Birds: Helpful Neighbors or Ruthless Overlords?

treeA three day weekend before me, I had one plan and one plan only: to move a tree.

To be specific, a volunteer tree that was growing in a small shaded area between our home and the back fence. Far too close to both home and fence.

After some careful research, I determined it was a silk tree – Albizia julibrissin – and that it would make a pretty little shade tree near our front entrance.

My dad was a great one for transplanting volunteer plants, and I think of him whenever I follow his practice. Although my success rate is nowhere near as good as his, I like to think I’m improving.

I also tend to think it will go much faster than it actually does, because I forget I live in Phoenix. Digging a hole in Phoenix is not for the faint of heart.

After 20 minutes, this is what I accomplished:


In case you can’t tell, the deepest I got is four inches. That’s one inch every five minutes.

I’ll be here all weekend, at this rate.watered-hole

Revised plan: I fill the four-inch hole with water and set about trying to dig around the tree.

I accomplish even less there. Hot and sweaty, I set another hose by the tree and look up to see a bird sitting on the fence, watching me. Like, really eyeing me.

Then he starts cheeping and chittering.

Now, I’m not fluent in sparrow, but I know when I’m being scolded. This little bugger was calling me a lazy-butt.

“You call that digging?” he cheeped. “Put your back into it!”

Once when I was watching my dad move a volunteer tree from the side of our house, I asked him how it got there in the first place.

“A bird planted it,” he told me. “It ate a seed from some other tree, then when the bird pooped, the seed was in it. So wherever the poop lands, that’s where the tree grows.”

I liked the idea of birds and trees being in cahoots, one helping spread the species via pooping, while the other provides food and shelter. Only I thought it a shame the birds couldn’t select their pooping locations a little better. If they did, the trees would have a better shot at surviving.

“They rely on us for that,” my dad said.

bookHmm. Rely on us, or demand it of us?

Not that long ago I came across a great find: “An Island Garden” by Celia Thaxter. First published in 1894, it’s a collection of essays about the little garden she kept on one of the Isles of Shoals, with beautiful illustrations by Childe Hassam.

The copy I found was printed in 1988, but you can get a first edition for just a little over $2,000.

On page 38, she writes:

I do not lose patience with the birds, however sorely they try me. I love them too well. How should they know that the garden was not planted for them?

Indeed, how do they know the entire earth was not planted for them?

sparrowThink it about it, friends. Who is really in charge in this situation?

It’s something to think about.

Meanwhile, I got a hole to dig. Mr. Sparrow says I’ve taken too long a break as it is.

17 thoughts on “Birds: Helpful Neighbors or Ruthless Overlords?

  1. The Spawn has a bird that sits outside his window and everyday, pecks at the glass as if it’s asking to be invited in. Apparently, the look of ” carnal and murderous rage” in that of the bird’s eyes, prohibits him from opening said window. Time to make another appointment with the child therapist methinks.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Birds, like cats, understand who’s in charge. Example: we have a large pokeweed plant (planted by a bird of course), normally considered a pest weed that we let grow. Why? Because every year about this time a flock of Cedar Wax Wings comes through to feast on the berries. Who’s ruling the roost?

    Liked by 1 person

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