Breakfast Time for Birds

It all started as a cup of water and some dried bread crumbs for the local doves and quail. Little did we suspect that it would become breakfast at the patio wall for birds, but it certainly has become a source of family entertainment.

After two or three broken cups, local research turned up small pyrex storage dishes that would fit on the wall and still support the weight of a thirsty bird or two. But that was just the start.

Now in addition to fresh water refills and seeds on the wall, there is a suet basket and a bell of seeds for songbirds. Since the hummingbird seemed to be left out, a feeder has been added to a patio tree. It is a very dry climate so we haven't figured out if the "hummers" have actually found the feeder or if the nectar evaporates. No doubt some evening that will reveal itself. The wee rascals regularly check out the red butterfly weed in that corner.

We have come to love the different personalities and no longer consider doves peaceful. Doves even duke it out among themselves, but the quail take little guff from them. Even though the quail are the largest birds at the feeders, many smaller birds feel comfortable in joining them so you will see them chowing down with the red-headed house finches, the cactus wrens and the sparrows.

I try not to play favorites, but I admit to a fondness for the quail. When Mama Quail hatched out 9 little ones in one of my geranium pots one year, I was totally won over, and all that happened before we started the birdseed routine. Mind you, my initial cups of water were not totally without self interest. Something was taking big bites out of the tops of our handsome opuntia pads. Hmmm, I thought, what would I do if I were thirsty? Well, so far my suspicion about the birds' thirst seems to be paying off.

Okay, I discriminate. In the mornings I do not put the bird seed on the wall until Papa Quail hops up on the wall and saunters up to the water dish. He looks expectantly toward the patio door. That's when I pick up the cup of seeds and the water jug and head out. The click of the lock catches the attention of any nearby birds, and some fly off. Papa waits on the wall until I actually step outside. Sometimes he just moves away from the water dish. I talk to them because I know the family is behind the wall, and if I spook them by appearing suddenly, they will evaporate into cactus and other shrubbery. So they make their little cluck like noises while others come running. They can really run. Often there will be 20 or 30 quail on the wall in a group.

The doves try to horn in but often end up on the other side of the water dish. The smaller birds flit in and out. It's a melee with every bird for him or herself. In the end, everyone seems to get fed and some hang around.

We find our productivity dropping as we watch the antics and look for new kinds of birds. We joke about the birds eating us out of house and home, but it sure is cheap entertainment. Better yet, when the weather is warm, we all breakfast together outside. They don't seem to mind a couple of extra plates at the table.