Saturday, December 8th, was a typical Colorado snowy winter day. I had just come in the house from sweeping the snow off and filling my feeders having only ten minutes before I had to leave for work. My husband Al calls to me saying “there’s something different at the feeder!” That “something different” turned out to be a Streak-backed Oriole. So much for typical.
Sunday morning brought a flurry of activity, after postings on our state listserve COBirds Saturday night, bringing a total of 80 birders to view and photograph the bird. Emails and phone calls came flooding in. This bird is the potential first Colorado state record, how could we turn people away? So we flung open the doors of our home and after posting a few rules there and our email listserve “COBirds”, let people come by anytime between 7:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. for nine days straight, whether we were home or not, through our garage and into the kitchen where they could quietly and warmly wait and watch. By the end of the second day we’d had a total of 120 people in our kitchen. Also by the end of that day, the bird had a name – Pedro.
After the first day, in which she was eating roasted peanuts, I began putting out roasted and live mealworms, orange halves, grape jelly, a suet block and “Suet-to-go” suet pellets on a tray feeder. She began adding the jelly and pellets to her diet, but only once even tried the orange. She tasted a few of the roasted mealworms, but is now solidly preferring the live mealworms which I put out 3-5 times a day depending on how fast they went and how harsh the weather was.
I counted one morning and her first breakfast was 23 live mealworms. She seems to be eating really well and able to make it through some very cold nights. The lowest temperature she’s endured was –5 degrees.
I’ve fallen in love with this little bird. She’s adept at avoiding daily Sharp-shinned Hawk attacks on the small birds in her tree. She can back off most starlings, but her and our flickers have good manners when they eat together. Red-winged Blackbirds are boorish in her opinion though she’ll stave off a few then retreat into the spruce when their numbers get overwhelming. One exchange she had involved two starlings that landed on either side of her on the tray feeder. You could see she was not happy about this and went beak to beak with them as they stretched themselves to full height intimidation. It didn’t work, Pedro Maria held her ground – or mealworms – and the starlings were forced to vacate. Viva La Pedro! We also witness two foot to foot brief battles with an American Robin who discovered – and quite liked- the mealworms.
Once the Starlings and Blackbirds discovered the mealworms it was time for a new tactic. I hung a dinner bell feeder that ha an adjustable hood. It worked. She figured it out quick but the starlings are too pudgy and the blackbirds to big. This worked well and cut down the amount of mealworms I needed to feed her. I loved it that she knew when I put out fresh worms and was usually at the feeder before I got back in the kitchen and to the window to watch her eat!People came steadily while she was here, 448 successful views, 5 people who missed her. They came bearing gifts of cash for the birdseed and mealworm fund, oranges, grape jelly, suet, birdseed, cookies, fudge, candy, wine, champagne, and Enstrom’s toffee signed; “From a wayward vagrant, muchas gracias for your hospitality!! Pedro” my goodness we were blessed!
My family’s reaction to all this has gone from “what are these people doing here” to “why is this bird so special” to “wow – look at all these goodies for us” to “gee, we miss her where’s our Pedro?” I have done a live radio show, had 5 newspaper interviews published and had two television reporters come and do stories that aired on major channels.
It was good while it lasted.
The last several days before she left, we noticed an increase in her mealworm consumption. Original estimates had been about 100 mealworms a day. Lately, almost 200 per day. Had she reached a body mass acceptable for migration? Possibly taking nearly a month to get back in condition for the flight ahead? Or were the wind and temperature right for her departure?
She’s gone now and we miss her.
I watched this bird as much as I possibly could while she was here, and yet, now that she’s gone I wish I’d done more. More watching, more notes, more pictures, more video. “Did Pedro show up?” Is the family’s first question through the door. It’s quiet here, and emails are no longer inquiries to view, but condolences of loss or speculation of her departure. They came by the dozens; “we’ll miss her” and I hope she finds her way home” and “I’m lighting a candle now”.