Help with ID of odd 'pellet's in bird feeder.

sheepco(MN z4)September 16, 2006

Hi gang,

For you birdy folks on this forum, I'm hoping you can help. I've googled this to death and am getting no where.

I'll try to post a picture soon as I can.

For the past 3 weeks I have found what I believe are regurgitated or 'spit out' wads of crushed up sunflower seed shells in one of my feeders. Sort of like an owl pellet I guess. But these are 1/2" to 3/4" long and ~1/4" wide, oblong or crescent shaped. Appears to be undigested, chewed up shells only, dry. Doesn't look like feces. And they only show up at night. Feeder is cleaned each am, and none of these pellets show up during the day after repeated use by blue jays, finches, grosbeaks, and ocassionally squirrels and chipmunks. But each morning there are 20 to 40 of these pellets mostly deposited in the corners.

Feeder is a platform with a roof over it, attached to the deck railing. Black oil sunflower seeds only.

Any idea what bird or critter is leaving them?

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jeanner(SW Ohio - Z6)

A flying squirrel perhaps?

    Bookmark   September 16, 2006 at 2:13PM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

Smart animal! It gets all the nut and doesn't fill up with undigestable hulls. I agree with Jean but it could be a chipper. Sandy

    Bookmark   September 16, 2006 at 7:19PM
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sheepco(MN z4)

Wow jeanner, just did a mini search on flying squirrels - didn't know we even had them here. They are nocturnal, diet is right, I didn't come up with anything about them spitting out wads of hulls while feeding, but I'll look more tomorrow.

Sandy, the chipmunks I've seen were around in the daytime (of course!) and they tank up at the feeder until their cheeks are stuffed and then run off. They don't eat at the feeder.

More thoughts?

    Bookmark   September 17, 2006 at 12:16AM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

Since I am somewhat nocturnal (see my posting name) I often get to see animals the neighbors never see. The flying squirrel has the most beautiful colors. Don't let anyone tell you that beige tones are bland. Chipmunks around here seem to start their food gathering just before dawn and if undisturbed, will fill their bellies before stuffing their cheeks. Most of the time they just leave a litter of shells behind but some eat and store the hulls in their cheeks at the same time. I haven't seen them packing it into pellets though. That was at best, a guess. Are all owls strictly carnivores? Sandy

    Bookmark   September 17, 2006 at 11:07AM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

I did a search on "regurgitate pellets" and found a couple of interesting comments. A Birders World magazine had an article that says
"Owls are not the only birds that produce pellets. So do all other raptors, some gulls and other fish-eating birds, and shrikes. Even songbirds will regurgitate pellets that contain indigestible hard seed and plant parts and the exoskeletons of insects."
Another source says that members of the corvidae family regurgitate indigestable stuff as pellets that are shaped like the ones you describe. That would mean a raven or crow is likely to be visiting you in the early morning hours. Sandy

    Bookmark   September 17, 2006 at 11:28AM
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jeffahayes(8a Upstate SC)

I'm not aware of flying squirrels doing the regurgitation thing, but they will DEFINITELY visit your feeders at night, and are far more common than many folks know.

I had no idea I had them here until I was working on my first pond at night several summers ago and noticed motion at one of my suet feeders... was a couple of flying squirrels... eventually counted three of them, and they were like they were almost tame, because they're not used to humans being around, so they have little fear. I got out my camcorder and got some decent video of them.

A local naturalist said they'll also raid bluebird houses and eat the eggs, young, and possibly the adults, so if you're losing your bluebirds or other small birds you have houses for each summer, flying squirrels could ALSO be part of that, but please don't go killing the flying squirrels... they're just TOO COOL.

Happy bird-and-squirrel viewing!

    Bookmark   September 17, 2006 at 10:19PM
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sheepco(MN z4)

Hmm, more good info to digest (pun intended). Thanks for the research, I think you like a good mystery too! I'll try to post pix tomorrow after work. I've pretty much ruled out larger raptors due the size of the feeder 12"x12" with a roof 10" above the platform.

