Feeding the Birds, by Susan Rothbard

When people find out that I’m something of a bird nerd, they like to tell me stories about their bird feeders, their favourite bird (always dangerous), and the pair of red-tailed hawks that started nesting nearby and scared all the little birds away.  I love these stories and I’m always happy to share the results of a study I did on the hierarchy of bird dominance at bird feeders in college*.

But I found this poem today, and it made me think of my backyard bird watchers.


Feeding the Birds

I wanted them to come. Wanted cardinals,

jays, a goldfinch— that yellow most of all.

I bought binoculars, Birds of New Jersey,

learned to recognize the mourning doves,

the black spots they shared, how they got

their name. My husband began to look

out the window each morning, shouted for me

when they came, bought a birdbath because

he’d learned that birds get thirsty. Our children

laughed at us as they raced out of the house,

but I liked all this learning. Then I learned

about grackles. I told myself I did not mind them;

their iridescent blue heads were beautiful.

I did not know they would take over, scare

the other birds away, that I would admit

they were ugly, buy seed they won’t eat.

Now the empty suet feeder sways like a hanged

man on the branch where the grackles

had perched, and I watch from the window.

I could not choose my children this way.

–  Susan Rothbard

*The most dominant feeder bird is the squirrel.**

**Unless there are turkeys, then the turkey is the most dominant bird.


6 thoughts on “Feeding the Birds, by Susan Rothbard

  1. Interesting and not sure what a grackle is….magpie type? I’ve found the different birds come at slightly different times and it helps to have a few feeders in different places.

  2. I would have to agree about the squirrel . . . even at the water bowl, squirrels are bullies and an enraged squirrel can make some of the weirdest noises ever heard and keep them up for a LONG time!

    We have grackles here . . . I have no problem with them as they tend to hang out in big open fields here. Across from the school I work at a lot of mornings the field is covered with grackles and they make their strange whistles and electronic call until it sounds like some kind of new age music, arrhythmic, atonal, and really strange.

    • Haha yes squirrels are very entertaining, even though they are bullies! Sometimes grackles seem to be a problem…perhaps when they can’t get enough to eat in fallow fields. I think they are quite pretty with their iridescent feathers but I am in a minority.

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