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  • Writer's pictureD. Randall Faro

For the Birds

For the birds is an idiom meaning worthless, not to be taken seriously, no good. The earliest usage of the phrase is by the U.S. military during WWII when it was employed as a metaphor alluding to birds eating droppings from horses and cattle.

For the birds as a pejorative term of dismissal? The birds don’t think so. At least not the ones that visit my backyard.


I’m not inclined to calculate how much is spent on birdfeed for my six yard feeders, and the birds themselves could care less about the financial demands of keeping them stocked. They simply congratulate me with their chirps and squeaks and squawks, their collective message being: Thanks. Keep it coming.


There are the dependable regulars.

- The gorgeous spotted towhees are large enough to take what they want without being belligerent about it.

- Mild-mannered Oregon juncos come in sufficient numbers to guarantee their share. They generally prefer to kick the seed out of the hanging eateries and peck below for the scrumptious on-ground freebie meal.

- Nuthatches, both white-breasted and red-breasted, frequent the cylindrical hangers, feeding right-side up, upside-down, or sideways.

- Politely sharing with the nuthatches are black-capped and chestnut-backed chickadees. they are not the dominant avifauna, but their speed and agility protects them from bully-birds and insures their fair share of the crop.

- The feeder with suet is regularly pecked at by flickers and hairy woodpeckers. We use hot-spiced suet, which keeps marauding squirrels at bay and seems to satisfy the peckers affinity for capsicum-laced delicacies.

- Anna’s hummingbirds and I share a common trait: a sweet tooth. While I’m not sure if hummingbirds have teeth, they love to lap up the sugared water from our two feeders. I believe some black-chinned hummers also come to dip their tongues . . . but they don’t sit still long enough for me to make sure.

- Bully-birds are mentioned above. The locals in our neighborhood are the Steller’s jays. They are an attractive blue bird and the largest of the blue jays. It’s probably not fair to call them bullies. They simply need to eat as well as the little cuties, and their size alone intimidates. Whereas a chickee average around 5”, an adult Steller’s can top out at 14”. Size matters.

- Then there’s the mourning doves. They coo and cuddle and curtsy around in the grass, landlubbers at heart when it comes to feeding. Much bigger than the songbirds, they are not at all intimidated by the Steller’s raucous squawks.


Why does one derive such pleasure from helping feathered creatures and observing their antics? I’m going to let the psychologists kick that one around while I go fill the feeders.


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