The Finch Feeder

We have started giving them nicknames — but ‘Chubby,’ which used to be an identifying aspect of one of our little yellow friends is starting to become much more common.

Our perky bird friends come to visit us at our living room window all day, every day to gorge themselves on thistle feed. House sparrows, chickadees, blue jays, cardinals, rock doves, juncos, all come to visit us every day and have a meal or two at our big feeder in the side yard. The birds go through about 4lbs of food a week, and I’m sure they’d eat more if we put it out. 

We started our feeders one grey Monday in January. This winter didn’t give us a lot of snow, so we wanted to do something to bring life into our cold, wet, muddy days. After a few weeks, a few juncos discovered our big feeder, and would come for a few minutes every few days after that. 

We were so upset! Our hopes were that we’d put out this feeder and it would call all of God’s little bird friends from all over town to come hang out in our yard every day. I mean, isn’t that what we say, “feed them and they will come”? So we got another feeder — this time a little thistle feeder — and hung it right up less than a foot away from the living room window. And we waited.

And waited… And waited… And now, we have birds (and squirrels) from all over town hanging out in our yard! But what is really remarkable is that finch feeder. It has six places for finches to get seed from, and nearly all of them are used, nearly constantly! What used to be skinny little, weak-looking birds are now plump and strong. No longer timidly pecking and flying away with each seed, these fatties hang out on the feeder, rain or shine, fighting each other off for a spot to gorge on their favorite treats. The male goldfinches who were once a pale yellow are now getting some brilliance in their feathers. Maybe that’s not what’s happening. Maybe the big fat brightly colored birds are just taking over the feeder and the scrawny, dull ones are hiding off in the bushes. I honestly know very little about birds. But I like to think we’re helping them out by feeding them.

Our relationship with food doesn’t stop just at how we feed our selves, or even other people. It extends into how and what we feed our pets and other animals. It extends into how we relate to wild animals, (including feral cats if you live in a village hit with floods like we do), who dig up our yards and gardens and eat things we’re growing for ourselves. I’m saying this because I am a pastoral minister trained in theology who has spent quite a bit of time in the Bible, and I’ve come to understand that our belief system’s discipline (practice/process/discipleship) is based on interdependence. 

There is a lot more to say about this subject, but for now I’d just like to leave it here: watching the birds eat the food we offer them brings us a lot of joy. It’s much more fun than watching a movie. It’s something my husband and I share together — at dinner, we let each other know what birds we saw eating their meals. We run to the window when we hear a new bird call. Even though we had to wait for it, our bird feeders really are life-giving.  So I’ve been thinking… instead of getting frustrated with the feral cats who dug holes in my freshly-planted radish beds, maybe I’ll try planting them a cat grass garden. You know, away from our human food gardens, which we’d prefer to have free from their toxic poops…

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