Street Tales: The Bird Feeder

Shortly after I built the book box, I was on a roll in my workshop, so I built a bird feeder. One of my great pleasures early in the morning, is to sit at my computer or read the morning paper and with the blinds open I can proceed with whatever I happen to be working on at the time, all the while watching my feathered friends as they have their breakfast.

If the seed is fresh, sparrows flock to take advantage of the feast. They are an extremely messy eater, flinging seeds with shells still on out the side and going after the freebies. If I don’t replace the seed, they, at a more sporadic rate, will pick up the seeds they spilled and work at getting to the seed inside. Then the cycle will be repeated.

What really got me thinking was some juvenile blue jays; so young they were still bald. Scrawny looking things really. One of them stands out from its siblings. It will come to the feeder and if there are no peanuts, it will come closer to the window, look at me inside and start scolding me for not having met his wants. If I delay, he jumps up to a new vantage point and starts squawking again more emphatically.

Grabbing a handful of peanuts, I open the front door and place them in the feeder. Fonzie, as I’ve called him, has moved only about three feet away, and is intently watching as I put the nuts out for him to eat. Then as I turn to go back into the house, I hear one little squawk and he is at it. If he runs out before he is satisfied, the scolding process starts all over again.

The gentler eaters are chickadees. Very quick, but gentle and not easily spooked. There are occasionally different birds like downy woodpeckers, magpies, northern flickers, nuthatches and others that come to eat as well.

I think you know where this is going. Feeding birds at home or folks at the kitchen, the parallels are astounding. Like at the bird feeder, the most prolific customer is the sparrow, or the messy eaters. For a lot of volunteers, the mess left by folks not even cleaning their own spot is often quite discouraging. Some time ago when I was a dept. manager, the coffee room would be left in a mess as well; the sign which read ‘Your mother does not work here, clean up after yourself’, carried no weight. People are like that. It’s the way they were taught.

Then of course there are the Blue Jays or ‘Fonzies’ of the street who walk into the kitchen almost demanding certain foods or faster service. That part can be annoying, and so if it goes too far I suggest that they go to MacDonald’s two blocks away. Having said that, and knowing the individuals and that they do not mean to be belligerent, we will try to accommodate them, within reason of course. Often, they know of no other way to express themselves; it is something they learned growing up.

The chickadees of course are the ones who take what they are given; thankful as all get out; eat quietly and with thank you’s all around, they sometimes volunteer to help clean up, or they just leave. This is the type of customer that is the easiest to serve, but also at times the hardest to reach or even to converse with. There’s always a trade-off it seems.

So as I spend my early mornings with the birds at the feeder, and the days with folks coming to the kitchen, I find that there are great similarities in both. I guess it was a good idea to build the feeder, it just helps to complete my day.

Chris Salomons is the kithen co-ordinator of Potter’s Hands in Red Deer.

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