DEAR JOHANNA: I live in Willow Glen and I have a lot of tall trees in my garden with beautiful plants nearby. The plants, as well as the walkways and umbrellas, are covered with white droppings.
Yes, I have bird feeders and I love the birds.
Are there different types of bird food and feed to attract birds that are not so cluttered? Other than hummingbirds?
Lynn, San Jose
DEAR LYNN: I am afraid that with these trees and the welcoming space you have created, you will attract birds and they will make your garden easier.
Your best option to reduce the chaos is to reduce the number of visiting birds by cutting down your feed troughs or rethinking your backyard organization.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but let’s take a quick look at the shit. Birds have a system where everything that comes out of them – feces, pee, eggs – goes through a single tubular cavity called a cloaca and then through an opening. The white stuff you find is a combination of urine and feces and is more urine than not.
Birds have fast digestive systems and no bladder, which means things move pretty quickly. Smaller birds need to eliminate more often than larger birds, but the larger birds make bigger splashes. You could try feeding peanuts and corn only to the larger birds, but you could also attract birds and other animals that you are not keen on. And the little birds would still be hanging around.
Birds empty their bowels whenever they have to, but most of the time they do so shortly before flight, which means feeding areas become impromptu bathrooms too. Removing the feed troughs from your patio, umbrella, trees, and plants can reduce, but not eliminate, the amount of droppings they leave in those areas.
I’m not sure this will help, but studies have shown that red cars receive more than their share of bird debris, while green cars remain largely pristine. If you can, you can get a green umbrella and patio furniture.
And just a reminder that songbirds have had a serious outbreak of salmonella. So it would be a good idea to have the feeders on by April so you have some time to think about your plan.
DEAR JOHANNA: I have to add one more creature to the list of options for the dark brown, furry, feline mammal recently seen in a backyard in San Jose.
I was fishing in the delta when a dark, chocolate-brown mammal with a bushy tail appeared. I looked at my brother-in-law and said, “What the hell was that?”
He didn’t know and after searching the internet we found that it was an exact match for a mink. In my 60 years of fishing and exploring the delta, it’s the only one I’ve seen.
Ed Lewis, Livermore
LOVE ED: Interesting opportunity. California has a small population of wild mink, some of which live in the delta and nearby waterways. I’ll add it to the growing list. Thank you.
Sign up for our new, free Flora + Fauna newsletter for more topics on wildlife, gardens and backyards.
Do you have a question for Joan?
Use this form to submit questions. Photos should be sent separately to [email protected]