Gallery of MOAR!

Sparrowfeeding season! Let me get the impulse to snap the new arrivals at their dinners out of my system, today — then, I’ll keep the gaping beaks to a minimum, I swear.

More evidence that some species of birds, at least, can tell us apart, and judge us frightening or harmless: the sparrows are ignoring me. Last year, they treated me with some suspicion: they’d land on the balcony while I was on it, but feed more quickly, and avoid standing within arm’s reach. This year, they land on the feeder while I’m filling it, and dine at leisure, as long as I stand still. They bring their fledglings within grabbing distance, and think nothing of it. How do they know I’m not fattening them up, so I can scoop them all into a pie? I suppose they don’t. Probably, their reasoning is no more complex than “has not yet eaten us; not likely to eat us.”

The young bird pictured here quickly identified me as someone who wasn’t going to feed it, and returned to its meal. The adult saw me and dismissed me. It didn’t so much as glance in my direction, after the initial once-over. Apparently, being a parent consumes all of one’s attention. (Either that, or we aren’t as interesting to birds as they are to us: if we’re not a threat, we’re irrelevant.)

The feeding went on for nearly seven minutes. I have the feeling it would’ve kept right on going, had my neighbour not come out on his balcony. The instant that happened, the adult sparrow KICKED the wee one off the railing (no joke! — kicked it, with its foot!), and followed it down to the bushes. I’m easily ignored, sitting three feet away; my neighbour’s terrifying, on a whole other balcony. Go figure.

Twenty minutes later, the birds were back. The little one isn’t eating from the feeder, yet, just sitting by and waiting for a treat. It watches its father peck away, but has yet to copy his behaviour. I suppose feeding itself comes at a later stage of development. I don’t think it’s even learned to preen, yet; it’s awfully scruffy-looking.

Below, you can JUST make out the tiny sparrow doing its wing-flappety begging dance:

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