the original lawn, seeding with Buffalo Grass, weeding extensively for 2 years, then winding up with an invasive turf-grass is an experience up with which I will not again put. If I do try again, it would be with a US native, preferably one of the 3 that I know of that are CT natives:
Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii).
Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum).
Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium, syn. Andropogon scoparius)

but possibly with one or more of these other US natives:
Bouteloua curtipendula Sideoats grama
Bouteloua gracilis Blue grama
Carex bicknellii sedge
Carex flaccosperma var. glaucodea Blue wood sedge
Carex pennsylvania Pennsylvania sedge
Chasmanthium latifolium Northern Sea Oats
Deschampsia cespitosa 'Goldgehange' 'Goldschleier' 'Goldtau' Tufted hair grass
Elymus canadensis Canada wild rye
Elymus histrix Bottle brush grass
Luzula sylvatica Great woodrush
Schizachyrium scoparium ‘The Blaze’ Little Bluestem
Sorghastrum nutans 'Indian Steel' 'Sioux Blue' Indian grass
Sporobolus heterolepis Prairie dropseed

Here's a shot of the lawn, surrounded by viburnums, dogwoods, hollies, and other bird attractors

Thumbnail by birdmanct

Nice ground cover! Very nice indeed!

W Hartford, CT(Zone 5b)

Thanks. I love the multi-cultural aspects of the "lawn". Just concerned if the birds will apprecitate it, too.

KC Metro area, MO(Zone 6a)

I think its safe to say the birds will love it.

The Creeping Bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera) as pertains to birds is rated as having a fair to poor energy rating and a poor protein rating. Overall, it is deemed moderately productive only because it is rated good in nutritional value for elk and mule. It's overall rating is poor for white-tailed deer, small mammals, small nongame birds, upland game birds, and waterfowl.

The Oatgrass (Arrhenatherum elatius) is allegedly much the same deal as the Bentgrass although it has ornamental value to some in gardens and is slightly higher in one of the nutritional values. Sort of like the equivalent of the big wonderful donuts you see on the tray in the dessert case at the pastry shop that turn out to be fakes for display. At a distance, they look great but what you ultimately sink your teeth into one there is little or no nutritional value.

Your Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and most of the others on your list are going to have considerably higher ratings although I don't know about the cultivars. The cultivars will hybridize in my opinion and would probably revert to type therefore the offspring would enjoy the same high ratings for energy and protein enjoyed by the parent species.

If I had to pick plants, I'd go with the following:
Little Bluestem (Andropogon scoparius)
Side-Oats Gramma (Bouteloua curtipendula)
Long-awned Wood Grass (Brachyelytrum erectum)
Common Wood Reed (Cinna arundinacea)
Canada Wild Rye (Elymus canadensis)
Silky Wild Rye (Elymus villosus)
Virginia Wild Rye (Elymus virginicus)
Nodding Fescue (Festuca obtusa)
Fowl Manna Grass (Glyceria striata)
Bottlebrush Grass (Hystrix patula)
Switch grass (Panicum virgatum)
Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans)

You might want to consider adding some forbs for the birds to your landscape and these would be top on my list:
White baneberry (Actaea pachypoda)
Red baneberry (Actaea rubra)
Yellow Giant Hyssop (Agastache nepetoides)
Purple Giant Hyssop (Agastache scrophulariaefolia)
Sand Milkweed (Asclepias amplexicaulis)
Poke Milkweed (Asclepias exaltata)
Tall Green Milkweed (Asclepias hirtella)
Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens)
Short Green Milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora)
Blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides)
New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus)
Tall Thistle (Cirsium altissimum)
Pasture Thistle (Cirsium discolor)
Prairie Thistle (Cirsium hillii)
Swamp Thistle (Cirsium muticum)
Prairie Coreopsis (Coreopsis palmata)
Tall Coreopsis (Coreopsis tripteris)
Pale Sunflower (Helianthus decapetalus)
Prairie Sunflower (Helianthus rigidus)
Pale-leaved Sunflower (Helianthus strumosus)
Spotted Touch-me-not (Impatiens capensis)
Pale Touch-me-not (Impatiens pallida)
Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)
Green-headed Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata)
Sweet Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia subtomentosa)
Brown-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba)
Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum)
Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum)
Prairie Dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum)
Blue-stemmed Goldenrod (Solidago caesia)
Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)
Broad-leaved Goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis)
Late Goldenrod (Solidago gigantea)
Early Goldenrod (Solidago juncea)
Old-field Goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis)
Swamp Goldenrod (Solidago patula)
Riddel's Goldenrod (Solidago riddelii)
Elm-leaved Goldenrod (Solidago ulmifolia)

