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For the birds.   —   For the Birds

For about three years now, maybe a little longer, I've been feeding the wild birds outside my kitchen window. I went through quite an ordeal trying to find the perfect feeder for fire escape feeding. Some were too flimsy to endure the harsh New York winter. Some were too light and would blow and bang against the metal bars until destruction. One was tied with rope which the squirrels decided would make excellent dental floss and eventually sent it crashing to the pavement below. Some are too small and don't allow the morning doves to feed. Some of the finch feeders don't even attract the finches. Finally, with the last one I bought, I managed to make it work. I had to jerry-rig it a bit though, to make it work perfectly. I replaced the rope hanging device with thick wire. When I hung the bird feeder on the fire escape I took twine and wrapped parts of the feeder with it and secured them to the metal bars. Now, it was squirrel proof and weather proof. What I didn't expect were the pigeons.

The pigeons are large and messy. They fling seed around like nobody's business. Shoveling seed out at such a rapid rate that most of it ends up on the ground and the feeder is emptied in a matter of hours. Only, below my fire escape isn't the ground, it's my landlord's porch roof. When the seed lands on his roof, it falls into the rain gutter. When it rains or when moisture collects, the seeds sprout into grass, clogging his gutter. My landlord is a wonderful man and understands my love for feeding the birds. His wife also likes to feed the birds so he asked not that I take down the feeder, but to find a way to keep the seed from falling on his porch roof. So after some thought I figured out a way. I went out and bought a cat food mat, punched holes on each end, and attached it to the floor of the fire escape beneath the feeder with some wire. Then, I took the plastic wall on the side of the feeder that hovers over the porch, and turned it upside down so the space that the seed goes through isn't there anymore and the wall goes straight down instead, blocking the seed from that side. This allowed the birds to only eat from one side, and the side they ate from had a catchers mitt for the fallen seed. This proved to work quite well but I then faced the problem of a dozen pigeons vying for the small space of a one-sided feeder. It created a mass hysteria of birds and they still dumped all of the seed out in a matter of hours, defeating my purpose of feeding the finches and morning doves. So, I decided to switch the seed from "Wild Bird Feed" to "Finch Food". The great thing about it is that it attracts more finches and doves and most of the pigeons have gone elsewhere. We still have a few that hang around and take up valuable eating space, but it's manageable.

My feeder at this point is quite weathered. I've had to jerry-rig it even more with duck tape to fill cracks to keep the water out and the seed in. It's held up rather well over the years with the beating it gets from the birds, but I think it's about time I try a new feeder. I still have one small issue with this feeder, and that is that it needs to be cleaned regularly because the seed collects on the sides inside and starts to mold. It's such a pain in the ass taking it down and cleaning it out and putting it back up, but I do it, though probably not as often as I should.

My next venture is this gazebo style feeder. It allows the seed to fall downward in a funnel fashion preventing seed from remaining in the feeder. I'm sure once I get it and put it up I'll face a hundred problems that I didn't foresee but I think at this point I've become creative enough in my bird feeding adventures to conquer most issues.

For the past month or two I've stopped filling the feeder. With all the bird flu news reports and the rapid rate at which it has spread I've succumbed to the terrors that the media has created and decided to not feed the birds "for a while". I imagined diseased birds feeding outside my kitchen window with flesh missing and rotting eyes, wings that are torn and barely attached to the body, hanging at weird angles. I know that's not how the bird flu works but I watch zombie movies, it's how everything works in my mind. In reality what I actually feared was touching the feeder and being in the space that the birds are walking and eating on everyday and somehow being the first person in the US to contract the disease that would not only kill myself, but my husband and cats as well. Irrational? Yes, a bit. But fear is at times irrational and I was afraid.

This morning I was in the kitchen and spotted a morning dove sitting on the window ledge, looking in. The morning doves are my favorite and over the course of two years have watched four of them grow up (literally, they were babies huddling in the rain on my sill two years ago) and they're the main reason for my dedication in feeding these birds (that, and cat tv). So the morning dove is sitting on my sill, looking in at me as if to say, "remember us?" So I pushed fear aside, retrieved the seed from under the sink, and filled the feeder, in the rain. I hope that their flesh-torn rotting bellies are full.

Posted 11.22.2005 4:01:00 PM

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