I don’t think there’s an easier way to connect to another living being than to look out your window and see what birds are there. Even if you’re in a city, you will have the ubiquitous pigeons, house sparrows, starlings, and at night even owls. Just as gazing at a fish tank reduces stress and lowers blood pressure, so does watching birds at a feeder. There’s something about nature that soothes the soul and calms the human heart. Maybe it’s something as fundamental and simple as having a relationship with something else that’s alive.
Unlike captive fish in a tank, part of the fun of birds is never knowing which will show up at your window. The natives will of course always be there, but almost half the world’s birds are migratory; there’s no telling who might be passing through your neighborhood and spy that inviting tray of food or much-needed pan of water. Also unlike a fish tank, you don’t need specialized equipment. A cracked plate filled with seed and an old skillet with water will work (never a bowl or deep dish they can’t get out of). Of course you can get all fancy but the birds won’t care.
I recently moved from country to town and what I missed most (other than silence and privacy!) were “my” birds, the regulars who showed up at feeder and fountain every morning while I spied over coffee. Once we sort of got settled in the new place I got some seed and put out a feeder. It took a while but eventually old favorites came to it, first the big birds like jays and thrashers, then the towhees and titmice. That was when I began to make friends with my new surroundings and not miss the old so much . It took the comfort of friends to make the new house a home.
But not all birds are seed eaters – some prefer bugs or berries, so they won’t come to a feeder, preferring as they do to lurk in bush and tree. For Christmas my wife got me a good but inexpensive pair of binoculars and in the ancient tangle of roses outside my bedroom window I saw two types of birds that will spend the winter here but never come to a feeder. Hence the beauty of a shallow dish of water, for while I watched both species took a turn sipping from it. Later one of those birds came back to splash around for a quick and seemingly joyful bath. Then, like a quiet mist, a flock of cedar waxwings settled into a nearby pyracantha hedge, just passing through but stopping along the way for a quick feast of lush red berries.
Birds are fragile creatures, yet so resilient and full of life. Their lives are short and filled with peril but they carry on with huge and valiant hearts. They are a constant reminder to me that all life passes, but until it does it should be lived boldly and beautifully.
So offer up some food and water. See who you can attract into your life, for the little winged ones are wise and faithful companions, and which one of us can’t use more of them?