If you haven't considered any of these which are vines, trees, and shrubs; you might want to keep them in the back of your mind for the future:
Red honeysuckle (Lonicera dioica)
Yellow honeysuckle (Lonicera prolifera)
Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
Summer grape (Vitis aestivalus)
Fox grape (Vitis labrusca)
Ohio buckeye (Aesculus glabra)
Paw Paw (Asimina triloba)
Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)
Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
Red Mulberry (Morus rubra)
White Pine (Pinus strobus)
Eastern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis)
Speckled alder (Alnus rugosa)
Juneberry (Amelanchier arborea)
Inland shadblow (Amelanchier interior)
Allegheny shadblow (Amelanchier laevis)
Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
Alternate-leaved dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)
American hazelnut (Corylus americana)
Sugar hawthorn (Crataegus calpodendron)
Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)
Wild sweet crab (Malus coronaria)
Sand cherry (Prunus pumila)
Wild black currant (Ribes americanum)
Prickly wild gooseberry (Ribes cynosbati)
Swamp rose (Rosa palustris)
Swamp dewberry (Rubus hispidus)
Yankee blackberry (Rubus pensylvanicus)
Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)
Early low blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)
Late low blueberry (Vaccinium pallidum)
Maple-leaved arrow-wood (Viburnum acerifolium)
Black haw (Viburnum prunifolium)

That should give you a few ideas for your yard as well as for the area by that huge pond out back.

Have fun. Every species listed for you to consider supports your "habit". I happen to have these lists of plants because I was actually beginning to research species for myself that would sustain eastern birds. The lawn here needs to go bye bye sooner or later.

KC Metro area, MO(Zone 6a)

Whew!!! Equil... you made me dizzy with that list! Lol. Every time I scroll back up to read it, i get dizzy again. lol.

W Hartford, CT(Zone 5b)

That settles it; I'm getting a mule.

Where did you find that nutritional info? On a cereal box? [Seriously, where? If you Googled it, what search terms did you use??]

I'll need some time to look at your wonderful list. Thank you. I see a number of genera that I have [e.g. Asclepias, Monarda, Rudbeckia, Solidago] , but mostly different species. What do you think of Juniperus virginiana?

KC Metro area, MO(Zone 6a)

If you get that mule be sure to post a picture of it on here. I love mules.

Equil... where DID you get all that info?

I am a member of the Listserve as well as a member of the Alien Plant Work Group, after a while you become familiar with bizarre little facts. I don't post at either of those groups (well maybe about 5 times in the last 5 years) but I do read everything. Most of my information comes from those two sources. I think anyone can receive information from the APWG but the other group is unfortunately invite only. It gets a little heated at the Listserve at times anyway so compared to here, people might not feel too comfortable participating... one of the reasons why I don't contribute in favor of lurking over there. Did I mention it isn't moderated? It isn't moderated so it's a free for all at times. Needless to say, I am not going to get dragged into debates on evolution and intelligent design.

The nutritional information came from my personal notes from several workshops however they were based on fact. It would take me a while locating the source but I could do it if you really wanted me to.

Juniperus virginiana is ok but J. horizontalis would be better.

birdman, you stumbled into an area that I have been researching for myself and to top things off you are east of the rockies so these plants will work for you if you aren't a purist. I have been systematically and methodically adding these plants to my landscape every time I can get my grubby little hands on them. Each and every plant listed above is one step closer to creating a well rounded habitat. Oddly enough, I'm not a birder. I love them but I don't see or hear well enough to truly enjoy them. On the other hand, I do like my raptors. My raptors, like the coyotes, like the squirrels and stray cats we have around here.

