Pecking Order

Pecking Order

Pecking Order


We finally remembered our promise to our winged friends, and replenished their seed supply last night.

I watch out my window this morning as birds flock around the feeder.

Ten, maybe twelve small brown birds (that with my limited birding knowledge I’ve decided to call sparrows) find strength in numbers.

The aggressors, perched up high, combatively defend their positions should another bird dare to pass within a few inches. They also literally crap on those perched below.

The bottom feeders seem to know their place as well. They don’t challenge those above them, but simply peck away at the food, glad for the chance of a full winter stomach. Accepting of their lot in life.

A cardinal arrives, and despite the fact that the rolled up seed bag sitting inches from his feet is clearly labeled “Cardinal Bird Seed” as well as the fact that he’s twice the other birds’ size, he contents himself with castoffs strewn on the deck floor. He’s a beauty: flaming scarlet from his peaked head to the tops of his scrawny bird legs. From the looks of his distended belly, it would seem that focusing on deck scraps yields a fairly generous return.

A woodpecker swoops in from time to time, and the winged gang scatters. Woody quickly grabs his fill, and flies away to enjoy his breakfast in solitude . . . with a cup of coffee, no doubt, steaming hot and black, and the Wall Street Journal. He’ll be back for seconds soon.

Why do the sparrows fear him yet ignore the cardinal? Are they afraid that he’ll turn and use his drill-like beak on them?

Finally, Mr. Squirrel arrives on the scene: a nut brown bully with a bushy tail and black, beady eyes who pounces on the wooden deck railing, setting off a sudden wing storm. He scurries up and across the “squirrel-proof” metal bird feeder hanger like Nadia Comăneci on the balance beam, shimmies down the swinging tube, and stuffs his cheeks to his heart’s content with nary a bird in view: not sparrow, nor cardinal, nor woodpecker.

They’ve all flown the coop, as it were.

He’s king of the feeder, ruler of the coveted winter food supply intended for an entirely different species. Apparently, he has also flagrantly ignored the writing on the seed bag. He has Trumped them all with his size, his might, and his birdseed blitzkrieg.

Until I rap on the window, that is, and he drops to the deck in a ninja crouch then scurries into the bushes below before you can say, “big, bad human being”.

Pecking order.

We all have a role to play.


Written by Becky


  • Catherine says:

    So true, so true! And so insight-fully described. I agree with Lisa!

  • Hi Beck….Here’s my little contribution:

    Crafty old squirrel defeats every try
    We use to refuse him the birdseed on high,
    An aerialist of note, he’ll constantly win
    And fill up on bird food to our great chagrin

    Your posting above was so good….you get A+ on it! YLM.

  • Stephanie says:

    I enjoyed this post since I spend a lot of time observing the dynamics of the animal milieu in my backyard. I always keep the feeders stocked much to the delight of the birds, squirrels and especially the dogs in my house who watch the squirrels. It’s all very entertaining but I had never considered the comparison to human behavior… leave it to you to make that keen observation!

    By the way, I bought a new feeder a couple of weeks ago and the nice gentleman who sold it to me said they call those nondescript small brown birds “LBB’s” (little brown birds), so your description of ‘small brown birds’ reflects more knowledge than you thought!

  • Patty from MMC says:

    In light of last night’s Iowa Caucus, held in the state whose borde is just 10 miles away, this hold added significance.

  • Lisa says:

    I saw what you did there! I love birds and enjoyed your colorful narrative about them enjoying their feast at your feeder. It’s always interesting to see comparisons between animal and human behavior. Please write more pieces like this!!!

    • Becky says:

      Oh, I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Lisa!

      Here’s the story behind this post. I wrote it in 20-25 minutes yesterday morning before my day got going, and considered it as “maybe, possibly, would-be” potential back up for a day when I just couldn’t muster up the strength to write anything, but felt the need to publish something at least.

      Last night, as I was about to begin working on another post, I went to close this post, but accidentally hit the dreaded PUBLISH button, and the jig was up. It was out there in internet land, and shy of trashing the whole thing, there was nothing I could do about it. So I went with it.

      And now I read your message asking for more like this, and have a grin on my face from ear to ear. So thank you, my friend, for helping to turn an accident into something pleasant!

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About Me:

Hi! My name is Becky. I’m a mom, a wife, a friend, a writer, and a compulsive thinker. Don't invite me to a spa or to shop the day away, but rather, make me laugh, engage me in interesting conversation, play a game with me, or give me a cappuccino and homemade vanilla bean flan and I’m yours ‘til the cows come home.

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