For the birds

Posted 5/25/23

It looked like a loaf of bread only it wasn’t in a plastic bag with a twist tie. The slices were the size of Texas French toast and individually wrapped. They were neatly lined up in the …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

For the birds


It looked like a loaf of bread only it wasn’t in a plastic bag with a twist tie. The slices were the size of Texas French toast and individually wrapped. They were neatly lined up in the shopping basket of the woman standing behind us at the checkout counter of the Ace Hardware in Cooperstown, NY.

She caught me eying the basket and read my mind.

“Suet,” she declared as if that answered everything.

Of course it didn’t. The explanation soon followed.

“Baltimore Orioles, they’re lovely,” she said somewhat defensively looking over the ten packets of suet. She must have cleaned out the stock. I was going to say, “you must have a flock of them,” but thought better since I doubt orioles come in flocks.

“Do they come every year?” She brightened at the question and when Carol started talking about cardinals, it was obvious they were birds of a feather.

Cardinals get special attention wherever they are.

“Did you see that,” she says excitedly as a flash of red crosses our drive, “He’s back.”

Frankly, I doubt if the cardinals ever leave. Why would they. The treatment here is first class. The feeder is rarely out of sunflower seeds. And just so they don’t have to compete with the jays, she’ll spread a few seeds on the ground as evening approaches. The squirrels know the routine so they’re ready for dinner, too. That infuriates Carol, but a few seeds for the squirrels are worth it if papa and momma cardinal get their share.

My mother had a similar devotion to birds. Feeders were kept full year round, which from what I’ve read is not recommended for wild birds with, perhaps, the exception of humming birds. Over the years my mother had a variety of pet birds from canaries to parakeets and even a myna bird that was great at mimicking the sound of a flushing toilet.  He really was good at it, too.

“Oh, that’s Gus,” she would say to visitors startled by the sound coming from the kitchen where his cage sat on the table. There was no further explanation, leaving guests to wonder when Gus would walk through the door. Their surprise was complete when they met Gus in the kitchen.

There have been some fun Warwick bird stories including the work of the Rhode Island Parrot Rescue and the macaw –Sunni –that flew from Kevin DeWolf’s home in 2012. She was found two days later in Wethersfield Commons high in the canopy. With the help of Warwick Firefighters, Kevin and Sunni were reunited and the efforts of Lois Graydon to establish a colony of purple martins at the Warwick Cove overlook on Warwick Neck (In case you’ve been wondering,  that’s what that pole is with those white balls hanging from it.) And then there’s the extraordinary story of Lidia Goodinson’s cockatiel, Joy, that flew the coop to be found by a woman who lives 40 miles away and was searching for her lost cockatiel. The women connected over social media. Who knows maybe the birds will be doing it next.

The story that tops them all, however, is the one Jessica Bothelo covered about the cockatoo that swore at the wife of her ex who lived a couple of doors away. Lynne Taylor, owner of the cussing cockatoo, was cited for harboring a nuisance, a case that ended up in municipal court where she was told to pay a $15 fine. That really ruffled Lynne’s feathers who appealed to Superior Court. All the squawking caught the attention of national media, giving Warwick unexpected attention that surely no amount of tourism dollars could have bought.

I don’t expect our friendly cardinals, or for that matter the Baltimore orioles of an unnamed bird admirer we met at Ace Hardware to make headlines. After all, they’re wild and have far more sense than to mimic us humans, although they quickly learn where they can get a hand out.

That leaves me to wonder what possesses us to feed and provide shelter for birds. We don’t have the same affinity for any number of mammals from squirrels to raccoons or for that matter reptiles, although there’s got to be somebody in Florida who feeds alligators. Could it be that we long for a bond with such free creatures?

birds, birding, editorial


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here