Diapers and Dragons

Monday, January 31, 2011

Feathers and Fat

Another post from my [reluctant] reflections on the wintry world outside my window. Which is where I prefer to keep it, on the whole.


I've never loved birds as pets.

Oh yes, I thoroughly enjoyed the antics of Fraque, our African Grey parrot, when I was a child. But I was able to enjoy him as a pet without dealing with his mess. He lived in a spacious cage, after all, and I was not the one deputized to clean out the bottom.

I didn't learn to detest pet birds until college. My former mother-in-law had a yellow parakeet who flew about her apartment with almost complete freedom. I discovered first-hand the joys of a bird's inability to control its bowels. Wherever that thing landed--clock, cagetop, couch arm, carpet, shoulder, head--it could and often would leave behind a curdled-milk trace of its presence.

Even now, as a mother of two who has personally handled far more excrement and other distasteful bodily emissions than I ever dreamed, I shudder at the memory. At least my children don't leave their waste smeared all over the furniture and walls. Well, not often.

So--no birds as pets in my household.

Our townhouse backs onto a wetlands, a tiny refuge for the local wildlife nestled amidst the human residences of West Bloomfield. And birds nest and fly about and forage in our extended backyard every day.

I have discovered that I love birds--when they are properly outside, in their natural medium. MTL and I obtained a bird feeder a few weeks ago, and Thanksgiving weekend we drove the pole into the ground and stocked the feeder with blocks of suet and peanut butter and seeds, the kind loved by birds who winter here rather than fleeing for warmer points south. We have hovered by the window, waiting for the birds to discover it.

Today, they have. Winter's bitter breath is blowing, with distinct promise of snow to come, and the birds are gorging on the luscious fat we have provided them. I sit and watch, wondering if this provision in some way violates the natural order of things. These woodpeckers and cardinals and other birds I cannot name would be forced to make do with the scant provisions of winter-bound wetlands if people like us did not lavish them with food. Would they have more natural foods available to them if we had not invaded their world with brick and wood and vinyl siding? How much of their ability to winter here, as is their natural wont, is based on our tribute to their beauty?

Have we formed an odd partnership, we denizens of the suburbs, feathered and featherless alike?

We pay our human entertainers with offerings as well, forming a niche where basic necessity does not go. Have we extended that concept to nature's entertainers as well?

Come here and brighten up my yard. Sweeten the wind with your songs. And in return, I offer you the fat of the supermarket...

4 bits of love:

Monica said...

She really let the bird fly all over the house? That's just gross.

Lovely post!

Katie said...

Mothers-in-law are SO weird.
I love cardinals, and blue jays even though the jays are big old bullies. They're still beautiful to me. I am a bit embarrassed to say that I put birdseed all over the railing of my porch and draw ALL KINDS of birds, which makes a mess (which must be hosed off a couple times a week) and drives my husband crazy but the little things are just so interesting to watch.

Also, I apologize for my absence here. I commented on your last post but as I hit send, I lost my signal and it vanished. I almost threw the stupid phone out the window. I just didn't have the mental stability to retype my comment (also, I am lazy) but I just wanted you to know that I will not be absent for so long again. I love your posts and I am absolutely inspired by the way you write {jealous too}.

Enjoy the wildlife.

Kathleen said...

I haven't seen a bird in 3 months--we haven't put up a bird feeder yet, but I think all the birds are gone anyway. What I'd kill to see right now is some grass...even if it is brown.

Draft Queen said...

So this one time, when A was a baby, we went to the zoo (which, actually, we did every weekend back then) and I was sitting outside of the elephant house on a bench nursing the boy. A bird poo'd on me.

I'm no fan of birds.

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