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Feeding the birds
is not as simple
as putting out birdseed
on the ground
and in feeders.
It requires strategy.
I limit how much I put out
each day; otherwise,
I’d be filling feeders
three times a day.
(I mix a 40-pound bag of chicken scratch
with an 18-pound bag of black oil sunflower seeds.)
There are hundreds of Red-Winged Blackbirds
on the prairie
and they are at the feeders
most of the day. By mid-afternoon,
they’ve emptied both feeders.
I don’t know if it is the same flock,
or several flocks. Usually, about 70
Red-Winged Blackbirds are at the feeders
and pecking the seed strewn on the ground.
Red-Bellied Woodpecker
eats alongside them. With a long, strong beak,
he’s the alpha bird.

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Other comparably-sized birds eat with the black birds:
Cow Birds, Eurasian-Colored Doves, Cardinals,
Meadowlarks.

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Sparrows—a flock of about 60,
Harris and White-Crowned—
eat around the fringes when the black birds
are feasting. So I spread seed
in the grass for them.
Goldfinch get thistle in a feeder
the black birds are too big to use.
Chickadees flit in quickly
when the black birds startle away from the feeders.
I worry that the little Sparrows
don’t get enough. So, at dusk,
when the black birds have disappeared,
I put out more seed. The Sparrows come
for their bedtime snack
and get first crack at the seed
before dawn next morning.

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Goldfinch

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The doves come in pairs.
There are five pair of Cardinals this year;
the females are more shy than the males.
I once saw three
Chickadees playing in a bush.
There are 10 Meadowlarks feeding now;
I can’t tell males and females apart.
They eat amidst the black birds
and when the black birds fly up,
the Meadowlarks stay on the ground,
but they hunker down. Though their bellies
are bright yellow,
their head and back feathers
are the same color as the ground.

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A Mockingbird comes to drink water,
but never eats at the feeding site.
I haven’t seen a Junco, Eastern Blue Bird
or Downy Woodpecker in weeks.

Three squirrels hang out in the back yard,
still scampering in the pecan tree.
One day,
one found the bird seed feeding site
in the front yard,
and helped itself. But I haven’t since it
back there since then.

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We are due for more snow this week;
perhaps a lot.
I wonder if the birds know that.
I’ll be ready with the seeds.