I Was Thinking... For the Birds
Many of us in Minnesota feed birds in the winter. With our harsh winters, it seems like the right thing to do. But for the most part, we do it for the entertainment the wide variety of our feathered friends provide during the long days of winter.
Our feeder is located on the corner of the deck, so it is easy to see from the kitchen. Of course, where there is bird feed, there are also other animals ready to cash in on a free meal as well.
Despite my repeated attempts to dissuade squirrels from getting into the bird feed, they beat me at my every try. Finally, I’ve surrendered to their ingenious ability to get to the feed regardless of my attempts to block their access. My solution has been to just buy more feed.
What the birds and squirrels end up spilling onto the ground is cleaned up by what must be a host of rabbits. From the amount of little round pellets they leave behind, I hate to imagine how many of them live around our house.
While we are glad to have an array of different birds visit our feeder, the term “for the birds” has a negative connotation. “For the birds” means something of little value. At a time when horses were the main means of conveyance, pollution was a constant problem.
While we worry about emissions today in the form of gases emitted from our cars, horses also had emissions. These were deposited in the streets of cities across the country. You not only could smell it, you also wanted to be careful not to step in it.
One of the main food sources for horses was grain. Some of that undigested grain was left in the droppings horses produced. This provided food for the sparrows that populated many towns. So, it was “for the birds” and for everyone else it was of little value.
We have one main open feeder, a small gazebo hanging above it, another smaller hanging one and a couple of suet feeders. With this variety, you would think that birds could co-exist and everyone would have access to some of the food. But this is often not the case.
This morning one mourning dove was in the large feeder. While the feeder is big enough to allow more than one bird, this particular bird was not going to let any of the other doves partake as long as they were in the feeder. Each time another dove approached, the greedy one would drive them away.
There definitely was a “pecking order” for these birds. Many of the smaller birds can seem to get along but the larger ones seem to want dominance. We have a pair of cardinals that visit frequently. While I assume they are a pair, hardly ever will they feed at the same place at the same time. When some of those feisty blue jays show up, everyone else seems to scatter. They seem to rule the roost.
While we sometimes think that nature’s creatures exist in peaceful harmony, the reality of a feeder begs to differ. The squirrel population in our neighborhood is very robust. At times we will see three of these furry rats attacking one or all the feeders at the same time. But while they all have the same goal, there also seems to be a hierarchy among these little feed robbers as well. Two will almost never be in the feeder at the same time.
Each is intent on defending their share of the spoils from the others. Maybe this is just the nature of birds, squirrels, and humans alike. It might explain why it is so hard to teach our children about sharing.
Did You Ever Wonder? — If the early bird gets the worm, why do good things come to those who wait?
Photo: I was thinking Ron Albright