by Tom Loucks

Recently we were visiting friends in Summit County where I observed some animal behavior – centered on a bird feeder – that I’d never heard of before.

The feeder (sunflower seeds) normally attracts Cassin finches, pine siskins, and sometimes crossbills and also the rare white-crowned sparrows which normally forage on the ground beneath the feeder but sometimes feed directly. Then too there is a red squirrel who insists on his place at the table if he cannot find food elsewhere.  Nearby there is a bird house with nesting bluebirds, and the parent bluebirds normally feed in the nearby meadows.

The bird feeder is broken in that the squirrel-proof doors have to be propped open, and the owners, while doing so, have created a thicket of aspen branches that birds can perch upon. The other morning was unusual in that the squirrel had finally decided to raid the feeder for easy pickings, though it has been configured in the open position for several years, and, until now, the squirrel wasn’t an issue.

Then the other morning the squirrel hopped on the perches, scared off all the feeding birds, and made himself at home. I went to go outside to shoo off the squirrel when out of nowhere the male bluebird showed up and commenced to dive-bomb the squirrel – again and again!

The squirrel would jump down to the deck railing and then leap back up and try a different side of the feeder, and the bluebird would swoop in again for another pass.

This behavior continued for maybe 6-7 attacks and finally the squirrel sat on the railing while the bluebird watched over the feeder.

Then, when the squirrel departed, the bluebird sat there triumphant. Then the bluebird departed and the finches returned. How else can I interpret this except that the bluebird was protecting a man-made feeder for use by friendly birds? (by the way, writing this two days later, the squirrel has yet to return to the feeder).