Putting on the Big Boots

Just who is the birdbrain this time?

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We live in the information age. One can ask a question by speaking into a phone or entering a few key strokes. Within seconds, a plethora of particulars flashes across the screen. Sometimes, the information is trustworthy, but sometimes…

Back in March a bewildered birdwatcher posted a question on a popular social media site: Why do birds peck at my window? Experts immediately twittered back the answer. When birds peck at your window, they are seeing their reflection and think it is another bird. They are defending their territory.

At the time cardinals, finches, chickadees and woodpeckers visited the feeders outside my living room window. At least once every morning, someone crashed into the glass. Clunk! Concussions were common, but none of them EVER pecked at my window.

Until one day, happy as larks, two new couples fluttered into the neighborhood: rose-breasted grosbeaks. The colorful males with red and white bandanas on their throats, and the black and white striped females visited the feeders frequently. Unlike the other birds, the grosbeaks did not frantically fly when they saw movement on my side of the window. If I reached for my coffee or scratched my nose, the finches and cardinals flew the coop. Not the grosbeaks. They remained on the feeders and stared at me through the window. Obviously, from their bird’s-eye view, I was not a threat. I looked forward to morning coffee watching the colorful critters.

Then, the dreaded “bird flu” swooped in, threatening the life of every winged wonder. Federal agencies warned bird lovers that feeding songbirds could spread the disease. They recommended pulling all feeders until spring migration ended, especially if you had a backyard chicken flock.

Reluctantly, I took down the feeders. Morning coffee would not be the same. The birds immediately missed their breakfast bar. For a few days, cardinals and finches perched in the trees, searching for the cafeteria. Eventually, they stopped coming around, except for four particular red, white and black creatures. The rose-breasted grosbeaks returned day after day. They watched from the bare branches of the burning bush. They settled on the empty wire hangers. They glared at me through my living room window.

Then it happened. The larger of the two males approached the glass. He flew in place as I watched, only two feet away. He pecked at the window! Within seconds, the other male followed suit. These were angry birds, fearlessly communicating their complaint: “Hey, lady! We need food!” For weeks, the four persisted. Beaks bopped. My morning coffee changed from sweet song to first-week percussion practice.

The literary device for giving animals human characteristics is called anthropomorphism. Was I giving the creatures more credit than they deserved? Did these birds, with brains the size of a hazelnut, actually have the mental capacity to hold me responsible for sudden menu adjustments?

I considered the opinion of the experts. Was it possible that the grosbeaks were simply pecking at their reflections, thinking they were battling the competition? Maybe I was giving them human attributes and only imagining their vengeful behavior.

I looked out the window. As if reading my thoughts, the bird with the bigger bandanna flew up to my window. He glared in at me. No clunks, no pecking at the glass. As he flew off, I noticed something on my window. There, directly in the center, was a round white splotch. In horrified realization, I watched the liquid dribble down the glass!

Eventually, I put the feeders up again. The cardinals, finches and woodpeckers are back. The grosbeaks bring new meaning to the phrase “eating like a bird.” Again, I enjoy my morning coffee, complete with the antics of my feathered friends.

No one pecks at the window. No more white, oozy splats adorn the glass. I am glad the grosbeaks are back on good behavior. Sometimes I cannot help but wonder---just who is the birdbrain here?

Kruempel’s newest book, Once Upon a Midwest Sunset, as well as her 5-book series, Promises to Keep, are available on Amazon.com. Once Upon a Midwest Sunset (an excellent gift of memories) is a compilation of the stories from her NOOKS AND CRANNIES column, which was published in five newspapers in 2020-21. Contact her at deannkruempelauthor@gmail.com

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