Do you really believe birds are peaceful and kind?


The blue jay arrives. Get out of his way, or the battle begins Photograph: J Gerald Crawfod
The blue jay arrives. Get out of his way, or the battle begins Photograph: J Gerald Crawfod

TOO OFTEN, I’ve heard the human race criticized for being evil.

And I’m sure it’s true.

We’re ruled by greed, they say.

And I’m sure it’s true.

We lust after power, they say.

And I’m sure it’s true.

We are selfish, they say.

And I’m sue it’s true.

We should be more like the beasts of the field, they say.

I raise an eyebrow.

We should be more like the birds in the air, they say.

I raise both eyebrows.

Birds live in a peaceable kingdom, they say.

Birds get along, they say.

Nature is love, they say.

Nature is harmonious, they say.

Now I’m shaking my head.

They should sit with me for a while in my backyard, I think.

They should witness life as it is, not as they think it is.

Birds are beautiful.

Birds are graceful.

I watch them in flight, and I am mesmerized by the way they catch the wind and soar far beyond the limits where my eyes can see.

I love birds.

I feed them daily.

He'll hide for now and fight another time.
He’ll hide for now and fight another time. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford

BUT LET ME TELL YOU the harsh, ugly truth.

Birds don’t get along.

Birds have their own hierarchy in nature.

I see it every morning while the daylight is breaking in the trees.

Birds are selfish.

Birds are greedy.

Birds will fight at the drop of a sunflower seed.

The little guys come to the feeder first, the wrens and nuthatches and sparrows.

When the cardinals arrive, the little guys fly away.

The blue jay chases the cardinals back into the trees.

The thrasher slaps the blue jay off the perch.

And when the woodpecker shows up, the rest of the birds all leave town.

The woodpecker goes back to his hole in the twisted old oak.

And here come the doves.

It’s quiet.

The doves have the feeder to themselves.

There are no other birds around to bother them.

But they eat fast.

They eat quick.

They know the other birds won’t stay away long.

And the doves will be gone and out of sight when the battles begin anew, and the battles last from sun up to sundown.

I’ve read mysteries that have the same plot.

He has it.

Somebody else wants it.

He’ll fight for it.

Somebody else has a bigger gun.

He can leave or die.

The smart ones are the like the birds.

They leave.

The wise ones ignore the birds.

They don’t come back.

And almost always, there is a woman involved.

It’s that way with birds.

It’s that way with men.

The only difference is that the beautiful female bird never runs off and falls in love with the bad bird.

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  • Caleb Pirtle

    The battle royal begins in my backyard about daybreak. I might has well be watching a Western with cattlemen chasing sheepherders off the prairie.

  • Don Newbury

    Never figured you’d ever reach a time in life you’d be intrigued by such detailed study! Glad you’ve arrived. Much to be said about your observations–they made me recall a guy who used to provide letters-to-editor in S-T from out in Argyle. He was always writing about the “sassy bluejays.”

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Blue jays are as tough as they come until the woodpecker rides into town, which isn’t big enough for both of them.

  • Gerald Crawford

    I watched the birds in your secret garden when I visited. Enjoyed very one of them never knowing they all had different stories to share. You bring out the best in all that is around you.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Thanks, Crawf, and thanks for the great photographs.

  • Darlene Jones

    “Nature is love.” Ha! Every species has its vicious side.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Darlene, birds are like some women I have known. Beautiful. The finest clothes. The highest heels. High polish and manicure. Then here comes the dagger with a smile.

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