I've also learned that mice and rats do not vomit or regurgitate (neither do horses), but I can't find out if they sort of chew the seeds up, swallow the seed and spit out hulls, in a wad so to speak.

By the way, these 'wads' or 'pellets' appear to be held together with saliva (I assume) kind of loosely. If you carry them around in a baggie and show them to a bunch of people they disintegrate into ...just chewed up sunflower seed shells.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2006 at 10:37PM
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jeffahayes(8a Upstate SC)

You're just TOO COOL, Sarah... you carry that stuff around in baggies and show it to people.

Dang, you sound like ME, or somethin'!

If you have a local nature center, see if they have anybody there who does microanalysis, and have them take a look at a wad under the microscope... might just answer your questions.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2006 at 10:47PM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

The chemical used to make poison bait for mice and rats is a blood thinner called Heparin. Essentially, since they cannot vomit they get an overdose and bleed to death internally. The treatment for a person or pet that ingests Heparin is Vitamin K. If you use the baits be very careful and do not handle it with bare hands. Didn't know that about horses. Interesting. Sandy

    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 4:51AM
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interesting sandy. i knew the vit k treatment but i didn't realize it was heparin!

which leads me to my mystery, though i never would use poison bait. it is all this talk of rats and mice. someone is trying to move into my romeo's sleeping box in the shed. but my reason for posting is quite hilarious- he went to investigate why my 15 some pound bag of composted manure was moving. i am standing at the back door and hear "SQUEEK!" i wish i saw it, but alas i had only my tshirt and undies on and it was still daylight. hey, i work midnights, ok? :) i had a mental picture of it jumping in the air and squeaking at the same time.

the big oaf ran out of the shed, belly to the ground, and wanted back in the house. that surprised me. my old man at romeo's age would have had his whiskers twitching in anticipation.

so, my mystery continues....though maybe in the process we have discouraged our visitor. i also took the top off his sleeping box to make it less inviting. i have found no rear projectiles. i am also considering leaving the feeders empty for awhile. i would hate to do that.

just sharing a story. i didn't want to start a thread just for it. it almost applies.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 10:45PM
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maryo_nh(z5 SouthernNH)

The 15 lb bag was moving? Heehee... the poor kitty. It must have gotten the fright of its life.

When I was planting something last spring next to the bird bath, and I leaned on the ground with one hand to firm up the soil with the other, the ground moved. It was a very strange feeling. I dug after it but I wasn't fast enough... Nothing squeeked though.
There is a chipmunk-sized hole right there in the flower bed now.

:) Mary

    Bookmark   September 19, 2006 at 7:57AM
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hi mary. yes, it was theory is this "rat" was tugging on the other end trying to tear off a piece. there was a large piece already torn off in romeo's snuggle box. oph, that was after i put on some shorts :)

dh asked if it was a possum. i said, possums don't squeak. and, it was louder than any mouse.

oops, guess i should have started a "things that move that shouldn't thread." maybe i will, i have another story.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2006 at 9:37AM
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sheepco(MN z4)

Mystery solved. Believe or not, live trapped a chipmunk last night! And there were 'cuds' in there as proof too. I guess he was done running off with the seeds and was just eating now.
Now I know it's not a rat or something he's free to do as he pleases. Thanks gang!

    Bookmark   September 27, 2006 at 9:02PM
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sheepco(MN z4)

Well mystery now REALLY solved. I really like the idea of flying squirrels, but the chipmink theory has been under debate around here for some time, mostly because the little buggers seem to be hibernating now, but the spit out blobs of hulls were still showing up nightly.

Low and behold, flipped on the deck lights the other night and there was the cutest, scared out of it's wits, oppossum ever! I have never seen a 'possum in my life. Had no idea we had them here. My neighbor STROKED its fur while it sat rigid in the bird feeder!

Got GREAT pix (on someone else's camera - will post as soon as I can :)


    Bookmark   November 15, 2006 at 10:26PM
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That is awesome, Sarah! I don't know if I'd have the nerve to pet one, but I envy your neighbor his/her bravery. LOL

I really can't wait to see the pics!


    Bookmark   November 16, 2006 at 10:43AM
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