Lessons Learned Observing The Bird Feeder

BirdfeederMy wife couldn’t understand why I was laughing.   So I explained to her what I was watching…and then she still couldn’t understand what was so funny about that.   You see, having a backyard bird feeder can not only be a fun wintertime activity…but it can also be an educational adventure.

Today I was laughing at this poor Downy Woodpecker’s misfortune.   Just moments earlier this bird had flown right into a big glass window on the house, and quite honestly, it had “knocked itself silly.”   It now clung nearly motionless on the bird feeder in almost a drunken stooper as it slowly tried to regain its sensibilities.   I equated it to acting much like a drunk ponied up to a bar wavering back and forth not quite sure of the world around him.   That’s what was going on with this woodpecker.   It wasn’t completely motionless…but for nearly 10 minutes it sure didn’t move much.

Of course my wife was concerned if the bird would be okay.   I assured her that yes…it would be fine.   You see, this little incident has repeated itself several times over the winter months.   This time it was a male bird…the last time it was a female Downy…the time before that it was a Dark-eyed Junco needing to take a little timeout to sober-up.

What typically happens is this feeder is on a patio and nearby is the house with lots of windows.   I suspect these birds, depending on their approach, bee-line it toward the feeder and suddenly “THWARP”…their flight activities come to an abrupt halt.   Occasionally, they will fall to the ground where they rest a few moments (side note: we have no cats…so they are perfectly safe).   More often, however, they will fly off and land usually close to the feeder so I can watch them acting a bit dizzy.

What I don’t understand is these birds, especially the woodpeckers, will sit and peck at a tree hundreds of times a minute with no health consequences…but a little bump on the window suddenly changes their world for a few moments.

So, what kind of lessons can be garnered from this woodpecker?   Well, I can think of several.

First off, sometimes when you have a goal in mind (such as reaching the bird-feeder) taking the most direct route is not always the best plan.   In fact, if that is the course you intend to take you need to be prepared to encounter a few obstacles (windows) along the way.   Indeed, charting a flight plan that involves flying around the corner of the house might take a few moments of time longer before reaching the goal…but in the long run the bird would have been a whole lot better off for having done so.   LESSON TO US:  Be prepared for hidden obstacles along the way and plan the journey toward your goals with more careful thought.

Of course, once this bird made a mistake it was much more vulnerable to the world around it…even though I knew there were no immediate threats around my bird-feeder.   Yet, we know that in life if we spend too much time picking ourselves up after we stumble, we too, can be vulnerable to those around us.   As I inched closer with the camera this bird certainly was well aware of my presence…but could not react normally to avoid my encroachment.   LESSON:  Don’t get caught dwelling on your recent misfortunes…move on as soon as you can afterwards.

I suppose some might say that it’s cruel of me to put a feeder nearby the house where this incident has repeated itself several times during the winter.   I might be inclined to believe that if I had purposefully positioned the feeder to encourage these “window-banging” incidents to happen.   The problem is I could move the feeder to another corner of the patio and I am sure this same occurrence would continue to repeat itself.   The problem, I believe, with most bird-feeders is the birds get so focused on feeding from them they get distracted from carefully observing the world around them.   This has been evidenced when birds that have been feeding suddenly exit into flight and then careen off the window.   LESSON:  Don’t allow the distraction of a free meal or some other fortunate circumstance to cloud your otherwise good judgment.   Carefully plan a quick escape, if needed, no matter what you are doing at any particular time.

And finally, I was amazed how the other birds carried on around this bird as if it wasn’t even there.   As the other birds flitted from one perch to another eating a little suet and then eating sunflower seeds…this pathetic bird seemed momentarily oblivious to what was happening.   LESSON:  Just because you might be feeling down and out at the moment…don’t expect the world to take pity on you.   In fact, when your world is seemingly a bit dizzy and confusing…expect the others around you to act as if they don’t even care.

Alright…maybe I need another cup of coffee this morning so I quite philosophizing about the world around me.   Lack of caffeine in my system has me starting to take sympathy on this poor bird.   I wonder if they make suet cakes laced with caffeine for that same “pick-me-up effect”?   If they did…this bird could sure use some.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.