In that spirit, we birders put out feeders, hoping to lure the birds in by appealing to their laziness. I’m not a homeowner, nor do I have a proper backyard – it’s more of a concrete slab – but for the first time in my adult life, I have outdoor space of my own. Not only that, but I live in an area replete with interesting birds. So I decided it was time to get in on the feeding act. Encouraged by the near-constant presence of the local hummingbirds, I opted to start with a hummingbird feeder.
The idea of a hummingbird feeder is simple – a cheap plastic container, brightly colored so as to mimic flowers (the birds’ natural food source), filled with a mixture of sugar and water. The birds hover over it or sit on a perch, and use their long tongues to lap the nectar out. Bingo – easy calories for them, a convenient place to watch hummingbirds for me. Everybody wins.
So I picked up a feeder at the local backyard nature store, and today during my lunch break (I work from home), I mixed up some sugar-water, filled the feeder, and hung it from a branch in my backyard. Open for business. Let the drama begin.
Since I see Allen’s Hummingbirds many times during the course of a typical day, I’m confident there will be action soon. I move my desk to the most advantageous position so as not to miss a thing. Warily, I get back to work.
Nothing happens for a little while – not too surprising, since the “yard” is small and the birds seem to roam around the neighborhood. But twenty-five minutes in, a female Allen’s Hummingbird zips in and perches on a branch. She’s maybe four feet from the feeder, but facing away from it. My heart pounds. I watch her sit there, getting a close look through my binoculars, searching her tiny face for some sign that she recognizes her good fortune. Just take the food. Are you too good for your food? After a few seconds she lifts off, turns around, and hovers at a small flower as if to feed – a flower directly above the feeder. It’s not even brightly colored for chrissakes, but some withered-looking little brown thing. She pauses there for a second or two, then buzzes straight out of the yard, out of sight, as quickly as she came.
So close. But after that, it’s quiet. A birdless hour goes by, and paranoia creeps in. What if they never come? What if they have all the food they could want already? What if my whole life is a farce, and the reality is that the hummingbirds actually built my home so as to lure me in, and while I stare out one window at the pointless feeder, they’re staring in through another window, marveling at this odd human behavior? A quick glance around at the other windows fails to confirm this, but I know it doesn’t disprove it either. My countenance darkens.
For the sake of my inner calm, though, I might move my desk away from the window.