Bird Brained

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?    (Matthew 6:26)

I love watching the birds at bird feeders.  They are God’s creation, it is true, but also they are the Creator’s guests on this planet too. 

They are social creatures, and often very human in their behaviors.  Bird feeders are gathering places for birds to socialize.  At times they seem to take turns feeding – rotating in and out giving all the other birds a chance to feed as well.  There are periods of time when no birds are at the feeders and then suddenly a number of birds show up vying for space at the feeders.  Perhaps they have a herd mentality.

Sometimes they congregate around the feeder, chirping niceties to one another.

Some spend much of their energy chasing competitors away from the feeder, even though they sometimes don’t get to eat themselves so preoccupied are they with chasing others away.  And then before they can eat, they themselves are chased away by another bird. 

Some birds are bullies and they are mean.  Others seem to get along with a wide variety of other species.  There are two feeders outside my bedroom window.  Sometimes all the birds are at one feeder, squabbling about room and turns, while the other feeder is virtually ignored.  Occasionally while a group of birds is disputing space at the one feeder, a lone, seemingly more sensible, bird quietly feeds at the otherwise unoccupied feeder.  It reminds me very much of kid behavior (and adult human behavior at times too!).

Others majestically swoop in and all the other birds leave, making way for the heir apparent.

None live at the birdfeeder.  Some stay for minutes, some just grab a seed and flee, like hungry teenagers raiding the fridge.

One can see birds defending the seeds and the feeder as if they themselves had worked hard to put it there, rather than it being completely grace, gratuitously given.  The seed is put out for any or all birds, not just the good ones, or the pretty ones or those that add beauty to the airwaves or color to the drab winter landscape.

The bird feeder is an example of God’s own kindness and goodness toward the world.  He gives sunshine and rain to the good and the wicked (Matthew 5:45).

Those birds, comical and beautiful, social and competitive: they are so like us, or perhaps we are so like them.  They receive freely but some begrudge others benefitting from the common gift for which they themselves did not work but have taken possession of it for themselves.


2 thoughts on “Bird Brained

  1. cindy

    Bird-brained indeed. Though I am not sure who is imitating who. Birds of a feather flock together, taking turns while another looks out after the rest. I imagine they know there is a large Cooper’s Hawk flying above who is indiscriminate about who he chooses for dinner, foul or rodent. They have probably watched from the nest as he shreds a squirrel in my front yard as I have from the window. They also band together in times of trouble. Once as an interloper squirrel invaded the boundries of a gourd birdhouse where a family of four resided, shrieks from many a different clan of bird could be heard as they attempted to drive away the invader. He eventually got out but not before leaving a tragic scene behind. And they grieve. They parents spent the next two days perched by the birdhouse calling out to their lost baby. And they show gratitude and loyalty. A Cardinal who lives in the next to the last cedar tree in the backyard appears within my view of whatever window I am closest. Always in the morning or if the bird feeder is empty.

    We tweet, we twitter, we warble. Did they teach us how to sing? Listen to the Mockingbird. Yet the parrots and myna birds pick up our conversations. I once saw one in a hotel lobby telling eveyone that his name was “Butterscotch” and then proceeded to sing an Elvis song.

    I guess that is why we watch them. I think of Merlin changing the young Arthur into a hawk and asking him, “What did you learn?”

  2. Val W. Finnell, MD, MPH

    “Bird Brained” is exactly right:

    “The photographer projects himself into everything he sees, identifying himself with everything in order to know it and to feel it better.” –Minor White

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