This place is for the birds

There was a time, not so long ago, when we could do whatever we wanted at our humble domicile. But then our avian friends arrived, and they decided that “Su casa es mi casa.” They just moved right in, without even asking permission..

In fact, they seem to have quite the attitude, as though we are infringing on their space.

A hummingbird feeding on our cigar plant.

We have a family of finches behind an awning over the back door. We tried our best to discourage them from building there, but to no avail. Working around the clock, they assembled a mass of twigs, grass and spider webbing into a sturdy structure. And, a mere two weeks little, little chirps emanated from this space, demanding to be fed.

The other day, I decided to celebrate the warm spring day by blasting a bit of Frank Sinatra out to the patio. That was summarily interrupted when Sherry reminded me that another finch family was in the making in a nest behind one of the outdoor speakers.

”They don’t like Sinatra?” I asked, incredulously.

But I already knew the answer, because the mother-to-be has no sense of humor. We know this because she puts up quite a fuss when we get anywhere near that nest. So, of course, we oblige and keep our distance.

Now, apparently, they have called some relatives because yet another family is moving in, this time building a nest in a hanging plant in front of our kitchen window. We purchased this “cigar plant” because it attracts hummingbirds. But the finches feel right at home.

A male finch standing guard.

The mother-to-be works nonstop gathering material for the nest, while her mate does what he does best: puffing out his crimson chest and protecting his territory. This is no small feat, because he is convinced another male is trying to move in. That challenger happens to be his own reflection in our kitchen window.

The finches are amusing, but the hummingbirds are downright entertaining. No sooner had we hung cuphea ignea (Latin for “tube on fire”, since the plant’s flowers resemble a lit cigarette or cigar) and the little birds appeared. We have many flowering plants in our yard, but none attracts the diminutive flyers like the cigar plant, which they find downright addictive.

”I like being the hummingbird drug-dealer,” quipped Sherry. They do seem to enjoy getting their fix of sucrose.

We haven’t been able to identify exactly how many separate hummingbirds are visiting their newfound supply for a sugar rush. But it seems that they are very territorial about this new food source.

We’ve seen one or two attack any newcomers to “their” plant. Squatter’s rights, I guess.

Pick on someone your own size

Yes, the animal kingdom is a rough place. But what is especially amusing are the birds who like to punch above their weight class. The smaller aerialists attack their larger brethren with little fear.

The crows are big. Really big. Like, Thanksgiving Turkey big. But they are not the biggest, baddest bird in the sky. Red tail hawks occasionally visit, soaring above our property.

And nothing puts the cacophonous crows into such a state of noise-making as the sight of a hawk soaring overhead.

Like a squadron of P-51 Mustangs, they take to the sky and dive-bomb the giant hawk, who nonchalantly tips his wings ever so slightly to ascend another 50 or so feet to stay above the fray. Why these apex predators don’t swipe at the provocateurs is a mystery.

The irony of it all is that while the crows are attacking the hawks, the mockingbirds are doing the same to the crows.

One site of a crow anywhere near their nests and the mockingbirds are all over the potential egg-thief, who is, of course, five times the size of any one of the attackers.

And we have other visitors. Mourning doves, orioles, wrens and occasionally a robin. We even had a giant egret sitting by the pool one day, apparently fascinated by his reflection.

They all seem to feel right at home. Which is just fine with us, not that we have a choice in the matter.

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