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  • Writer's picturePeter Joost

Feeding the Birds

One of the best decisions we ever made around here was to set up a feeding platform to attract the cloud forest birds, first one station, then another.  In the beginning we put the bananas out whole, peeling them just a little.  Gradually we evolved our technique—slice the bananas and impale them on nails, or fasten them to a dangling wire.  This latter option, the wire, turns out to be the favorite of most birds, and the first place they visit.  The two platforms have evolved as well.  We began with a horizontal board but now have branches, some festooned with orchids, vines, mosses, bromeliads, and other plants.

It took almost no time for the first visitors to show up, a pair of blue-gray tanagers.  And within a week or so, more and more species made an appearance.  Today the total number of species stands at 20, heavily weighted toward the tanagers.

Blue-gray tanager

Blue-winged Mountain-tanager

Scrub tanager

Golden tanager

Golden-naped tanager

Black-capped tanager

White-lined tanager

Lemon-rumped tanager

Saffron-crowned tanager

Blue-capped tanager

Metallic-green tanager

Summer tanager

Orange-bellied euphonia

Thick-billed euphonia

White-winged brush-finch

Chestnut-capped brush-finch

Buff-throated saltator

Rufous-collared sparrow

Great thrush

Ecuadorian thrush

Some birds that don’t like bananas have landed on the platform to check out what’s going on.  Ones I’ve seen include white-winged and rusty flower-piercers, tropical parula, house wren, and montane woodcreeper.  Many other birds on occasion hang around, including an array of insect eaters and snazzy ones like masked trogon, Andean cock-of-the-rock, and squirrel cuckoo.  And I’m waiting for some other tanagers to get hooked.

Aside from being a paradise for bird photogs, the platform is a good place for studying behavior.  It’s interesting to see how the birds come in, rarely just one species, and in what order.  I’ve watched all the tanagers, except for white-lined and summer, and other species too, bring their fledglings in to try the bananas, and thus learned some nesting dates.  Because we’ve had the platforms for several years now, I’ve also witnessed changes, most dramatically a changing of the guard, as species drop out and new ones show up.  We certainly have more birds hanging around than ever before.

The bananas—and sometimes papayas—pull in other creatures too: bees and butterflies and western red squirrels during the day (regarding the latter, first there was one, exciting, then another, another, another, yikes), and in the evening possums, kinkajous, bats, and innumerable species of moths (including the occasional humdinger). 

An endless source of fascination, which I invite you to come and share!

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