Help! I Just Killed the Bird of Paradise


In my back yard is a beautiful oak tree. I purchased it, planted it, nourished it, and pruned it to its present magnificence. The lower limbs are trimmed high enough so I can mow without getting a branch in the eye.

From the Ramada outside of my humongous sliding glass door, I can see the two bird feeders, one hummingbird feeder and spike board that I put orange and apple slices on to feed the, pair plus one, Gila woodpeckers.

I started this hobby last winter during the extremely irregular cold that fell on Tucson. Food is energy and I like to have the birds around, so I fed them. I bought a book and started to identify each species that came into the yard. My wife even got into the act and tells me “I (speaking for herself) must have had thirty doves under the tree. I had all three Gila Woodpeckers, a Cardinal, a Hummingbird and that Pyro all at once,” although she never fills the feeders!

Winter changed to summer, and the local plants went to seed. I took my feeders down for the summer so the young quail and the young of everything else would not depend on me and learn to feed naturally.

See! I’m a truly caring and deliberate person. I have a conscience about nature and think of myself as a fairly good Earth steward.

Please hang with me. I’m eventually going to make a point!

Summer has turned to fall. I’ve retired from work after fifty-two years and have time to put the feeders back out and maintain them. Each day, when I’m not writing, I enjoy the chaos at the feeders. The birds that feed on the feeders kick seeds on the ground and the doves and quail bare the ground, walking in circles and chasing each other. I have a menagerie!

All my little chickees (baby talk) are getting plump and colorful. They even scold me when their feeders are empty. Now I’m obligated! They sit right there in that tree not four feet away and are on those feeders the second I walk away. My expense has gone from fifteen dollars a month to thirty, and they expect me to spend more because they keep inviting their relative’s relatives.

One day, I was sitting at the breakfast bar looking toward the patio door. A Coopers hawk swooped in and nailed one of the doves on the ground. It all happened quickly. There was an explosion of wings and feathers and forty of forty one made it out of there. I’d been noticing piles of feathers in the grass for a while now.

I moved slowly to the door edge and took a picture with the digital while Mr. Coopers was eating breakfast. When he was done, he took a drink from the water bowl on the ground, wiped his lips off and flew away. I got to witness another nature thing. Hooray for me!

The lawn needed mowing, so I cleaned up the feathers and other leftovers with the lawnmower, refilled the feeders, and went about my business.

About noon that same day, I only had the screen door closed; I heard the explosion of wings again. As I peeked around the corner of the door, a Peregrine falcon was perched on my fence overlooking the yard. He sat still for a few moments, realized he’d scared all the food away, and then silently glided down to the water dish and stepped right in it with both feet and just stood there. I think he was cooling himself. I could see a metal band on one leg which reminded me that raptors are protected.

So, I got to thinkin’ and realized what I’ve done is created a smorgasbord for, who knows, how many different predators! And those chubby little birds are probably spreading diseases amongst themselves bathing in their drinking water and fighting over the food that’s beginning to break me.

It all started because I was kind hearted.

BUT I SCREWED WITH MOTHER NATURE, and now I’m paying the price!

I feel a little guilty about all of this! Should I stop feeding the little chickees, so I don’t feed the predators? Should I keep feeding the birds, so I get to see the raptors too? What’s more important, me, my feelings or them?

Of all the answers I received, this person answered my question wonderfully. He said “what I witnessed in my back yard was going to happen somewhere near anyway! Enjoy the nature happening ‘right in your own backyard’. Enjoy seeing those predators up close, doing what predators do in the normal cycle of life.”


About Ronald D. Drobeck

I've read, learned, been discriminated against, patronized, lied to, laughed at, laughed with, and ignored. I'm not a minority, not tall, not good looking, not skinny, not hairy, and can see 10 miles, but not two feet. I've been a paperboy, college student, licensed nursing home administrator, professional musician (country swing drummer), duck and goose hunter, fisherman, conservationist, Eagle scout, camp counselor, canoeing instructor, lifeguard, comedian, restaurant owner, licensed exterminator, insurance agent, warehouse manager, carpenter, conservative, father of 4, baseball coach, husband, worrier, writer, embryo gardener, photographer, and nice guy. now, old.

2 responses »

  1. Well you captured me in your short story..Too funny how people come into your life. I could write all of this myself..I met my new husband 7 years ago. Moved into his house, married him..Anyway. I am a gardener. Can’t help myself..That’s another story. Here I am working on the side of the driveway planting and digging..All of a sudden I hear a crash at our window above me. A Cooper’s Hawk had hit a dove at full speed and it hit really hard, The poor dove fell right at my feet. I picked it up as the hawk flew off and I could tell the dove was taking it’s last breath.. I just laid it to the side of the driveway and went inside. Felt kinda bad..It took awhile and I went to the window to look outside and I will have to show you a picture on your site. The hawk did come back for the dove. Loved your story…Marsha


  2. Everytime I sort though out here I find one I missed. Now you are obligated to feed, like it or not! And it is a fun thing to watch the birds no matter what. Life at the bird feeders!


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