I have, on my moseyings about the neighbourhood, come upon other birdfeeders. Most are perfectly lovely: there’s one in a bush, which offers shelter and snacks to the local song sparrows; another on a balcony, that has little flower-shaped trumpets, for the hummers. And there’s one nearly hidden under an awning and behind a bush, that nonetheless attracts the starlings. But today, I stumbled upon one that wasn’t so great. It was old, so old the plastic had clouded, and very, very dirty. The seeds at the bottom had begun to moulder away, while the ones at the top were fresh and new. Clearly, someone has been — and still is — putting out new food without clearing away the old. This feeder is already doing harm: when I approached, a sad little finch was perched on top, puffed up, with her beak down, and clear signs of infection around her eyes. I felt sorry for her, of course, but it also occurred to me that she could cross over to MY feeder, wipe her germs all over it. Birds like to rub their faces on the feeder and on the railing, after a good nosh — you know, to dislodge little bits of seed, and so forth. An infected bird could cause a serious outbreak, that way.
Of course, I soap up my feeder nightly, and bleach it out once a week, but would that really be effective, if a sick bird got in? It could shoulder itself up between a pair of healthy birds, and slather them with microbes, all in a matter of moments. And I can’t clean the railing as effectively as the feeder, itself, as it doesn’t come off. (Not, of course, that I’d want it to. A railing’s a very good thing, when one’s standing five floors above concrete.)
So far, my finches are healthy, and my sparrows, pigeons, gulls, crows, and flickers also seem full of beans. But I’ll have to keep a vigilant eye on them, get ready to take in the feeder, should anything appear to be making the rounds.
At any rate, I find myself in a bit of a quandary: should I steal and destroy the rubbish feeder, or leave it alone? On one hand, it isn’t mine. It’s illegal to take things that belong to other people. I could probably get in a bit of trouble. I mean, I doubt I’d go to prison, or anything, but I might have to pay a fine, or pick up trash along the roadside. On the other hand, it’s disgusting. It’s old, germy, and full of mould. A bird could kill itself, eating from that. It could even be harmful to people…well, maybe. Probably not. But you do occasionally hear about somebody breathing in mould spores, which then eat their faces off. Nobody likes a prosthetic face.
Maybe I should take it, wash it, refill it, and put it back. But that makes for TWO chances to get caught, instead of just one. And it’s up a bit, hanging off someone’s balcony. I’d have to jump up, maybe even climb part of a tree, to get at it. I’m not much for jumping or climbing. I might be able to bash it down with my walking stick, but that would definitely attract attention.
While I consider my options, here are some pictures of a poofy sparrow. He’s plumping himself up because he’s sunbathing, not because he’s under the weather. In fact, he’s a healthy, happy, NOISY wee chap; I see him most mornings, first thing.