I'm glad my notes may have been able to save you some time on your project. You truly have something really special going on in your backyard. I don't know if you are aware of this but... you are creating a quasi Prairie. Prairies are an area of interest to me.

W Hartford, CT(Zone 5b)

We have a pair of resident Red-tailed Hawks that I've witnessed catching or eating squirrels and once a bird. I've also seen Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawks and a Barred Owl, but have never seen them catch anything despite constant birds at my feeders [and neighbors cats in my yard].

The only evergreens I have now are Rhodedenron, Taxus orientalis (from the original owners), Ilex glabra, and Pinus strobus. Others on my short list are Picea glauca, Picea pungens, Tsuga canadensis (though we have adelgids here), and J. virg & horiz.

Re Juniperus virginiana vs. J. horizontalis: could you explain your preference for horizontalis? I've read more good things about virginiana. Here's a description of a cultivar I'm considering, from
"Eastern red cedar is native to Missouri where it typically occurs on limestone bluffs and glades, wood margins, fields, pastures and fence rows throughout the state except for the southeastern lowlands. It is a broadly conical, sometimes columnar, dense, evergreen conifer with horizontal branching that typically grows to 30-65’ tall. ‘Canaertii’ is a compact pyramidal cultivar with ascending branching that grows to 20’ tall over the first 15 years. Shape opens up and becomes more irregular as plants age. Foliage generally retains good green color in winter. Juniperus virginiana is a dioecious species (separate male and female trees), however ‘Canaertii’ is a female clone that produces round, blue, berry-like cones (1/4” diameter) with whitish bloom. Cones are often profuse and are considered to be highly ornamental. Cones are attractive to many birds."

Here's one for horizontalis: Creeping juniper is a procumbent evergreen shrub that is native to Canada and the northern U. S. where it typically occurs in sandy and gravelly soils, sand dunes, rock outcroppings, slopes, prairies and stream banks. It forms a low ground cover that generally rises to 6-18” tall but spreads by long trailing branches with abundant short branchlets to form an often-dense, 4-10’ wide mat. Foliage is typically green to blue-green during the growing season, but often acquires purple tones in winter. Fleshy seed cones (dark blue berries) generally mature in two years, but are often absent on cultivated plants.

One concern I have is that my soil's pH is 5.5, and I've read that virg. likes it above 6, while horiz. does fine at a lower pH.

Don't bother finding that source; I appreciate the info. My concern about the research I've done is how often I find conflicting info, from books and the Internet, about seemingly straight-forward issues like plants' prefered pH, zone, moisture needs, height, value for birds, invasiveness, disease resistance, and care level.

More later on prairies and other plants.

The Juniperus virginiana is an Eastern Red Cedar. It is a vector to some pathogens to other more desirable species that you either already have planted or that I suggested.

The J. horizontalis is not. This plant is more for cover however if you were interested in a more upright formation, you could go with J. occidentalis or Pinus banksiana. Both of those would be good choices. Regarding the J. horizontalis, get the straight species for just the reasons you mentioned above... cultivars may not fruit.

If you are able to meet most of a plant's cultural requirements, a little fudging on pH isn't going to make that much of a difference.

W Hartford, CT(Zone 5b)

Are you talking about cedar-apple rust? I do have 2 Malus x zumi on the other side of the house. Is that bad?

Yes, Cedar Rust (Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae) is but one of them. Another that would be an even greater cause for concern would be Cedar Hawthorn Rust (Gymnosporangium globosum) as well as Cedar Quince Rust (Gymnosporangium clavipes). In order for Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae to spread, it must move from one host to another. The Malus spp. are more important to your habitat than the Red Cedar in this particular situation insomuch as there are viable substitutes for the J. virginiana that will perform equally as well and fill the niche. Regarding the Gymnosporangium globosum; that can negatively affect Cratageous, Malus, as well as other Rosacea hosts which is why I would deem this particular pathogen an even greater threat than Cedar Rust. It's been my experience you can have Red Cedar and you will probably get hit with a Rust Disease or you can have the other plants. Rust Disease in not always a horrible thing but it can be unsightly and I took a look at your yard and the surrounding homes and figured you'd have neighbors complaining.

