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At the beck and call of backyard birds

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I think the Glasgow pigeon that lives in our garden has dreams of glory. He - or is it she? - evidently wishes he was a carrier pigeon, a significant deliverer of messages. He feels, in his feathers, that he was meant for communication. He perches importantly on the pitch of the bird table roof and stares intently at the kitchen window.

Pigeons have a way of looking quite uppity when they want to. This stare (in the absence of writing or speech) is absolutely articulate. Without a doubt, it means: "Look here, you, inside the house there! It is high time for breakfast, and we are clean out of sunflower seeds. Where are you?"

The bird table, we realized soon after buying it and setting it up near the back door, was not designed with pigeons in mind. Essentially, it is a post with a little traylike platform on top where the food goes. This tray has four corner uprights that support a pitched roof made of a couple of slates and a wooden apex.

The roof keeps the worst of the weather off the seed, but the problem is that there's not enough room between it and the tray, and its supports are too close to one another for larger birds to fly in and eat.

So, even at the outset, the pigeons communicated their indignation. Frustrated, they perched while the sparrows feasted lavishly below their feet. They envied them grumpily. They also found the roof slates impossibly slippery in icy weather. As they flapped about, attempting to gain a foothold, they performed the pigeon version of a triple Lutz. It bore very little resemblance to the consummate and magical dignity of professional ice skating. They looked funny, but I am not sure pigeons are endowed with an overactive sense of humor.

I nailed in place a protruding, horizontal strip of wood, so that the pigeons could balance just outside the food tray - and then hop into it without having to open their wings. How quickly the granting of a privilege was taken for granted! In no time the pigeons saw their seed supply as their natural right, and if it was overlooked by me - even for a day - Mr. Pigeon was delegated to perch peevishly and stare at the kitchen window.


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