Vail Daily letter: Hand-up turns hand-out
A pair of black-capped chickadees, or their offspring, have been friendly companions of mine year-around here in Edwards for a long time. These industrious little birds work hard at providing for themselves, and are constantly active in seeking food and shelter in order to survive.
Most seasons their diet of seeds is plentiful; however in the depths of Colorado’s winter at times they appear to struggle in their efforts to find enough sustenance needed to stay warm, and therefore I have been in the habit of putting out feeders containing black oil sunflower seeds, a favorite of theirs.
Over time it has given me great pleasure to watch these beautiful little creatures fly to the feeders, take a single seed in their bill and then fly off to a perch of choice to consume the contents. My way of rewarding personal responsibility, self-sufficiency and industry by a temporary hand-up when needed.
However, it distresses me that shortly after the bird feeders are put up at the start of winter, they are soon spotted by large flocks of house finches, sparrows and jays, lazy birds that seem to prefer to just sit around and squawk loudly in increasingly large numbers, then swarm the feeders to stuff themselves while leaving nothing for the hard-working chickadees. An example of a helping hand-up for a few turning into a generational hand-out for the many.
Perhaps modern society would benefit greatly by learning a thing or two while observing and taking to heart the relative behaviors of chickadees and the house finches and their pals.