Northern, IN

This is grass – Maiden Grass as shot thru my kitchen window this January. I have just now pruned it and carefully laid the stalks on the ground next to it. Both the tassels and fragile stems are highly preferred nest build materials and I get so many takers that there is usually nothing for me to pick up by July.

What the birds don’t get, the squirrels do !

Thumbnail by GoldenDomer

Maiden Grass is a Miscanthus.

Northern, IN

It's grass to a newbie or close enough that I thought the post would advance the overall cause of this Forum.

Am I wrong there too?

No, you're not necessarily wrong. Birds love nesting materials that's for sure. Here's my take on Miscanthus and you decide for yourself, it's an imported ornamental grass that sort of for lack of a better word repeatedly escapes the places where it has been planted. Usually it does so vegetatively but it can go to seed. That fluffy stuff the birds are hauling off contains seed. The Miscanthus is a genus that contains over 10 species that originate from Africa and Asia. There are many critters from Africa and Asia that depend upon this plant for survival. Many of the most attractive cultivars are knock offs of Miscanthus sinensis that is cold hardy and has a range that extends well into northern Asia. Extremely gorgeous plants, you bet. The stumbling block to some people who are trying to create habitat for North American critters is that Miscanthus has many adaptive traits that make it quite successful at out competing plants that the species of birds that visit our backyards depend upon for survival. I guess a good analogy would be the Koala Bear. Its diet consists exclusively of eucalyptus leaves and it lives most of its life on the tree other than to come down to get a drink every now and then. The Koala is an endangered species that is indigenous to Australia. The Eucalyptus Tree is indigenous to Australia. Over tens of thousands of years, these two species co-evolved to the extent that the Koala is incapable of digesting any other plant other than Eucalyptus. Loss of habitat to development and loss of the plants in the remaining habitat due to introduced species taking over has resulted in a decline in their numbers. Other factors present but these two are the main ones. Basically, there is less land for them to call "home" and what is left is no longer providing the "buffet" of days gone by. Australia faces many of the same problems we face over here. Lots of plants from other continents getting a little weedy and then there is the need to provide housing and such for humans which results in fewer natural areas. Space is not an unlimited commodity and when a species such as Miscanthus escapes and reproduces, it is doing so in areas that were once occupied by species that our critters co-evolved with. I think the State of Illinois is up to around 30% exotic species of total existing vegetation. Now add to this land we lost to population expansion and we have some issues too. Not insurmountable, but definitely worthy of our consideration given the species of animals on this continent all have specialized diets in order to survive too.

Here's a nice site that goes into a little bit more detail on the Koala-

Here's a nice site that has good photos of some weedy grasses-

Here's a photo I took of Miscanthus that a Farmer claimed went to seed from a neighboring subdivision and ended up in his 200 acre field. As you know, Miscanthus can grow at a rapid rate and gets pretty tall. When it ends up in a corn field, it reduces the sunlight hitting the corn plants and hence reduces their ability to photosynthesize. Miscanthus is also a water and nutrient hog. This farmer will have to use chemicals to eradicate the Miscanthus or it will reduce his yields yet on the other hand, some of the chemicals he will have to use will leach into our water tables and this property is located in an upper watershed management area. There is no choice but to use chemicals from a cost standpoint. Some plants negatively affect not only critters but us humans.

Thumbnail by Equilibrium
Northern, IN

I was amazed and disappointed by such a terse response to my post.

Your scholarship is impressive but your replies seem quite pedantic and I’ve been around DG long enough to know that the preferred family atmosphere here is bigger and warmer than that.

I say this only to be a help to you. Whether it is or not, rest assured that I’ll not make any more posts on this thread but as a newbie lover of wildlife I fully intend to be active in this Forum.

When I was short, you posted this

It's grass to a newbie or close enough that I thought the post would advance the overall cause of this Forum.

Am I wrong there too?

I don't think there is any cause here. Just a man who started a thread who wanted to pick up a little information about grasses so he could create a backyard habitat at his new home. He happened to hit an area that I am incredibly interested in so my mind is focused more on myself and plcuking out what in my notes will apply to what is being asked here. I'm not scholarly in the least when it comes to plants; everything I have learned I have learned from a local gardening club, land stewards, attending workshops and taking notes, reading, as well as working with other people who volunteer in natural areas.

