I am seeing species of birds at my mixed seed and nyger feeders that I either don't usually see until late autumn (juncos, mountain chickadees, nuthatches) or that I never see at all (mountain blue birds, downey woodpeckers, and even a cactus wren). Someone told me they noticed a mountain quail mixed in with the California quail covey under their feeder! Large flocks of band-tailed forest pigeons have been seen flying away from burning oak woodland. Those large birds depend upon acorns.
Many birds have survived the massive Station / Angeles National Forest Fire by flying from the flames; however, they now find themselves without food, shelter, and nest sites. Birds may arrive disoriented, exhausted and frightened in our trees and gardens. Local birds may attempt to chase the "intruding refugees" from their territory.
I've been in contact with colleagues at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in upstate N.Y. I was told, "If there is any hope of saving small birds with bird feeders, seed needs to be put out immediately, because small birds can’t survive very long without food." Small birds have fast metabolisms that burn energy quickly with little fat reserve.
Local residents can immediately assist birds displaced by the wildfire. Fill conventional bird feeders with seed. Nothing fancy, just any brand of basic wildbird seed mix. Scatter seed on the ground for birds that prefer to feed there and to reduce competition at feeder perches. Also put out finch feeders and seed-socks filled with black nyger seed. Suet cakes, preferred by some species such as acorn woodpeckers (many of whom have lost their granary trees) and supplemental sugar water for hummingbirds would also be of great benefit.
Seed and feeders are available at many local pet shops, PetCo, Pet Smart and OSH. The best price for costly black nyger seed is at the Pet Smart on Foothill Blvd. and Sierra Madre Villa (in the Hastings Village shopping area that includes Ross, Best Buy, and Bed, Bath & Beyond).
Providing short term food, temporary shelter and fresh water will enable birds who have lost their homes to recover from exhaustion, smoke and stress. From bird feeders they can obtain enough energy to look for replacement habitat elsewhere in the region. Every little bit of supplemental food will help the birds.
Next spring, putting up nest boxes to replace the loss of trees and other nest sites will be helpful. There is a long recovery ahead for the Angeles Forest and wildlife habitat that has burned around us.
Thanks to those of you who can feed the birds along with the Merriam's chipmunks, western grey squirrels and other wildlife who also benefit from seed on the ground.
As deer, rabbits, raccoons and other wildlife move through the burn area and our yards, please try to be forgiving when your roses, fruit trees, shrubs and vegetables get browsed. These animals are bewildered, some are injured, and all will be hungry. Give displaced wildlife respect and room to move east and west through our neighborhoods to new homes in unburned canyons. We may even see an increase in bear, bobcat, cougar and snake incursions. Foxes and coyotes have been seeing moving across Hahamongna Watershed Park. Be alert and take reasonable precautions to store food waste properly and avoid surprise encounters.
Lori L. Paul, RVT