Feeding the World

…. one bird at a time.

My mother always fed the birds.    I don’t remember any feeders … she just threw the seed on the ground or on the snow if it was winter.   One year, a baby robin fell out of a nest.    We put it in a cardboard box and Mom fed it a mix of milk and bread with an eye dropper until it grew enough to fly away.  For most of the following year it would come to her if she called for it from the back step.  The Bird Book was always stationed near one of the windows overlooking the back yard and by the time I reached junior high, I could identify most any bird that showed up for the feast.    My fascination with birds was so complete that I invented a game I called Birdie Army that had the birds waging an aerial battle against the forces of evil, dropping their eggs like little bombs.  When I was older, Mom told me it was embarrassing.

feederSo, it’s no surprise that in my backyard there are two feeders, a large squirrel-proof one for mixed seed and a second for thistle seed.    The thistle feeder is popular with the local mouse birds (my nick name for any nondescript gray or brown mini-bird … my insistance on knowing every bird has waned since junior high), house finches and goldfinches.    The mixed seed feeder is ruled by a family of California scrub jays that showed up during the winter.    They are noisy, rambunctious clowns that shovel the seed from the feeder onto the ground with their beaks, emptying the feeder on an almost daily basis.    The brush under the feeders is alive with doves, Western Towhees, and Hawk1orioles helping them clean up the mess.   Today, a pair of quail with eight brand new chicks showed up to feed as well.    Slightly higher up the food chain, a Cooper hawk occasionally comes around to pick off a meal from among the preoccupied seed eaters, leaving a cloud of feathers on the back lawn.    Here he is, posing in our birdbath.

Lately, the feeders have been emptying at a furious pace and the cost of wild bird seed, especially thistle seed, has nearly doubled.   Looking for ways to save a little money until business picks up again could easily include taking down the feeders or filling them a little less often.      But the truth is, I feel like I owe them for the delight they’ve brought me over the years, so when the feeders are empty and they sit in the trees chirping, “Hello?  Where’s dinner?” I oblige.    Mom would be smiling.

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