The pretty good books of Susan Larson

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A Culture of Dependency


Don’t get me wrong. I like birds. They sing very nicely and they are gifted natural athletes. There were a lot of them living in the woods near my house. I wanted to view them closer up, so I bought a feeder and stuck it on a pole outside my window.


Winter came, and with it the snow. Little songbirds flocked to my feeder, chowing down on seeds and suet, fluttering and chirping and acting cute. It was as if they were putting on a show just for me.


But then as the winter deepened and dragged on, I noticed something. These birds were just hanging around doing nothing! Nothing but eating, that is. Literally SNAPPING up bags and bags of the organic, gluten-free non-GMO seeds, that I bought for a hefty price at Wild Birds Unlimited! Even I don’t eat that well!


Only yesterday, I saw three or four mourning doves sitting–practically lying down– on the feeder tray, for HOURS, stoking up on my birdseed! They were so lazy they barely moved. They had taken up permanent residence and were hogging all the food!


I saw a small gang of juncos loitering in my foundation plantings, waiting to feed their habits if the doves ever moved off. But then a crew of starlings came in and cleaned out two suet feeders– dropping gobs of suet on the ground and not cleaning up after themselves– before they flew off, gibbering in their incomprehensible language. No doubt they were going to loot the feeders of other hardworking citizens.


I realized then that I had perpetuated a culture of dependency; these birds thought they were ENTITLED to food! They had infiltrated my patio, expecting more and more free stuff.. They had stopped fending for themselves, because my good intentions had turned them into lazy, and I hate to say it, shiftless, parasites. What next, would they try to come into the house? Sleep in my bed? Eat my food? It’s a slippery slope.


It was time for me to exercise some benign neglect, before these birds took over my life; so I took the feeder down. I am proud to say it worked. All the birds left my yard, without a single word of thanks for everything I had done for them. They left a lot of bird poop too.



What’s the lesson in all this? In this world there are seeders and there are feeders. Give a bird some sunflower seeds and you feed him for a day. Teach a bird to plant sunflower seeds and he can feed himself for life. I’m sure that’s what they are doing in the woods now. I can’t really tell; it’s awfully quiet out there.


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