Biff America: Fowl and unscrupulous neighbors
I don’t blame the hummingbirds; they are merely wild creatures with a three-digit heart rate and a brain smaller than a wrestling fan. How could they ever possibly grasp the concept of gratitude or loyalty? I do feel a certain kinship towards them; we both enjoy bright colors, have over-active nervous systems and are hooked on sugar.
My mate and I host a year-round bird buffet on our living room deck. During the winter season, we serve oiled sunflower seeds, which attracts a cross section of fowl. Customers vary from beautiful crossbills, grosbeaks as well as the far less appealing ravens and camp robbers. We encourage this species diversity, because we feel the winter is hard on our avian population – and even the ugly need to eat.
In summer we are more selfish; we are looking to be entertained.
We hang the hummingbird feeder in late May and wait impatiently for the return of those colorful, high strung diners. The hummingbird is the helicopter of the bird-world – a nimble, attractive, bullet-fast daredevil. We love to watch them dart, hover and dive in their floral splendor.
Unfortunately, this summer (though we sat by the window like a leper on prom night) they never showed.
Support Local Journalism
We heard their high-pitched call. We saw them around the neighborhood, but never on our porch.
We had to face the fact that the birds were eating elsewhere.
After some investigation and surveillance, I came to the unmistakable conclusion: Our down-the-street neighbors stole our birds.
I knew our birds were eating elsewhere, I knew where, I just didn’t know why. I waited until I was sure the fowl thieves were gone before I risked life and limb and climbed up to their second-story deck.
Their porch looked like a Club Med for birds.
There were feeders for suet, seeds, sugar water, as well as a birdbath. If all the decadence wasn’t enough, their hummingbird feeder had a perch. Most savvy hummingbird food providers remove the perches from their feeders, forcing the little beauties to fly while eating and thus providing greater spectator potential. Our neighbor’s feeder allowed the diminutive gluttons to recline while dining like so many slovenly flying swine. This unscrupulous couple was also manipulating the water-to-sugar mixture. I know because I drank some (twice) and got an immediate buzz.
It says right on most feeders that the proper mixture is five parts water to one part sugar. This is the standard proportion used for generations. Any less sugar and the birds lose interest, any more and they get hyper and spoiled. One look at our neighbor’s feeder assured me that my assumption was correct: They were serving up a sugar-rich beverage. Their feeder was packed with amp-up, aggressive hummingbirds, all fighting for position and pecking at each other like tiny Mike Tysons. And to add insult to injury, the high sugar concentrate acted as a diuretic, causing the enraged fowl to, after dining, to fly one block north and move their little bowels on my truck.
I’m more than a little concerned that, after a summer of decadence, when the birds fly south for the winter and have to subsist on natural flower nectar it’ll be like kissing a sister. I can only imagine they will have to kick the sugar habit cold-turkey in Arizona and Mexico when they arrived at their winter habitat.
This being bear season, we’ve taken down all our feeders, but next year things will be different.
The neighbors are in the process of moving, and those who are taking their place have a cat – so I’m hoping our deck will regain its appeal. I’ve thought about upping the sugar content of the feeders but decided against. Instead, I decided to reinstall the perches and have added just a touch of espresso. I would suggest all who live nearby park their vehicles in their garage.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on TV-8-Summit and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Biff’s book “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic” is available from local book stores or at BiffAmerica.net