Rhododendron Preserve is a Bird Buffet

Great Horned Owl up front in the picture. With tree branches behind it and you can see the sky through the branches.

When we protect habitat like our Rhododendron Preserve, we are providing a wonderful buffet for all the species of native birds. On the Preserve you can see a wide variety of birds. If you pay attention when you visit the Preserve, you will notice all the various sources of food available for the several types of birds.  

One of the more dramatic types of birds on the Preserve are the raptors. Raptors include owls, eagles, and hawks. These birds dine on rodents helping to keep those populations in check maintaining ecological balance. A healthy ecosystem, such as our Rhododendron Preserve, will have a healthy population of mice, rats, squirrels, and rabbits which raptors will eat.  

Songbirds are typically seed eaters. These are the birds that most people want to attract with their backyard bird feeders. If you look around at the flora populating the Preserve you will notice how many diverse types of seeds are produced. The Preserve includes a lot of Vine Maple. Chickadees, nuthatches, and warblers are all birds that like vine maple seeds. There are also thistles on the Preserve, Finches love thistle seeds.  

Many seeds come packaged in berries. The Rhododendron Preserve boasts evergreen and red huckleberry, salmonberry, and thimbleberry to name a few. Birds that eat berries include thrush, robin, and tanager. These birds eat the berries and excrete the seeds helping to ensure that the plants continue to flourish on the Preserve. Hummingbirds benefit from these seed planting birds since the blooms on the berry bushes and other plants provide the nectar that hummingbirds eat. 

Birds such as robins, woodpeckers, and swallows eat insects. Insects that live in the bark of trees are food for woodpeckers. As woodpeckers chip away at the bark and wood in search of food, they are also creating hollows that are homes for other creatures. Raccoons, squirrels, and owls all use woodpecker created hollows for homes. Another type of bird that uses trees for food is sapsuckers. These birds drill holes in the bark of trees so that sap leaks out. The birds lick up the sap and any insects that get stuck in the sap. Squirrels also enjoy the tasty tree sap.  

Crows are omnivorous and will eat everything from insects to fruits. They’ll eat snails, snakes, fish, frogs, and carrion. Crows help keep the environment clean. Animals that die on the Preserve and leftovers from a predator’s dinner are food for crows and other scavengers. During Salmon spawning season there is a wealth of salmon remains for crows and the other scavengers. 

The Rhododendron Preserve has three salmon creeks. In the creeks you may see herons. Herons find most of their food in the water eating insects, fish, and amphibians. Newly emerged salmon fry need to be wary of herons.  

These are just a few of the birds that call the Rhododendron Preserve home. We invite you to explore the Rhododendron Preserve and experience what a marvelous bird buffet exists there.

– Katha Miller-Winder, Education Committee