Where are the deer and song birds?

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Cary Sims
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is cw-sims@tamu.edu Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.

For a while now, our office had been receiving numerous calls about the absence of songbirds in resident’s landscapes.   Residents were convinced that something had caused a huge decline in their population as they had “disappeared” from yard and were not coming to the bird feeders.

Likewise, from the deer blind, hunters around these parts have been complaining about the lack of deer! From my own account and that of many others I have visited with, deer tags are going unfilled this year.

What’s up?

If you look back over this past year’s weather patterns, you’ll remember that we were blessed with a goodly amount of rain in the spring and through a good portion of the summer.

When you ask the state ornithologist (bird expert) with Parks and Wildlife, Cliff Shackelford, he has said the birds are still here, just enjoying the natural offering rather than your bag of bird seed.

Naturally, song bird habitat includes plants, especially native grasses and perennial wildflowers, which provide seeds for birds in the fall and winter. These seed heads left at the end of the growing season provide winter food for birds. A fallow garden left to grow on its own will provide abundant seed-producing plants, but it should be mowed or tilled at least once every three years.

Bird feeders supplement the natural foods in your landscape and concentrate bird activity for easy viewing. Feeders are used most frequently and are most successful during the winter, when natural foods are in shortest supply.

Deer eat a variety of plants, and different plant species become more important at different times of the year and importance can even vary year-to-year depending upon environmental conditions.

During the spring through fall, they feed on grasses, legumes, weeds, fruit, agricultural crops and the tender growth of shrubs, trees and vines. During the fall and winter, their diet subsists of acorns, green growth, woody plant stems and evergreen leaves.

Many woodsmen that I have visited with have commented on the excellent acorn crop. From the abundant rainfall earlier, we could also expect a number of berries and tender new growth that have and will continue to benefit deer.

So what can we settle on? This year, the natural food supply for songbirds, deer, and probably many more wildlife species has benefitted from a climate conducive to improving their habitat. We should always be ready to supplement their diets, but we may have to wait before our bagged, store-bought wildlife feed add to our enjoyment of seeing them.

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Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is cw-sims@tamu.edu

Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.

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