Night Thief

Or What Happened to My Bird Seed?

The thief was not who we expected.

We have a bird feeder in our back yard – actually, several of them — just outside our kitchen window. They have brought us color, nature and joy along with cardinals, goldfinches, titmice, blue jays, wrens, juncos, finches, woodpeckers and hummingbirds.

For three straight recent mornings, the feeders were empty. On the first day, I thought we just hadn’t seen a raucous feeding of birds the prior evening. On day two, I thought it a bid odd. On day three, I knew something was amiss.

Our feeders are spring loaded. If a large bird or a mammal steps on the perch, a door closes the feed area. That’s led to some acrobatic innovation in the general squirrel population throughout the woods and creek behind our house, but no particular problems. Since our common, local birdfeeder visitors are not night feeders, we started wondering who was visiting in the dark. We considered a flying squirrel, lighter in weight than our daytime gray squirrels, and a Park Authority naturalist suggested a deer. At Hidden Oaks Nature Center, deer have been seen nosing bird feeders sideways and emptying them in a matter of seconds.

The thought of seeing a deer nose its way to a meal was attractive, so we decided to set up a video camera on a tripod inside the kitchen window to catch the burglary as it happened. That very first night, just as I was unleashing our dog following an evening walk, it struck.

It was not a squirrel.

It was not a deer.

It was not the neighbor down the street who also has a bird feeder.

We caught the culprit on camera:


Author David Ochs is the Manager of Stewardship Communications for the Resource Management Division of the Fairfax County Park Authority.

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About Fairfax County Park Authority

About Fairfax County Park Authority HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 13 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2016. Today, the Park Authority has 427 parks on more than 23,000 acres of land. We offer 325 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park system is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: • Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist • Eight golf courses from par-3 to championship level, four driving ranges including the new state-of-the-art heated, covered range at Burke Lake Golf Center • Five nature and visitor centers. Also nine Off-Leash Dog Activity areas • Three lakefront parks including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax. The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter • Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel, as well as Chessie’s Big Backyard and a carousel at the Family Recreation Area at Lee District Park • An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter • Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s-era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel • Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent • A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly • A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale • Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community • Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center • Provides 263 athletic fields, including 39 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 417 school athletic fields. PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

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