Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Birds Can Teach Us A Lesson or Two

Yellowed with age, this tale of the cardinals was found in my grandmother's clippings file.

Characteristics of birds, as we have said before, change little, if any, over the eons of time. Consequently, this scenario could happen outside your window today just as it did at the feeding tray of this couple some 85 to 90 years ago. Birds don't change!

Following is an enchanting account by the observers of the "way of birds:"

"My husband and I were delighted and amused at breakfast recently by an episode outside our dining room window, so amazingly human as to make an almost unbelievable bird story.

"Having fed sunflower seeds all winter to a rose-taupe Mrs. Cardinal and a scarlet Mr. Cardinal from a feeding tray outside our window, we are this summer feeding in addition little Jenny and Jane and Jim Cardinal. (There seem to be two small females and one rose-spotted young male.)

"As soon as these three were able to leave the nest, the parent birds brought them to the tray, and shelling sunflower seeds, put the kernels into the wide open mouths of the little ones. This feeding was accompanied by constant trembling of little wings and strange crying on the part of the babies, which sounded to us like the insistent ringing of little silver bells.

"Soon we noticed that the young birds came alone to feed. They were very helpless at first, and seeing their inability to crack the husks, we fed them shelled seeds at one meal. Deciding, however, that this was an unsound pedagogical principle, we straightway abandoned it and in little more than a day's time all three youngsters could not only feed themselves ably, but could drive away the sparrows that plagued them as well.

"However, (and this is where my story really begins), one morning while Jenny was having her breakfast, Mother Cardinal flew to the tray to break her fast also. Before our astonished eyes and ear, the young scamp, who until that moment had been feeding herself with perfect ease, at once dropped the seed from her mouth and began the infantile fluttering of her wings, accompanied by her babyhood cry -- which she could still muster and which still sounded to us exactly like the ringing of the little silver bell.

"The mother gave no heed to this display -- whereupon Jenny took a seed in her bill and shifted it about with the unjustable pretense of being unable to shell it.

"This method of appeal she alternated with the whimperings and teasings I have just described, until Mrs. Cardinal -- exasperated as nay mother would be -- said to her in effect, 'Oh, stop the nonsense child!' and slapping Jenny with her bill, flew away.

"Thereupon (and to this I set my sign and seal) the little feathered child at once resumed her feeding in a sensible and very grownup manner."

Oh, but what we humans could learn if we would but observe nature!