For the Birds

Why do we feed birds? For the five years when we had two cats, we could have claimed we did it for them. They loved to sit and watch the birds at the feeder. “Cat TV,” I called it. Sometimes they’d get too involved and crash into the plate glass slider trying to participate in the action.

We are more passive observers. The birds make a colorful display right outside the slider as we eat our meals, but then the squirrels come. We have the ultimate squirrel-proof feeder with its slippery, domed top and electrically charged base plate. But batteries go dead unpredictably and the squirrels are first to know. I noticed one yesterday chewing on something and realized he had removed one of the portholes the birds go to for their seeds and was chewing it up.

So when the squirrels become too numerous and too persistent, I get out the hav-a-hart traps and begin taking them to far away places, wherever I happen to be going. It works – for a while. The balance of nature eventually reasserts itself, but for a few months the birds have less competition and we have less aggravation.

But why do we feed birds and not squirrels anyway? Birds are colorful but squirrels are cute – and a lot smarter. And why do we prefer changing the balance of nature by increasing the number of birds and decreasing the number of squirrels?

I have pondered the fact that hawks eat small birds and that by feeding the small birds, we may simply be feeding the hawks.

And if a butterfly can influence weather in the west by fluttering its wings in China, does the fluttering of wings around our bird feeder contribute to global warming?

Can’t help messing around with nature. Can’t help worrying about the consequences. Birds and squirrels don’t have these problems!

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