While I’ve always enjoyed watching birds come to the feeder my usual routine is: glance out the window at the feeder, scan for any unusual visitors, watch for a minute or two, move on, repeat next time I’m near the window. My normal routine doesn’t include watching the feeder for any length of time to observe the interaction between particular birds. Now, with my bird feeder workout routine, I may spend 45 minutes watching the same feeder. Just like us, though perhaps not as complex, birds seem to have different temperaments and personalities.
Yesterday, while on the treadmill, feeder activity was fairly slow. Without the flurries flying the birds were dispersed. Still, I watched some interesting behavior. First up, a male cardinal flew in and lit under the feeder and began gleaning the ground for seeds. As I watched I thought he had a sunflower seed stuck on the end of his beak. I couldn’t figure out why his beak looked so odd.
I stopped the treadmill (not good for my workout), went and retrieved the binoculars, and took a look. To my surprise the unfortunate bird had a very deformed lower beak. I watched as the cardinal ate but with some difficulty breaking the sunflower seeds open. I retrieved my camera and hurriedly snapped a picture. Even though it’s a blurry shot, you can see the deformed lower beak. Only a second or two after I took this picture, he flew. I expected to see him again. I would have thought with his handicap, he would hang around an easily accessible food source. I have not seen him again. Perhaps there are other feeders he’s visiting in the neighborhood.
I’m sure if my camera battery could talk it would voice its displeasure with its treatment. I turn it on to take a picture. Experience has shown that as soon as I manually turn it off, I then want to take another picture. So I leave it on, hang it from the arm of the treadmill, and proceed to walk. After a few minutes, the camera automatically turns itself off. Usually, a minute or two after it turns itself off; I want to take a picture. I turn it back on, take a picture or two, and hang it back on the arm. It turns itself off. I turn it on. Needless to say, the battery spends a lot of time on the charger.
While there weren’t a great array of birds coming in to the feeder, I was fascinated by the congenial behavior of some of the visitors. Male cardinals I’ve found to be fairly aggressive towards other birds when it comes to sharing the feeder. More often than not they don’t like the idea of sharing. They usually try to fend off other birds wanting to light on the platform. It’s not uncommon to see several birds feeding together at a larger feeder like the one we have at the back of the house. This particular feeder though is fairly small with a small opening for seed. There isn’t much room on the perch area to light.
I’m not quite sure who was there first, the house sparrow or the cardinal. As I watched these two seemed to be perfectly content with taking turns dipping into the seed bin. On occasion, they would actually go after a seed at the same time. It’s almost as if I could hear them say to one another, “Please you go first. No, no, you go first.” At one point, the little sparrow even sidled up to the cardinal as if it were trying to snuggle. The male cardinal simply turned his head away and acted as if he didn’t notice.
Turns out both the male cardinal and the little sparrow were downright easy to get along with. As you can see I snapped a few shots of both of them, sharing their seed booty with whoever happened along. Who knew some birds had such good manners.