Feeding Our Winged Visitors: Birds
By Jorge Ventocilla
There is everything for everyone in this world. “What a lot of things!”, Aunt Carmen used to say, marveled at the endless variety. Among the diversity of people living in cities and rural areas, still some people would take some time for providing food, not only for themselves and the ones they care about, but also for birds, allowing their patios or gardens to become dining areas where fruit, bread or birdseed is served.
In our family, we enjoy feeding birds. We have a bird feeder and we love to see birds come and eat. We can almost say that they know us and that they let us know when they are hungry or if we have been neglecting them.
I know that some people will relate to this. We are like partners in crime; we do the same: feed the birds around us.
And not all people in this group are grown-up ladies with gardening as a hobby. I know a lot of young people, adults and kids, Biology, Business, and Math students, employees, retired and unemployed people, musicians, hearing impaired people, loners and outgoing people, who do the same...
What moves us? Who knows…maybe it is just curiosity or the desire to take a better look at them, or maybe it is compassion for weaker creatures. Maybe it is just the feeling of sharing something with a different species.
How can we build a bird feeder? We need to make it simple and practical. There are several ways of building one; we don’t have to buy them in supermarkets or pet shops (these are usually imported and rather expensive).
At home, we used a basic wire chicken coop structure, with folded edges and a stake at one end for the birds to step on easily. We placed it hanging from the roof eave; if any crumbs come falling down, they would land on the garden below. Of course, it is important to choose a location that is both visible (for enjoying the show) and safe (for keeping cats away).
Birds like the blue jay, the point-tailed palm creeper or the clay-colored thrush will come if there are trees around and if any pieces of banana, orange, papaya, or any other fruit are left for them. We would also be able to see woodpeckers; they do like their fruit. For seed-eating birds, like the dickcissel or the ruddy ground-dove, a small portion of birdseed is an invitation for dinner.
As a matter of fact, the closer we are from tree-covered areas, the greater the chances of seeing one of these birds, or some special ones like the red-legged honeycreeper, which we can see in bird feeders in neighborhoods like La Cresta and Vía Argentina. Even parakeets, which are very cautious, may decide to come down and join the party.
Martín Testa, a poet and environmentalist, and also my friend, served many years as coordinator for the “Asociación Guardianes de la Naturaleza” (Nature Guard Association) and also as an officer at ANAM (Panamanian Environmental Authority). More than ten years ago, Martín called to tell me that he was dreaming or daydreaming about a contest, a bird feeder and bird house contest. He even had a name for it: “Concurso Avicasitas” (Bird house Contest).
In my opinion, poets are good counselors and it is wise to listen to them. I did listen, and we finally were able to hold the contest. At that time, I was in charge of the Punta Culebra Nature Center in the Amador Causeway.
We had several sponsors. A lot of people entered the contest. If you could only see all these hand-made bird houses! Some people may say these contests are crazy or a waste of time, but it is quite the opposite. Activities like these are good for raising awareness and educating about environmental issues. It also proves that there is still sanity in Panama City.
English translation by Sara I. Melo D.