Editor’s note: The following column was originally published in the New Hampshire Union Leader on March 19, 2005.
A STRAFFORD reader wrote: “We enjoy feeding wild birds the year-round and have some sunflower and thistle seeds on a raised feeding station. A certain amount of seeds fall to the ground, which I leave for ground feeders such as juncos and other small birds.
“We live in a large wooded area and for the past few months a flock of 11 wild turkeys comes to the yard regularly and devours the seeds on the ground. Their presence seems to intimidate the smaller birds, as they all stop coming. What can we do to stop or discourage the turkeys from feeding on the bird seed during the winter months? Wouldn’t they just fly over any fence barrier we erected? I assume they will not come around as often during the summer as other food would be available at that time.”
In past years here at the farm, we have had the same experience with turkeys feeding under bird feeders. In our case, our problem stopped when Ben, our German shepherd puppy, arrived. We had a 5-foot chain-link fence built surrounding our backyard to keep Ben safe. His bouncing about and barking discouraged the turkeys, and, since Ben will be 9 years old in April, I expect the turkeys will continue to forage elsewhere for quite a while yet.
Our reader might find our solution not very practical, so I suggest looking for a feeder with a saucer beneath. Unfortunately, I have found most of those feeder-saucers are not wide enough to catch many of the seeds the birds cast out. Possibly a larger shelf could be built and hung from the feeder or placed on legs high enough to catch the feed. But unless the roof cover above the feeder was large enough, snow could be a problem.
A friend solved this problem by building a large table (3-by-4 feet) with a high roof covering. The side edge pieces (3 inches) were high enough to keep most of the feed from spilling out. He placed the bird seed in the center of the table, and even though the birds scratched it about a bit, very little ever landed on the ground.
One of our Londonderry readers recently wrote: “I have a question for you that you may be able to help me out with. I have quite an array of birds that come to my yard for feeding. I enjoy feeding them and watching them. However, the blue jays have me perplexed. They enjoy the bird food; however, they also seem to enjoy pecking at my deck. They have done this for years. The deck is made of blue spruce, pressure-treated wood. It is painted sunset blue latex with a tint base color. We have to paint the deck yearly, as they really peck away big chunks of the paint. They seem to only chip the paint off. The wood doesn’t seem damaged at all. My question is, is there anything in the paint or wood that attracts them?”
For several years our readers have voiced similar complaints with respect to blue jays eating latex paint. When the question was first posed, I asked our readers if they had found a solution to this vexing problem. A gentleman from Newport wrote: “Blue jays are not only noisy but destructive as well. This is a layman’s answer, not a professional’s or a chemical engineer’s, to solve the problem of jays eating paint.
“The local Aubuchon manager tipped me off as to what to do. Change from latex to good old-fashioned oil paint. Slather on primer right down to the wood and then add the top coat. Don’t worry about getting down to the wood. If you do, OK, and if you don’t, OK, too.
“That stopped my spring blue jay problem. My siding is painted with pure latex and when and if spring comes, I’ll get out and slather on the same oil white primer and final coat.”
Each time our readers have raised the question of jays eating paint, it has always been latex paint. Over the years I have repeated our Newport reader’s information in this column from time to time and, as far as I know, it has resulted in a successful solution.
Stacey Cole, Nature Talks columnist for more than 50 years, passed away in 2014. If readers have a favorite column written by Stacey that they would like to see reprinted, please drop a note to Jen Lord at email@example.com.