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April 20, 2009 - Janet DelTurco
There is a bird feeder right outside the window where I sit at my computer, so close that it almost touches the glass. Through the winter it is partly hidden in a thicket of tall zebra grass whose plumes reach up six feet or more. But since I cut back the grass this spring the feeder is fully exposed, and it took the birds a few weeks to get comfortable with the exposure. But now they are quite happy there. This is one of the wire contraptions that hold a solid cake of seed containing peanuts and other treats, and word of this bounty has spread among the bird population so that there is a constant stream of hungry visitors. I have learned quite a bit about sparrows as I sit here, and the first thing is that no two are alike. My bird book lists 35 varieties of sparrow. Some I will not see because their habitat does not include Ohio, and my book shows me that there are wide differences between male and female appearance, and to complicate matters even further some change color according to the season. Even considering all these facts, I think there has been some serious cross-breeding around here! Very few birds correspond exactly to the book illustrations, and they come and go so fast that it is hard to turn the pages fast enough to be sure. One thing that I am sure about is their total lack of table manners. They quarrel and fight over every seed, although there is plenty for everyone, seeming more intent on being king of the castle than on getting something to eat. I have finally learned to identify the house finches as well as the purple finches, and they are much better behaved. They are content to share their perch with others, and leave when the fighting gets too boisterous. A male cardinal visits quite often, although I have not seen a female this spring. He drives the impudent sparrows away, and the blackbirds and starlings do not visit while he is in residence. I always thought of these large birds as ground feeders, but after cleaning up any dropped seed in the flower bed under the window they clumsily fly up to the feeder, sometimes four at a time, and jostle for space. The only birds that stay quietly on the ground are a pair of doves who spend most of their time in the neighborhood.
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