#24 Feeding Birds


Feeding Birds.

I love the small, thought-of-as-ordinary, birds. I thought retirement living close to the water would mean being without their presence so I gave away a car full of bird feeding paraphernalia when I moved, but a small flock of house sparrows and goldfinches were hanging out in the bushes around the house and I missed the daily comfort of watching these beloved little birds so I purchased a small hanging platform feeder and some seed.

A year later, I have added a tube feeder with safflower seeds and a new squirrel-proof, metal-meshed feeder with sunflower chips and a suet cage hangs above the platform swing filled with a mix of larger seeds and peanuts in the shell. You can see where I’m going with this…

I was happy to welcome a barely there tail-damaged red squirrel and a few of his or her relatives. Of course, the offering has also brought ravenous, pushy, blue jays followed by big gray squirrels that leap from the railing dumping anything in the feeder on the porch or the ground. The nature of squirrels is to steal and store whatever they can find, a species behavior making it tough for every hungry other. This year’s gray squirrels, particularly plump (and getting plumper), are highly competitive beings who don’t willingly share.

It might be possible to foil the smart and inventive grays for a little bit, but what if I want to help red ones not gray ones, tiny ones not big ones, males not females (or vise versa), brown ones, white ones, black, or blue ones? You can see where I’m going with this…

Lately a Red Bellied Woodpecker has come to the feeder and he or she flies in with intimidating wings outstretched. Much larger than all the rest, feathered or furred, it jabs its long powerful beak toward any who attempt sharing. Is this beautiful black and white stripped pearl gray stomached bird with vivid a red head nature’s balance or just another bully or is that the same thing?

While mulling this over, a gray squirrel leapt from the porch floor to the kitchen window screen in front of me making eye-to-I contact. Was this unprecedented move a recognition of me as the filler of feeders, a demand or request for more food, or a coincidence with no intent of communication at all?  Is my species behavior, my delight and joy seeing these fellow creatures close up, interfering with the natural order of things? How do I allocate my limited resources, and make decisions on who gets fed,  or housed, or helped? And do the bullies always dominate this world? You can see where I’m going with this…

4 thoughts on “#24 Feeding Birds

  1. As always, an insightful and thoughtful post. Questions without a ready, unequivocal answer…. It’s good for me to think about them, even when there’s no big sign pointing out the “right” way. I respect and admire the generosity of spirit and intent that is shown in the asking, and I appreciate the fact that my own brain is then nudged to join in the asking. I have a compost pile that birds, possums, and probably other wildlife enjoy feeding from. But I’ve seen a hawk sitting almost right above the pile, waiting for its own dinner, and I don’t like to be the one luring the smaller critters in, just to be prey. But I like having the compost; it composts better in the open; and I’ve only seen a hawk once. So it’s similar to your questions. How do we really know what our duty is to our other-species fellows? How do we help them without sometimes hurting? I don’t know. Beautiful post.


  2. Here is a tip. To discourage grey squirrel, buy a shorter squirrel proof feeder. I found that when I did that, they could not position their long body on the feeder and so we’re reduced to scavenging on the ground. Red squirrel and chipmunk have no problem leaping up and attaching their short bodies to this type of feeder and gray squirrel appears to get fat enough from the stuff which falls to the ground. 🐝


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