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Birds will be birds (08/08/2010)
By Janet Lewis Burns
I was one of those deprived, oddball town kids who never experienced the adventure of having a pet. No Lassie to romp with me as I rustled through autumn leaves, or a soft, gray-haired tabby to nestle in my lap, its motor humming peacefully.

We did have goldfish, until it became too traumatic when the bully of the bowl would nibble on the skinflints. I can still envision the ghost of a “Goldie” or a “ Bubbles” embedded in the varnished dining room floor.

From baby on, our avian friends go with the territory. “No kid, don’t eat that!” Mother Goose even got into the act! Did anyone ever solve the mystery of who killed Cock Robin? Tweetie Bird always seemed to stay one wing flap ahead of Sylvester the Cat. That cartoon might have been a catalyst for PETA.

Pat and I often remark that we’re likely one of a nearly extinct group of petless couples left on the planet! From the sidelines, we often wonder what the next outrageous trend in doggie drama will be! I envision motel signs announcing: “Children on leashes only!” “Special low rates for pet owners!”

Hummingbirds are a delight to watch! Sitting on the deck, where our juicer hangs, I can hear their wings’ loud, shrill buzz before I see them. It’s hard to fathom that the ruby-throated hummingbird winters in Mexico and Central America, flying 500 miles across the Gulf of Mexico on their 18-22 mile journey north. They’ve been spotted making pit stops on oilrigs - to catch their second wind, I imagine.

Recently, one of our miniature friends seemed to be in distress, hovering over our juicer, frantically jerking his head back and forth. Attempts to drink seemed to agitate him even more. I spotted a piece of white feather stuck in his needle-like beak. As he darted away through the steamy air, I wished him well.

We couldn’t help him like we did the robin the day before, as he got himself tangled up in a piece of string, and was flailing and flapping against the deck railing. Pat carefully cut her free with a scissors. No thanks necessary. It makes a person wonder how the birds perceive us humans, as foolish and dumbfounded as we are.

Another odd incident had us scratching our heads. One day, as I read in the living room, I kept hearing this “tap, tap, tap,” which led me into the dining room. What a shock to witness a large, yellow finch persistently thrust his beak against the window! This odd behavior of bonking his beak went on incessantly! It prompted me to e-mail my good friend Nan Overcott in Preston, a diehard birder.

Promptly, Nan to the rescue said she thought it was a territorial thing. The bird is probably male. Seeing his reflection in the window, he thinks it’s another bird of the same species horning in on his territory. (Pecking rights?) The bird finally gave it up, or bonked himself silly.

I remember a robin that pulled a similar stunt up north several years ago. He seemed to have been engaged in some sort of ritual with a hubcap on fellow camper, Joe Nienow’s car. Every day at the same time, there he was, flittering against that same shiny hubcap! It went on for weeks! Notable small talk around the campfire!

The July Birds & Blooms magazine has tips on preventing birds from hitting windows. One reader has the ultimate solution: “My 16 pound cat sits there.” Another remarks, “I let my windows get dirty!” Not to spoil a good thing, I didn’t tell Pat about that one.

As I snooze a little longer in our camper bed, and hear the pair of loons or formation of geese fly overhead, I curl up to wallow in sun’s first light, and smell the coffee brewing on the kitchen counter...I wonder why harmony between the species couldn’t be as sweet everywhere.

Janet Burns believes that every living creature deserves our respect. Live long...love well...seek peace. Janet can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com



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