When you asked your question, what type of a response were you looking for? I apologize if my response sounded academic. I've been going back and forth today adding photos to the PlantFiles and sometimes I don't take the time to joke around and I should more. Today was one of those days. I do have a sense of humor but wasn't in that mode with minimizing screens and bringing them up again and searching in my photo files. Really sorry about that.

W Hartford, CT(Zone 5b)

equilibrium, please continue sharing your knowledge and opinions with me. Call me a masochist, but I enjoy learning and thinking, and I think a good way to do both is to have my assumptions challenged.

anyway, back to my little meadow-drama. so now I have about 300 sq. yds. of golf course grasses of low nutritional value, mixed with some Buchloe and a variety of "weeds" and wildflowers. I love the way it looks - billowing in the wind, textured, yes prairie-like. Are there any good reasons to do anything to it? Examples: 1. kill it all and start from scratch. 2. Kill some patches and plant one or more of the US native grasses we listed above.

If I chose 2., will any of the natives hold their own against bentgrass/ bulbous oats?

W Hartford, CT(Zone 5b)

PS My zumi crabapple "is resistant to cedar apple rust and has only slight susceptibility to apple scab and powdery mildew" per MBG Kemper. However, I do have a Hawthorn. But I'm reluctant to let go of the J. virginiana, because so many of my resources, e.g. The Audubon Society Guide to attracting Birds, put it at the top of their list of evergreen trees.

Tee he, call me masochistic too. I've listened to speakers who I had difficulty following and keep going back for more. If I walk away from heavy subject material with even one new concept, I consider myself lucky. I take a lot of notes and ask a lot of questions at break or when they open up for questions and they answer them. My assumptions get challenged all the time when I attend seminars. I don't mind my assumptions getting challenged unless I acted upon them. Undoing is always time consuming and sometimes costly. I so hate it when an assumption costs me $$$. There's a saying out there, "Pay now or pay later, but we're all going to pay". I've also heard this quoted as "Put your time in now or put your time in later, but you're going to put your time in." Some mistakes for me have just been so devoid of fun that they aren't worth repeating yet on the other hand... I do like to experiment and evidently need to get run over by the Mack truck and flattened a few times before some things sink in my head. I'm getting better at exercising a little restraint these days and spending more time researching.

Rust happens. It doesn't necessarily kill the plants but it does make the area look as if someone freeze dried pumpkins then pulverized them to dust and turned on a wind machine to spread it all around. Some years it is worse than others. I go around and remove and burn all the telial horns from a few neighbors' trees (with their permission) and call it a day but unfortunately, some people who live in nice neighborhoods (such as yours) go for fungicides. They pick up abc or xyz fungicide and off they go to "treat" their problem with wreckless abandon and little or no knowledge of timing or if the rust they have is even treatable. Fungicides have got to be the worst chemical on the market in my humble opinion in that they are engineered to kill. What our neighbors do... can and frequently does have a negative impact on us. I recall one guy who had literally hundreds of rose bushes who was out there spraying on a schedule for everything under the sun with no regard as to if rain was in the forecast or wind conditions or anything else for that matter. He used fungicides, insecticides, miticides, and herbicides at the bases of his beloved roses and thought nothing of it. He had back pack sprayers and would "treat" for hours on end. Roses are tough in my zone without relying upon a tremendous amount of chemicals. I gave up my rose habit. My MIL used to buy roses for me by the boatload because they were her favorite flower. I liked them very much too but they truly don't work here with everything else I've got going on. That being said, I've got rust pathogens in my area (you may not) so I've removed red cedar and replaced it with white cedar and at least one of my neighbors is doing the same. Remember, rusts don't necessarily kill plants. They just make the area garishly Halloweenish and around me I experience an early leaf drop in bad years. If I were you, I'd keep the red cedar and enjoy it and plant all the others too regardless of whether they are resistant or not. Resistant means just that, resistant not rust proof. I guess my thoughts are that you might never have a problem and if you do... cross the bridge then.

