Our fine-feathered friends

By Dudley Wooten - Contributing columnist



When we’re out in the woods deer hunting, we may see squirrel, fox, skunk or coyote, but most likely we will see birds. They were not our primary objective, but they come with the territory.

If you see solitary birds, they will most likely be woodpeckers, grouse, thrush or cardinal. When you see flocks, the chickadee, junco, starling, robin, house finch, sparrow, black bird or kinglet.

On occasion, you may see a tanager, bunting or goldfinch, due to their vivid color, but the catbird, mockingbird and jay you will probably hear first.

The bobolink, siskin, towhee, chat, vireo and waxwing are there, too, just not as often.

The bluebird’s fate is in our hands, it would seem. As we cleared the forests, they left the small tree trunk nests and moved into the 6-inch wooden fence posts. As the metal fence posts became so popular, the birds lost out. As farming dwindles, the bluebirds are scrambling to find a home.

I’ve made hundreds of bluebird boxes to hang at about 4 feet on metal fence posts. This is a natural height for them to nest and a fairly cat-proof location.

The hole fits the bluebird and not the starling, and if you place this box near water, you may attract tree swallows. This is a very beneficial insect eating bird also. Instead of a little round orange-breasted blue ball, you get metallic green acrobats over the water. They are easier to attract than purple martins and they perform the same aerial maneuvers.

The dimensions of a bluebird box is 5 inches high, 5 inches wide and 9 inches deep with the 1½-inch diameter hole 6 inches above the floor.

We mentioned water earlier, and we must see a few black duck, wood duck, mallard, teal or mergansee on local ponds and lakes. You will also come to realize that the Canada goose gave up on that round-trip ticket and has decided to become a resident and nuisance now throughout Ohio.

When we spoke of woodpeckers, we didn’t go into much detail. Around the house feeders, you will see mostly the downy and red-bellied woodpeckers. The flickers and yellow-bellied sapsucker will be doing just that – sucking sap out of thin-barked trees.

Nobody, but nobody, beats the pileated (Woody Woodpecker) woodpecker for size and woodland entertainment. When you’re getting far enough away from people to find the pileated woodpecker, you may also see an owl. Since they’re nocturnal, they won’t show you much unless they fly away.

The big owl (25 inches) is the great horned owl (with the “ears”); the small owl (9 inches) is the Eastern screech owl, and it will have the “ear” tufts, also. The barred owl is mid-size at 18 inches, and has no ear tufts. This is the “hoot” owl, and it has a “barred” white check pattern on the gray feathers. The call is “who-looks-for-you?”

Another round-faced owl is the “monkey-faced owl” (aka, barn owl). They are white and brown, and found in barns.

As you know, owls are great rodent-control predators, and are protected from hunting by the state.

The same can be said for hawks. They’re diurnal, great rodent predators and protected. The various hawks would be the sharp-shined coopers, red shouldered and broad-winged, in general. The smallest is the kestrel (sparrow hawk), and the largest and most common is the red-tailed hawk (aka, chicken hawk). As cartoons go, Woody is the pileated woodpecker and Foghorn Leghorn is the chicken hawk.

Some other protected members of the supporting cast in Southern Ohio would be the turkey vulture, in charge of road kill, and bald eagle, the best fisherman on the river along with the osprey, who passes through here, but nests in Florida.

I think we’ve covered most of the fine-feathered friends you’re likely to see locally, and many you’re not likely to see.

May the forest be with you.


By Dudley Wooten

Contributing columnist

Dudley Wooten was the owner/operator of Wooten’s Landscaping and Nursery.

Dudley Wooten was the owner/operator of Wooten’s Landscaping and Nursery.