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Why Don't Woodpeckers Get Headaches?: And Other Bird Questions You Know You Want to Ask Paperback – April 15, 2007
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From the Publisher
Go Nuts with Peanut Feeders
Dear Bird Folks:
I was thinking about offering peanuts to my birds but nuts are a little pricey. Before I invest in buying expensive peanuts, I would like to know if you think they are a good idea.
—Mitch, central MA.
I have a question for you. Are you from Worcester? Because only someone from Worcester would need financial advice before buying a bag of peanuts. I grew up around Worcester and we were so tight that even people from Scotland made fun of us. I’ve sold peanuts for years. Whenever customers buy a bag, I give them a look like they are drunken sailors throwing away their money. To me, there is no better or more popular food than sunflower seed. And most importantly, it’s cheap. Why spend more money on nuts?
A peanut feeder is nothing more than a tube of fine wire mesh that holds peanuts like a suet basket holds suet. I have been blindly selling them for years, assuming that they work fine but have been too cheap to buy one myself. One day a customer pointed out that the holes in the feeder were much smaller than the peanuts. It would be impossible for a peanut to fit through the tiny holes. When the customer asked me how the birds got to the food, the only thing I could say was (in a dumb guy’s voice), "Dunno." At that point, I knew it was time for me to turn my back on my thrifty past and try a peanut feeder.
I brought my new peanut feeder home and hung it up with all my other feeders, but the birds didn’t seem interested. Days went by and the birds avoided it like a baked apple on a dessert cart. Finally, after about a week, a chickadee landed on it and tried to eat a peanut but couldn’t get one out and flew away. The next day the same thing happened. I thought, “Oh man, that customer was right. These feeders don’t work.” I broke into a cold sweat thinking that it was only a matter of time before I would be dragged in front of the Federal Trade Commission. I could see myself doing five to ten for selling bad bird feeders.
To end the suspense and speed up this story, I should tell you that the birds finally did figure out the new feeder. It turned out that the birds don’t pull out the whole peanut, like they do with sunflower seeds; they peck out little pieces like they do on a suet feeder. In fact, the peanut feeder is now one of the most popular feeders in my yard. All the birds love it, including chickadees, titmice, finches, jays, and woodpeckers. Since they are only taking little pieces, the feeder stays full longer and thus actually costs less to use than a sunflower feeder. My Worcester friends will be thrilled to hear that.
There are a few things to keep in mind if you buy a peanut feeder. The wire mesh feeders offer no protection from the weather. To prevent spoilage, you must keep your nuts fresh. Really. Use raw, hulled peanuts only; don’t buy roasted peanuts, salted peanuts, or peanut brittle. Also, don’t be confused and buy peanut hearts. Peanut hearts are nasty little nibs that are a favorite of starlings and not a whole bunch else. Since nuts don’t melt like suet can, peanut feeders are a great summertime alternative for woodpeckers. Plus, the small holes in the wire mesh will keep the squirrels from eating too much, even though they sure like to try.
Go for a peanut feeder, Mitch. It is totally worth the investment. If you decide to buy one, give me a call. I know a place in Worcester that not only sells peanut feeders, they still give Green Stamps.
From Publishers Weekly
Cape Codder columnist O'Connor ("Ask the Bird Folks") illuminates his intricate, arcane area of expertise through jovial insider explanations that will enlighten as well as entertain ornithiphiles, average backyard birdwatchers and even nonbirders. O'Connor's humorous birding columns are organized into sections on ways to attract specific species, food, unusual birds, habitats, equipment and more. Among many wry but practical answers to tongue-in-cheek and sincere questions, O'Connor explains why birdseed is healthier for birds than white bread (empty calories), but plain (not sugared) doughnuts are also better than bread. He debunks the "old wives' tale" of ostriches hiding their heads in the sand—on the open savanna they just drop their heads to the ground hoping to appear like a bush to a predator in the distance. As for the woodpecker, it has "evolved a rather tough head. Its larger brain case prevents concussions, and the muscle and bone structure at the base of the bill serves as a shock absorber. The avian equivalent in tone and expertise to NPR's Car Talk Magliozzi brothers, O'Connor should net a wider audience with this amusing collection. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"Mike O'Connor knows birds—I mean, REALLY knows them. He can deliver the straight scoop with a hilarious twist that makes it unforgettable. Reading this book is almost as much fun as bird watching, and that's saying a lot!"—Kenn Kaufman, author of the Kaufman Field Guide to the Birds of North America
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All in all the book is a good balance of factual material with humor and a down-to-earth commonsense style. Kudos to the author. A very good book for short segmented reading opportunities.