Audubon is a wonderful organization and so progressive. There's a chapter that meets about an hour away from me. I've attended a few of their meetings when they have had speakers I was interested in learning from. Wow is about all I can say. Impressive. I wish they met on a night that was more convenient for me because I thouroughly enjoyed every meeting I went to.

I don't think the natives will be able to hold their own over the long haul. I've grown accustomed to taking a few steps backwards to take one step forward so I suppose I'd go with option #1, kill it and start from scratch. My husband and I just moved here a few years ago and we're here for the longhaul. My husband is the songbird person while I'm more the total package person. I'm reserving a songbird passion for the future. Bottom line is that if we create it, they will come. It's only a matter of time. My other thoughts on your particular situation are that you intend to let your plants go to seed. Dispersal mechanisms are varried and it might not be the greatest thing for any natural areas within wing of your property to let bentgrass and oatgrass go to seed. I'd go at it systematically. I'd probably kill one entire patch by mowing it low and solarizing it. When I was darn sure everything growing in that area was good and fried, I'd relocate the species that had nutritional value from other areas of the yard into that area then go for the rest but that's just me.

Bureau County, IL(Zone 5a)

I did a search using miscanthis invasive. It sure came up with a lot of information I didn't know. This is just an excerpt from one site

Invasive Potential

The invasive potential of ornamental grasses into natural areas is an ongoing issue; one that is gaining importance as concern from the naturalist/ecologist community deepens. Executive Order 13112 issued by President Clinton in February, 1999, gave federal backing to the concern over invasive biological organisms (see: Clearly, the problem as it applies to ornamantal grasses already exists. For example, pampas grass Cortaderia selloana (Schultes & Schultes f.) Ascherson & Grabner is already recognized as a pest in California (Bell and Wilen 2001). Volunteer seedlings of Miscanthus sinensis have begun to appear in natural areas in Indiana (M. Homoya, pers. commun.). Japanese blood grass [Imperata cylindrica (L.) P. Beauvois.] has been banned in many states due to its presumed invasive quality, but there is continued ignorance and disagreement as to what forms of this taxon are in the trade versus what forms are truly aggressively invasive.

Invasiveness of otherwise meritorious horticultural material is not an easy question to solve. Greenlee (1992) calls invasiveness “a vital consideration” but following a description of some possible positive and negative scenarios, concludes by simply reminding the “responsible gardener, [to be] aware of potentially invasive grasses.” Darke (1999) expands on that thought to encourage gardeners to actively “seek ways to enjoy grasses … while protecting the remaining integrity of regional ecologies.” Development of sterile cultivars is cited as one possible avenue to accomplish this goal.

The website linked above has some really informative reading.

Thornton, IL

Sterile cultivars sounds like a plan, as I love miscanthus. Speaking of that (man-made sterility), did anyone else here see the movie Jurassic Park? LOL

I really think if you are trying to create or maintain a pure prairie, wetland or any other restoration project, it is paramount in importance to diligently remove all traces of introduced species and cultivars. To my mind, this would be the only way to maintain the integrity of the site.

On the other hand, if your goal is simpler, and it's just to enjoy more birds or other wild-life on your little acre, maybe a pretty maiden grass isn't so bad. After all, starlings are not natives, but they are naturalized citizens, LOL.

Bureau County, IL(Zone 5a)

PG, starlings might be naturalized, but they aren't a wanted "citizen". They don't share the same the laws as our native songbirds. Starlings and HOSP, are not wanted or liked by very many people. Myself included. It isn't against the law to dispatch them. You'll find another thread in this forum on them.

W Hartford, CT(Zone 5b)

Maybe I'll mow it low and open a miniature golf course to fund-raise for my "prarie's" ultimate demise.

Let's remember that the origin of all these invasive plants, birds, etc. is homo sapiens sapiens, not so sapiens, the most successful and widespead invasive species in the history of the planet.

Our family loves to play miniature golf. When can we come?

