By STEVE MERLO, Contributing columnist
Since March, male birds, decked out in their finest colors, have been singing, chirping or cooing while trying to seduce prospective females into selecting their perfect mate. Now, in late spring, the rituals, nest building and egg laying are over and parents are scrambling to feed their newly hatched offspring. The month of May stands a busy time with Mom and Dad working from dawn to dusk to fulfill the chicks' ravenous need for feed. But, at the same time, my sleep time goes into the trash can, and I don't like it.
At our house, the yard seems to be the neighborhood focal point for a lot of different types of birds working to sate their offspring. My wife and I don't deliberately feed them, but they still incessantly invade our yard, trees and shrubs hunting for insects, seeds, worms and other whatnots, and, like it or not, we have to put up with their noise and poop deposits.
It's a wonder we get any sleep around this place, day or night, and we literally have to wear a hat at all times in the yard, for obvious reasons. At least there are a few "good" species still around that seem to respectively watch their Ps and Qs, including hummingbirds, fly catchers, robins, linnets, kestrels, redwing and Brewer's blackbirds, killdeers, an occasional thrush, wild canaries, cedar waxwings and, at night, a barn owl or two. Seeing these other species can be an enjoyable experience, so I guess that's why I tolerate the following "bad" ones.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that most yards are like our own, and the same bird species flitting in and over ours are the same ones as yours. We have a resident family of gray-black-and-white, long-tailed mockingbirds, the male of which enjoys serenading his nesting mate not only during the daylight, but also all night long. They can drive people nuts, believe me! Many times, wakened just after midnight by his constant barrage of mimicries and song, I've seriously considered using my air rifle to end his lilting spiels. Fortunately for him, I've learned to tolerate his banter and simply turn on the bedroom's air conditioner or radio to bleep him out.
At our house, mourning doves have been crowing since late January, and they too have a penchant for cooing their mournful notes from first to last light. Sure they sometimes wake me, but I figure they should, considering how many of them I'm going to bag and eat when September rolls around. Nowadays, a new dove, the Eurasian Collared Dove, has moved into our area, and their three-note call continues to get louder and louder as more of them move in.
They, too, start early, and I can hardly wait until next year to lose even more precious sleep.
Our No. 1-hated starlings are getting way out of hand and there seems to be nothing we can do to deter them from dirty bombing our house and cars. The blackish birds with white-spotted chests and yellow beaks are noisy creatures indeed, but it's their penchant for trying to repaint our home and vehicles with purple splotching that has us up in arms. In or out of town, they will not tolerate humans at any distance, fleeing at the slightest provocation, so they are especially difficult to control. Even my normally kind-hearted and animal-loving wife has threatened to personally even the score with a scope-sighted air rifle. My guess is that she must really hate purple.
Blue jays seem to pop up wherever there are fir trees present. Naturally, our next-door neighbors are trying to grow a pine-themed national forest, so we take the brunt of the fly-bys by this fairly large, long-tailed, crested, blue-feathered bird. They make an awful-sounding, high-pitched shriek that's very similar to the harsh-sounding, government-required TV test that comes on every week.
Our resident English sparrows are beginning to annoy me, too, with their incessant chirping, fighting and peeping among themselves. I guess I deserve them, considering I grew up nailing their relatives by the hundreds with my trusty Daisy Eagle BB gun. I sometimes wonder if the Man upstairs has a sense of humor and it's His way of payback.
And then there are the ravens, with an occasional smaller crow thrown in for good measure. At least they seem to sleep at night, but the loudlycawing birds are thieving you-no-whats, believe me. Leaving anything shiny where they can get to it is just asking for one of the huge, black-feathered birds to heist some free jewelry. However, I tolerate them because they also rob the nests around here of eggs and babies, and for me that can be a really good thing.