January 6, 2003

Where Do They Come From?

I stopped at my local Wild Birds Unlimited store a few weeks ago and bought a thistle feeder to go with my wooden “house” feeder. This tube feeder is mainly intended for goldfinches, who love the small seeds. Curiously, goldfinches like to eat upside down, so many feeders made for them have perches above the seed holes, rather than below. I chose a wire mesh tube feeder, which supposedly accommodates both goldfinches and birds that feed in a more conventional posture.

When I got home, I installed the feeder and filled it with seed. I waited for weeks to see my first customer. Finally, in mid-December, I saw my first goldfinch, then another, and another. I still have not seen any birds other than goldfinches using the feeder, but I have seen as many as six of them at once jockeying for their share of birdseed. Where have these birds been? I had never knowingly seen a goldfinch before installing my new feeder. In an earlier, pre-scientific age, I might have concluded that thistle feeders create goldfinches through some process of spontaneous generation.

(Click here to see a picture of the new feeder.)

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