Thornton, IL

terry - I have to say, while I believe it to be a worthy cause (ridding the land of non-native birds) I do think it is an impractical goal here in the suburbs, where insanity reigns. My former neighbor was poisoning and shooting at raccoons! (We're close to the woods, so lots of raccoons, deer, coyote, beavers etc) I don't even know (or frankly care) if it's legal or not, it's stupid to open fire in a residential area. They were here first. The only reason starlings and house sparrows are here is man imported them. If you are able and prepared (like Equil's menfolk and yourself) to take on the task safely, go for it! Otherwise, stick to small birdhouses and enjoy what you've got.

Yes, humans are at the root of their introduction but now humans are at the root of trying to reverse their impact. Neither English House Sparrows or European Starlings are protected under the Migratory Bird Act. If one is comfortable doing something to help get their numbers under control, that's great but there are many people like me who just can't do it. If you are one of those people, please consider taking down your nesting boxes and let the native cavity nesters fend for themselves by taking their chances in the natural holes of trees otherwise you might be providing "habitat" for the HOSPs to continue perpetuating their species. Another idea might be to discontinue offering cheap seed at your feeders. English House Sparrows love cheap seed. I believe Suburbanites who can trap and dispatch can make a difference. If one is even able to dispatch a few I think it is worthwhile because the English House Sparrow has a life span that can exceed 12 years and if I am not mistaken, it produces about 20 young a year maybe even 30. Their lifespan and ability to reproduce blows the native cavity nesters out of the water so to speak. Another lesser known fact is that English House Sparrows are resistant to West Niles Virus. They don't contract it. Neither do European Starlings.

Bureau County, IL(Zone 5a)

PG, I don't think it's impractical at all. One person can make a difference. I'm sorry you have such a louse for a neighbor. I think I'd call and inquire if it's legal or not. That always makes me shake my head....people want to live near someplace to watch the wildlife, but somehow coons, possums, snakes etc. aren't included. Why? You need to care. Just because Joe Homeowner doesn't care, he's your cue? Reminds me of my parents asking me if my friend would jump off a bridge, would I? No. And I agree with everything Equil said. Just because man made the problem, doesn't mean man isn't responsible for cleaning it up. Make sense?

I dunno Terry, not all people are comfortable with it. I know I most certainly am not and they'd be all over this place if it wasn't for my husband. And, my husband wouldn't have been able to do it unless he saw with his own eyes what they did to our Wood Ducks. When you look at the size of a Wood Duck and look at the size of an English House Sparrow all you can think is "no way". He was also the one who about went on circuitry overload when we found the Screech Owls. It was his Screech Owls that put him over the edge. My husband is the bird lover here. I also have to admit that my husband moved here for the wildlife and open space but no longer harbors that same love after a few years of living here because it means work and he's so darn tired from traveling so much that all he wants to do is come home and relax. I feel for him.

Thornton, IL

Oh. I guess I don't know know what I was talking about. LOL But I'm smart enough not to put out bird houses or bird feeders, and I thought Blue Jays were the rotten ones!

Bureau County, IL(Zone 5a)

Equil, you sure don't have to tell me that people aren't comfortable with it. There's a lot of things I'm not comfortable doing, but sometimes, I just have to. I love birds, just not HOSP or starlings.

PG, you're learning. Just keep reading and asking questions.......and a little secret between you and me? Sometimes I don't think I know what I'm talking about! But come on girl, you can fake it too!


See that's the whole problem for me. I do like them all. I feel somewhat angered that I feel forced to have to choose because of something people did over a hundred years ago. I'd love nothing better than to trap them and send them back to where they belong where their numbers are declining but that isn't possible.

Bluejays are aggressive. You don't need to worry that much about them because they took a big hit from from West Niles. Even so, they never did what English House Sparrows do. They're wired differently for lack of a better term.

Bureau County, IL(Zone 5a)

Equil, have you ever had nothing but HOSP visiting your feeders? Maybe an occasional grackle? In our previous house up here, I had multiple feeder and about 5 birdhouses. Only thing that ever breed were the HOSP, which meant more food for them. I had a pair of cardinals that would visit occasionally, but the HOSP scared them away. And before you start thinking I was using cheap seed, I wasn't. Unless you tell me that the seed mixes from WBU are cheap? And all of this was also before I knew what the HOSP did.


