Feeding the birds

lesser-goldfinchIn the winter, when everything is drying up and dying, I feel sorry for the birds. And so, I feed them. It’s because of Mary Poppins. I’ve been on a guilt trip about birds ever since I heard the old lady begging young Michael Banks to “feed the birds, tuppence a bag.”

We have two hummingbird feeders, an all-purpose seed feeder, and two thistle feeders. Which reminds me that I need to drop by the feed store later today and throw down some cash to re-stock.

The thistle feeders are to attract the Lesser Goldfinch, the cute but less-showy cousin of the American Goldfinch. Some clever person realized that the lesser goldfinch’s feet are better at grasping than the ordinary (and more numerous) House Finch, so they designed this feeder so that the birds have to hang upside-down to eat.

In the morning, every feeding station is occupied with upside-down goldfinches, their yellow bellies shining in the sunlight as they happily eat their fill of thistle seed.

The House Finches would greedily drain the feeder if only they could hang upside-down. They can’t without falling off, so they’ve perfected a 360 twirl technique in which they rotate down, grab a seed, then flap their wings to get back upright. Tough, but it works. Where there’s a will there’s a way.

Hummingbirds are my favorites because of their grace and speedy acrobatics in the air. They’re very territorial. You hear them in the trees, chirping at each other (they make a sound like we do when we press our tongue against the roof of our mouth and snap it away, as in tsk-tsk-tsk).

When one of them lands at the feeder to eat, he nervously looks left and right, slurps up some sugar-water, checks his back, slurps up some more sugar-water. Always wary, because as soon as another hummingbird catches sight of the thief eating at HIS feeder, a dive-bomb attack is on, the two birds swooping and diving and racing here and there, until one of them gives up and the other one is back at the feeder again.

It’s a gas to watch. Way better than TV.

Photo credit: 50birds.com

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  1. Hi Charlie –

    Great article. I could see those upside down finches – wonderful, descriptive writing.

  2. I love the upside down feeders too. I used to sit and watch my grandfather’s squirrel feeder that was designed to make them swivel upside down and cling on for dear life once they got to the top to reach the corn.