Finding My Inner Bird Brain


By Jack Edwards

You have heard the adage, “Try walking a mile in his shoes.”  Recently, I have tried to use this advice to repair a rift that has developed between me and my local bird community.  I enjoy birds, but I do not claim to be an expert at Ornithology.  You may recall from high school that “Ornithology” is Latin for “the study of ornery things.”  I assume this includes ornery birds.  In short, the birds and I are currently not of a feather.

We used to live in a house with a birdfeeder in the front yard.  This feeder looked like downtown Bombay at rush hour, except for birds.  I kept a book near the window with photographs of every bird known to man, so I could identify them.  Except only three species ever showed up: black-capped chickadees, dark-eyed juncos, and (please excuse my language) bushtits.  Sadly, these three species are the most boring looking birds on the planet.

Once in a blue moon, some exotic, colorful bird showed up.  I logically assumed that my usual boring birds got him all liquored up the night before, and he was still languishing in a drunken bird stupor, unable quite yet to fly home.  When this lucky happenstance occurred, I’d race to identify the visitor.  I would quickly study its coloring and note the shape of its beak.  Then I would hurriedly flip through the pages of my book and quickly narrow it down to about twenty different species – none of which lived on my continent.

I have a friend who is a “birder.”  For the purposes of this story I will refer to him as “Jim,” because his name happens to be Jim.  Jim is not just a birder, he is a proud birder.  You might even describe him as a (no pun intended) mildly cocky birder.  He’s crazy about the birds.  He keeps an Oregon list.  And he keeps a lifetime list.  He even travels to other parts of the world to look at birds and excitedly jot their names down on his list.  (And you thought stamp collecting was exciting.)  Even with the advent of nature programs available on high definition TV viewable from cushy lounge chairs, he still actually goes out “into the field” to look at birds.

But I digress.  Back to my main point, which is my ongoing problem with the bird community.

When I moved to my new house, I brought my experienced birdfeeder.  Only, big problem, the birds are completely ignoring it.  I know they’re around.  I hear them in the bushes, but they are snubbing me and my birdfeeder.  And, yes, I am taking this personally.

I don’t want to jump to conclusions or cast undeserved aspersions on my new bird neighbors, but I did some research on my gigantic mistake of a cell phone – the iPhone 6 plus (if a salesperson even looks like he’s going to suggest you purchase this phone, shove him into the nearest iPad display and run for your life).

I found the following key tips:

  1. Place the feeder in a quiet area. Check – It’s quiet as a monastery’s library.
  2. Place the feeder near shrubs or other shelter. Double check – There are enough bushes to start a commercial nursery.
  3. Place a birdbath nearby. Uh, no – I’m not running a day spa here.

So it turns out I was right all along.  It’s not me.  It is the birds – They’ve copped an attitude.  My battle plan is simple.  I’ll wait.  Sooner or later a lightbulb will go off above one of their little bird brains.  He’ll turn to his bird friends and say, “You know what guys?  We should change our attitude toward the new guy.  He’s obviously trying to meet us half way.  Look, he’s even wearing wingtips.  In fact, we should try walking a mile in his shoes.”