Birds

My closet vice, not so closeted: I feed wild birds.
So does my wife, although she limits her involvement to preparing sugar water for hummingbirds.
A 50-pound bag of sunflower seeds is $25 and lasts for a couple of months.
So why spend money and time (the LBB’s, Little Brown Birds, will empty two bird feeders in just slightly over one day, and the doves and pheasants won’t keep coming unless I spread the seeds out in my field) to feed wild birds that will doubtless do very well for themselves without my attention?
By feeding them, I buy their habit and change it to suit myself. Because food is always there, and because they aren’t molested or endangered, they can choose to live part of their life just outside my window and I can pleasurably spend a part of my life observing them. No need to tramp through the weeds and brambles; camera and binoculars are close by, and there’s always something to learn.
They aren’t like people. And yet, in some ways they are. Territorial. Prone to squabbles even when resources are plentiful. Playful. And interested in humans, just as humans are interested in them.
The littlest ones, the hummingbirds, are true masters of flight. The LBB’s are second, but still able to come to a near-hover and then maneuver in order to claim a perch on the feeder from a resident they’ve just displaced. And the bigger doves, ground-feeders, are able to make long flights but not maneuver as the smaller ones do. Crows come around in the winter, often accompanying the cranes, and they’re intelligent and observant. If one of their number is killed, they appear to grieve, or at least pay noisy attention to the passing. The cranes dance; there’s no other word for it. And they’re very curious, too, observing what people and cats and such do.
The hawks will tend to prey on the doves rather than other types. Frightened doves fly straight in their panic, sometimes head-on into windows or walls. A Cooper’s hawk finds it easy to grab a dove rather than one of the LBB’s. More of a meal, too.
The sunflower seeds are a good investment, methinks.
Robins and Baltimore Orioles are not attracted to the seeds, but the robins like the irrigation in fields and lawns. Worms come to the surface, and the early-bird robin preys on earthworms and bugs. The roadrunner is a carnivore, too. A roamer, he has no fixed path but he’s always around. I spotted him in a tree yesterday with a lot of the robins and LBB’s, Was he trying an arboreal stalk? I don’t know. It looked like that to me, but I would think that a futile enterprise. Maybe the roadrunner is an experimenter, too.
A few mockingbirds are around, and from time to time, a northern flicker.
Recent unusual observations have included parents continuing to feed young after they’ve mastered flight and left the nest. And defensive moves by a hen pheasant to convince a Cooper’s hawk not to attack; successful, too. Two cock pheasants who couldn’t decide if they wanted to fight or be buddies; a bit of bluffing, and then they went their separate ways.
A good investment indeed.

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