It’s For The Birds
One of my fondest childhood memories is of watching Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke in the classic 1964 Disney film, “Mary Poppins.” In particular, I always loved the scene where Mary sings, “Feed the Birds” as hundreds of pigeons coo and nibble at the bread crumbs covering the cobblestones at her feet.
Maybe I’m channeling my much younger self, but more and more I’m enjoying watching the flocks of feathered visitors who show up at the bird feeders in our backyard. I have a clear view of the feeders from our kitchen window and often find myself smiling at the antics of the goofy squirrels and their bird-brained brethren who can empty out a newly-filled feeder in under an hour. It’s an amazing thing to see.
In fact, my wife and I often laugh out loud watching the big, bushy squirrels comically stretch far beyond their ability to balance in order to reach the bird feeder hanging from the branches of a young sycamore in the middle of our lawn. They only make that extraordinary effort when they’ve decimated the supply of seeds in the larger feeder that sits atop a single pole closer to our house. The squirrels quickly shimmy up the pole, squeeze their chubby bodies in the cramped space between the wooden roof of the feeder and its base, and then get busy snarfing up the bounty of seeds, peanuts, corn kernels and sunflower seeds inside.
If I could put a soundtrack to their antics, it would be of a circular saw ripping through wood. The smaller seeds are sent flying through the air as the pigs disguised as squirrels fling out everything that isn’t a peanut or sunflower seed. It’s a hoot. When they’ve had their fill (or have been sent scurrying across the lawn and up the nearest tree by our dog bursting through his doggy door into the backyard), birds soon flock all over the feeder and nearby surroundings to see what slim pickings the squirrels have left.
The only birds able to chase off the squirrels are either the pigeons or the massive, ink-black crows (ravens?) that swoop into the yard like organized crime bosses arriving in town to take care of business. They land like graceful stealth fighters, strut confidently towards the feeders and every creature in the yard beats feet to get out of their way. Even our poor yellow Lab slinks back into the house when those big birds arrive and seize control of the yard.
Obviously, I’m as far from being an ornithologist as the birds in my yard are from being newspaper columnists. (And yes, I hear you out there saying the birds could probably do a better job, thank you very much.) But definite patterns and personalities have emerged as I’ve watched these winged wonders over the years.
I’ve noticed a definite hierarchy (“pecking order” seemed too expected here) in the bird kingdom – from the rude and pushy jays that bully every other bird in sight or the lumbering, “We’re here, we’re hungry, get used to it” presence of pudgy pigeons, to the timid gracefulness of the doves that prefer scavenging seeds from the grass below the feeders than bothering the birds above them on the feeder itself. Some of my favorites, however, are the smaller, blurringly fast finches and sparrows that flit in and out and around and over all the other birds, snatching individual seeds and flying off to consume them somewhere else. These smaller birds are the most colorful and entertaining of them all, often arriving immediately after I’ve refilled the feeders or just before the sun goes down and the other creatures have left.
To this day, I still wish Mary Poppins was a true story. But I’ll settle for singing, “Feed the Birds” to myself as I watch the daily birdie ballet outside my kitchen window.
I’ll see you ’round town.