Hart Beat by Hart Rufe

First published May 15, 2013 ... Contact Hart at hartrufe@gmail.com

Brown Thrasher

The feeders on the Comer property are known for attracting many Painted and Indigo Buntings, but other birds come as well, such as this Brown Thrasher.

A Reliable Food Source

Indigo BuntingNelson’s Family Farm in St Lucie County, between Fort Pierce and Port St Lucie, is renowned for the produce and varied foods they sell. Many of their fruits and vegetables are grown on their own farm, but they also carry a great variety of fancy and exotic produce, plants and gourmet by-products that make wandering their aisles a wondrous adventure and an impulse buyer’s night-mare. As Jewel says, “Never go to Nelson’s when you are hungry, for you might buy out the whole place.” The parking lot is always jammed and shoppers with heavy loads can be seen leaving, while new arrivals await their parking spot. The place is the very definition of “A Reliable Food Source.”

Conversely, there were two other nearby similar farm and produce stands, presumable offering similar food fare, with arguably better marketing locations on a major highway with better traffic volume, but both are now gone. Presumably, not “reliable.”

Sam and Allie Comer, also in St Lucie County, maintain a reliable food source for birds, both where they live and where they work. Their feeders are always clean and well stocked with fresh food, plenty of water, and nearby surrounding cover for quick escape when the inevitable Sharp-shinned Hawk comes looking for lunch. The Comers are renowned for the Painted and Indigo Buntings they attract to their feeders, and indeed, they open their home and property for many birding, garden, photography, artist, and naturalist organizations to come and view the profusion of beautiful birds they feed.

Lazuli BuntingThey have counted as many as 60 Painted Buntings and 175 Indigo Buntings (above, right) at their feeders at one time over the years. They have a truly reliable food source for birds, and the birds respond by putting on a show. Conversely, anyone interested in birds has observed empty bird feeders hanging in some one’s back yard, undoubtedly hung during a spurt of enthusiasm, but unfortunately, not maintained or properly cared for. Not “reliable,” and therefore, no birds.

But while the Comer’s bird feeders attract the buntings they are famous for, the focus of this article is upon all the other rarer or more unusual birds they have attracted over the years with their reliable food source. Yes, they draw in all the common birds you might expect: Cardinals, Catbirds, Mourning and Ground Doves, Goldfinches, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Blue Jays, and Carolina Wrens. But, in addition, they also have attracted such uncommon and unusual birds as a Brown Thrasher, Clay-colored Sparrow, Dickcissel, White-crowned Sparrow, Ovenbird (below, right), Lazuli Bunting (left), and Northern Bobwhite, and both Blue and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. Not every bird every year, but one or more of these unusual birds each year. All photos shown here (as well as the Painted Bunting photos featured in the recent HartBeat article on the Beauty of Birds) were taken at the Comer’s feeding stations.

OvenbirdPeople and birds are very much alike, both have a very strong interest in food, (probably because both develop a strong interest in eating it at a very young age) and therefore both are attracted to a consistently reliable food source. And they are also both alike, in that they will both ignore a food source that can’t be counted upon. But if we human eaters don’t want to go while hungry to a fantastic food festival for over buying or over-eating reasons, this is certainly not a problem with birds, which always seem to be ready to rally to a reliable food source.

The Comers have certainly learned the secret to attracting many and varied birds to their feeders: it is the same secret that attracts us to a place like Nelson’s Family Farms. And sometimes there are so many birds, that they just have to wait for a parking spot at the feeders. (5/15/2013)

Clay-colored Sparrow

Clay-colored Sparrow

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

Dickcissel

Dickcissel

 

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

 
(Click photos for larger versions)