I’ve become a bit of a bird watcher lately. I don’t remember seeing this many varieties when I lived in town. Now, with a big back yard, I’ve seen it all.
I started noticing that red-wing blackbirds like to perch on the extreme top-most part of whatever they land on be it weeds, shrubs, trees or stop signs. They’re kind of loners. I never see more than two of them together at a time. Much like the robins, they tend to mind their own business.
Starlings are a very social group. They’ll go from yard to yard grooming the lawns of who knows what. It’s nothing to see a flock of hundreds in my yard nearly every day. Once in a while one will be chased by another similar to the way two brothers might fight over the TV remote.
When my wife was home for most of the summer a few years back recovering from surgery, she made friends with a hummingbird. No matter where she was outside this little guy would come around and check up on her, often hovering directly in front of her just a few feet away. She figured he was trying to tell her something. I bought a feeder.
I read up and studied about the ruby throated hummingbird. They are very territorial and will dive bomb you if they feel threatened. This happened several times while I was sitting on the deck near their feeder. All I wanted was a close-up picture. The ungrateful little flyers.
After putting the feeder out this spring I was a little concerned that I had only seen one hummingbird in a week. Then I was slightly amazed one morning to find a very different bird hanging out at the feeder. A rarity for me, it was an oriole. The oriole explained the scarcity of the hummingbirds. They like to hijack their feeder. I tried to lure the orioles away from the hummingbird feeder with bananas. They love them. Now, instead of watching hummingbirds all day I get to watch the orioles.
Once in a while I’ll see a red tailed hawk sitting in a tree surveying his kingdom. When he spots his prey, (usually a field mouse but, not often enough, a ground squirrel) he will swoop down, make his selection, then fly away. During nesting season he will get mobbed. This is the term for when smaller birds harass larger ones by chasing and diving at them in order to get them to leave the area. I see this happen a lot to turkey vultures and the occasional blue heron.
Then it hit me. We humans aren’t much different than birds. We don’t mind a free handout even though we might squawk about other people getting a different handout.
We will descend on someone as a mob when they do something we don’t like even if that’s their job. Politicians get this all the time. We also tend to mob people with different views and lifestyles that don’t agree with our point of view.
Just like the birds, we all get along fine when we mind our own business. When we encroach on other people’s feelings and beliefs, feathers begin to fly.
KEVIN FOSTER is a rural Ottawan, retired and busier than ever. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.