You'd have to ask Garden4Birds what all I have here. She brings her binnoculars and sits and watches because I have more diversity than her thanks in part to our traps for HOSPs and feral/stray cats. My husband could probably rattle off quite a few too. I do not feed cheap bird seed unless I want to start readying to trap. I know we get quite an assortment of wood peckers and flickers but so far no hummers. We haven't had any Wood Ducks in a few years and there are no more Screech Owls. I think my Turkey Vultures took up residency down the road as this is the second year now that I haven't seen them yet a pair magically appeared about 2 miles north of here. Our squirrel population is markedly down so I have't even seen the more common raptors recently that used to hang out in the snags. The Bluebirds never came to the feeders anyway but you could hear them and sometimes see them off in the distance. Same deal with the Orioles. Another girlfriend claimed to keep hearing Catbirds. I went to the Cornell site and sure enough, that call she drew my attention to was a Catbird although I have never seen one. We do get Grackles but I can't say as I've seen any Purple Martins around here. We definitely get Heron and Egrets. Lemme see, we get two different types of Chickadees, Titmouse, Cardinal, Mourning Dove, Red Wing Blackbird, Bluejay, crows, Juncos, a host of different native Sparrows as well as a host of different Finches, and many more that are on a list somewhere probably inserted in one of our bird books. We've been getting a wider variety of birds since we became more selective in our seed and began making our own suet in the winter. I don't start feeding the birds until I feel relatively confident all that should have migrated have done so. Then I don't quit feeding until at such time as I feel relatively confident that insects are available and plants are beginning to fruit. I'm really not the birder over here. I have several bird books here and I refer to them quite frequently particularly during migration when odd ball species appear in the back yard. I am somewhat familiar with which species should be present and several representations are noticeably absent these days but hopefully that will change in the years to come.

Bureau County, IL(Zone 5a)

No Equil, what I meant, was at our other house, the birds at my feeders (with WBU food) were HOSP and starlings. I forgot about the starlings. Whenever a mourning dove, cardinal, gold finch, house finch, downy woodpecker or mind went blank. Rose breasted grosbeak? I think that was it. Anyway, the HOSP always drove them away. Any kind of bird that would venture into our yard was soon chased away by HOSP, till finally, that was about it. I will not repeat that here. I just won't.


W Hartford, CT(Zone 5b)

What trap do you use for feral/stray cats? Where do you bring them afterwards? Do other animals get in them? {see my Cats Indoors posts under Wildlife}

Bureau County, IL(Zone 5a)

Hey Equil, what's the web addy of the Cornell site?

Sorry birdman, I'm not up to another cat thread or I'd go over and read that thread. I try to steer clear of those. For what it's worth, I make sure all my cats are spayed or neutered and they are never allowed outside. I use a HavAHart trap. The model number I have is 1050. The 1050 looks similar to this smaller version-

Our Village has a contract out there and residents are able to call and then Animal Control picks them up and all feral cats are euthanized. If Animal Control is called and the cat isn't feral and is a stray or has been dumped, they hang on to it for 10 days and then it goes to a shelter somewhere. I don't know which shelter Animal Control feeds in to for my area but rumor had it that it wasn't a non-destroy shelter so if I get a cat in my trap that is a stray or dump-off, I go take it to another shelter that is a no-kill and pay the $40 fee to get it in.

Occasionally I get a raccoon in the trap. We just open up the trap and let it go and they take off like a bat from you know where. We have gotten an opossum once and we let that go. Those don't do much of anything other than play dead until you leave and they they nonchalantly walk off. Those two critters seem to get cage savvy and you generally don't see them twice. Now the skunk, well that's another story. Our skunk is desensitized to the trap. I am convinced he goes in there, gets a free meal, and then waits to be released the following morning. We have trapped that same skunk so many times that it doesn't even go off when we go to release it. It just sort of hangs out in the trap and when we open the door he sort of ambles out and that's that until he ends up in there again. He went off the first few times but not anymore. If you get a skunk, just approach the cage with an old rug in front of your whole body and from behind your trusty shield, stick your arm out and unlatch it and flip it open so it can get out. We back off and put the rug (that has been sprayed) in a tall kitchen garbage bag then we bag it again and pitch it in the garbage.

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