My backyard was made for bird courtship. It’s small but closed in by big trees. The splash of a waterfall (which came with the property and convinced me to buy the place) draws birds from all over the neighborhood. So does the birdbath, and the feeders, which I hang out and fill with seed. My two cats are indoor pets, so except for the occasional neighbor kitty or hawk, it’s a pretty safe place to hang out.
Mourning doves are the most romantic. Sweet, graceful and quiet, they do these little courtly dances, turning and bowing as if they were hearing a minuet. Even their mating is discretely elegant, like part of the dance.
Quail, on the other hand, are like people in a rowdy singles bar. They show up in gangs, the beautiful males prancing, parading and fighting; the females taking their sweet time to choose their partners. Often as not, there’s a rowdy scramble and then the whole show begins again. Somehow they manage to pair off and make babies, which show up a few weeks later—tiny fluff balls trailing after their parents. Sadly, with so many dangers, no more than a few of them survive to grow up.
Chickadees nest in a birdhouse with a hole so small that bigger birds can’t get in. I love it when the tiny, spunky babies finally pop out.
my birds come for romance. Some just show up for a handout. The scrub jays, smart and cocky, sit on a tree limb outside my patio door and call until I toss them a handful of peanuts, which they hide all over the yard. Magpies have picked up the same trick—but their beaks are big enough to pick up two or three peanuts at a time.
Now and then I’ll get a woodpecker, and warmer weather brings hummingbirds. But my least welcome yard guests are the starlings. Pretty birds, but noisy, and they poop on everything. When I get a growing family, the half-grown babies will follow the mother around the yard, squawking constantly to be fed. It’s comical to watch, but not to hear.
I like to use birds in my books, partly because of what they symbolize—beauty, freedom and also danger and death. I have a soft spot for vultures—great for foreshadowing. They’re also beautiful flyers, as well as being nature’s clean-up crew.
How about you? Do you enjoy birds? Do you feed them? Do you have a favorite?
What do you suppose that little boy is thinking?