Why Feeding Birds is like Barkeeping

Written By: Sarah Girton

I always watch my bird feeders in the morning when I’m drinking my coffee. This morning started as it usually does, in all its glory — the morning chorus, the finches squabbling over seeds, robins running around the yard. And this mated pair of Eurasian Collared Doves lands on the ground below the pole system I hang my feeders from. They’re first-timers, and not terribly familiar with what’s available. They’re checking out the digs, being their adorably shy selves…when two nearby pigeons break out into an absolute street fight. I’m talking beaks, feet, feathers…the works. This, of course, scares the doves away, and who knows if they’ll want to return after that debacle. 

And that’s when I realized that feeding birds is a lot like tending a bar. You’ve got to keep everyone topped off. You need to make sure your patrons are happy. You have to break up fights. There are dudes hitting on girls who are clearly not interested. And the mess! But I am not complaining, in fact that’s part of why I feed my birds; they are just so darn entertaining.


Another reason that feeding birds is like bartending is that you get to know your regulars. There is a male house finch in my neighborhood who adds a few extra notes to the end of his song that I’ve never heard from any other house finch. I love that I always know when he’s around just based on his song. He’s not the most red, but he has got the pipes to make up for it!

And perhaps more exciting: Your regulars get to know you! I’ve only been in my current house for about a year, so my birds are still getting used to me, but they definitely associate me with food after watching me fill their feeders on a regular basis. They give happy little chirps from nearby trees and rooftops as they watch me, and not seconds after I’ve turned around they are swarming the feeders! They also don’t seem to mind when I’m working in my yard, so long as I don’t get too close. I can overhear the quieter conversations that they have that I can’t hear when I’m watching from inside the house.


But oh, I have seen some intense squabbles in my time feeding birds. Especially in spring and summer, when everyone is more hormonal and territorial. My robins get very possessive over a chosen feeder or birdbath. My finches get sassy and go into these little aerial dogfights that don’t look especially dangerous, but then again I’m not a 20 gram dinosaur.

Picture of house sparrows fighting, from wellcommunity.org


I also love that, later in the season, they end up trusting my yard enough to bring their fledglings. It’s an honor to me that they feel my yard (or establishment, if you will) is safe enough to bring their brand new babies, who are still very reliant on their parents, and so vulnerable. Watching those unkempt babies beg for food and making a big ruckus is pretty darn amusing. 

Then there are the pigeons. I’ve taken steps to not encourage a large pigeon presence since they tend to monopolize the feeders, but they still like to hang out and eat up anything that falls to the ground, and that’s okay with me. What I don’t particularly care for though is when they pull stunts like this:

my own work

Or this. They are fond of pooping in the bird bath, and then sitting in it:

my own work

I guess every bartender always has that group of regulars that gets on their nerves, while generally wrecking up the place.

Okay, so maybe feeding birds is not exactly like a bar…maybe it’s more of a Chuck E. Cheese.

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