Birds After Feathers

By Nando

It wasn’t long after we began to feed birds by spreading seed under the canopy of two trees that dozens of various feathered foragers would arrive almost simultaneously to feed. The percentage of early birds amongst our feeders seemed high!

Early or not, it was our pleasure to watch the various types . . . white wings, pigeons, sparrows, others, and rarely a finch, all hurriedly peck and scratch their way to total elimination of the feed. Now and then, a hawk would perch and from afar seem to study how to swoop under the canopy and upon a target.

Early mornings were when we would put out the mixed seeds, initially putting out about two measured cups of food from fifty-pound bargain bags. Along the way we learned that two cups was enough to attract pigeons in such dominating numbers fewer other types of birds were showing up.

We cut back to one cup, and as if we knew what we were doing, a balanced diversity evolved. Why fewer pigeons came, or maybe why more of the others came now that there was less food we leave to bird anthropologists. Over time we became used to and actually looked forward to the jockeying and moves birds would make on each other during their searches for seeds large and small.

One morning there was almost the usual mix of birds. The difference was that there were more sparrows today among the two pigeons and twenty or so white wings. There was at least one sparrow that was hopping around and not really pecking for seeds. It seemed to be aggressively seeking out white wings which would respond to his lunges. Most would, mostly just moving sideways, and he would go on. I do not know how many white wings he had already tried to provoke when the sparrow came upon one which not only moved aside but also half raised a wing, snappily, in apparent warning. This occurred twice, same white wing.

The sparrow persisted. The next lunge resulted in a wing that loudly snapped out like a right jab. The sparrow reactively lunged, head first, into the white wing’s fine and exposed under-wing feathers, continuing in almost one motion to exit with a beak full of downy nest material.

As often as we have watched, during all seasons, we have never seen a repeat of that or anything resembling avian aforethought. But, we do continue.

May 2016