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Jun 11, 2021

Monday, Jun 21, 2021 - 12:20:17

Is Palo Alto being overrun by rabbits?

Is Palo Alto being overrun by rabbits?

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DEAR JOAN: Over the past three months, long before Easter, we noticed a small gray rabbit on our patio, feeding on the bird seed.

We have many bird feeders for finches and other varieties of birds, along with four hummingbird feeders. We also have black and gray squirrels returning to our garden every day.

About two weeks after noticing this rabbit and putting out some rabbit food, the bunny had a friend with a cottontail coming under the fence at different times.

Since I have lived in this condo 40 years and had never seen a rabbit there, imagine my surprise when driving on Los Altos Avenue and making a left turn toward San Antonio Road, I came across a gray rabbit in the middle of the street. It stopped, I stopped and honked, and it scampered across the road.

Is there some reason that I am encountering these rabbits here in this area at this point in time?

Ree Dufresne, Palo Alto

DEAR REE: I could say that because of the pandemic, everyone let their hare get a little out of control, but that’s a bad pun, so I’m not saying that. It could, however, be a combination of the pandemic, the drought and a few other things thrown in.

Although I’ve yet to encounter any in the wild, the Bay Area is home to a robust population of rabbits. Other than escaped pet bunnies, the most common species you’ll see around here are the brush rabbit, the black-tailed jackrabbit or hare, and the desert cottontail.

The main reason people might be seeing more rabbits than usual is because we’re in the midst of breeding season, and what you’ve heard about rabbits and their reproductive proclivities is true. Mating usually starts in December or January and continues through the summer.

Because the pandemic kept most of us in our houses or apartments for the good part of a year, areas that once bustled with human activity have been rather empty, emboldening wildlife to move into developed areas in larger numbers.

Add to that the drought, which already is changing water and food supplies, and we should expect to see more wildlife near us.

DEAR JOAN: The wife and I have been feeding hummingbirds in our backyard for 20-plus years. We have to put out two feeders with some distance between them, because otherwise the hummingbirds become territorial and fight.

But this year we noticed something quite different. Not only are the hummingbirds being fed, but now we have noticed hooded orioles and meadowlarks feeding from the hummingbird feeders.

Is this normal? Does it maybe have something to do with our drought condition?

Peter Birdwatcher, Vallejo

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DEAR PETER: It might not be “normal” in your backyard, but it is common for other birds, especially orioles, to dine at hummingbird feeders. You might want to buy them their own feeder, which has larger feeding holes and often has cups for jelly and pegs to hold oranges.

The drought might be affecting their usual food sources. I think last year’s wildfires might also have disrupted the birds’ typical patterns.

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