Nenette’s tale of woe, bird edition. (Kitty update!)

Our yard abounds with two types of birds: doves and grackles. I always liked the doves. I liked their calls. The grackles, not so much.

I noticed the grackles hanging out by the dumpster behind our backyard. I didn’t know what they were, at first. A friend filled me in. I don’t like them, I said. They’re creepy and they sit on our back fence by the dumpster, and sometimes they fly around it and dive in. She said that she liked grackles. We agreed that she could have my grackles if I could have her doves.

Cut to six or so months later, to a few weeks ago. Callaghan and I started spreading wild bird seed across the gravel outside our bedroom window, because Nenette loved to sit on the dresser and watch the doves. There were doves perched on the wire above, doves on the side fence, doves in the neighbor’s mesquite tree, doves everywhere. Nenette had a great view. If we put seeds on the ground, we thought, Nenette would have more birds to watch!

We bought a huge bag of assorted seeds and scattered them around that part of the yard, replenishing the spread every other day. The yard proliferated with birds in the mornings and late afternoons. It was just doves, at first, and then some smaller, brown birds that we decided must be finches.

Then the grackles joined the party. I watched them in dismay, but the more I observed, the more they fascinated me.

Look what they do! I said to Callaghan one day after calling him to the window. They use their beaks to dig and throw rocks aside so they can get to the sunflower seeds.

We noticed that the doves and finches weren’t eating those larger seeds. But the grackles were.

I studied them, transfixed by their methodology. A grackle would dig into the large gravel, picking up the rocks and flinging them left and right. Then he’d grab the unearthed sunflower seed, fly to a patch of dirt on our small lawn, and patiently gnaw at the seed, repeatedly dropping it and picking it back up until the shell gave way. He’d eat the seed, fly back to the gravel, and start the process over again.

We marveled at them. Grackles are interesting! They’re smart! They hunt, make decisions, use their beaks like tools. They eat the sunflower seeds, which no one else in our bird community did. We never saw them bullying other birds. In fact, it was the doves who were territorial and rude. A dove would march toward a grackle, who would then peacefully walk away to a different spot while the dove poked around in the grackle’s hole, even though there was nothing there that he wanted. We also saw the doves bullying each other.

I was wrong, I said to Callaghan. He said yes, it’s the doves who are the bullies.

Grackles aren’t creepy because they hang out by the dumpster, I thought. Don’t judge a book by its cover. My word! I’d been profiling the grackles.

Now a fan of grackles, I looked them up online so I could learn more about them.

I found out that grackles are considered to be PEST BIRDS.

We stopped feeding the birds, afraid that the grackles would start doing all of the Terrible Things. Callaghan was also concerned that with the abundance of doves, some would be sure to nest on our house and wreak whatever havoc that would cause.

And now, poor Nenette has no bird party to watch. This is has been Nenette’s tale of woe. She is bereft.


No more birds for Nenette.


I miss the birds, too. I loved watching them! Are they really that bad to have around? Would the doves wreck our house with their nesting? Does anyone know?

La Fin.

The Out-of-Context Pigeon

On Tuesday morning, I was sitting outside on our balcony, one of my favorite places to be in the mornings, when an unusual vision materialized before my eyes: a pigeon in a tree. It was more than unusual, I realized as I watched the bird. It was almost unheard of, about as rare as finding me in a Costco. (Costco gives me panic attacks. I don’t know why.)

It’s probably safe to say that I’ve seen more pigeons “in the wild” than any other type of bird. I’ve known them to be street birds, pavement birds, train station, dirt path and riverside birds. I know them from parking lots, rooftops, sidewalks and gutters. They’re a common sight in city parks, at strip malls and on school grounds, and I’ve even seen them nesting on other people’s balconies.

Pigeons are special in that they’re the only birds I’ve seen everywhere except in trees, and that is one reason why I like them. They are among us. Come to think of it, I don’t even really regard them as birds. They’re pigeons.

When I realized that the bird in the tree in front of me was a pigeon, I had to step inside and grab my camera. You know me.

It was mostly just surprising to see how a pigeon can shrug off his common cloak to become an utterly exotic bird when he’s in a tree.

For one thing, his usual stances and postures are replaced by those typical of any other bird in a tree… a bird delicately positioned on a limb (in this case, a frond, as the tree is a Phoenix date palm) instead of standing solid on the ground. I think that’s another reason why it took a minute to realize that he was a pigeon… he held himself differently, perching, balancing, being… un-pigeon-like. Rather than doing the urban pigeon-walk, he hopped lightly and fluttered, and because his movements were different, his colors flashed in the sunlight differently, too. I’ve always found pigeons to be beautiful, but now I could appreciate his beauty in a whole new way.

So, pictures. When I showed these to Callaghan, he laughed.

“These are four pictures of the same thing!”

“No they aren’t!” I protested, laughing. “Look closely – his posture is different in every one.”

Callaghan often makes fun of me for “taking 200 pictures of the exact same thing” every time I whip out my camera. It’s true, I do tend to take a zillion shots of my subject, whatever it is. I like to capture those minute differences in angle and lighting. Also, I know that out of the many, I’m going to get at least one really good one.

Here are my four favorites of this guy:


It was the emerald sheen on his outstretched neck that caught my eye first.

It was the emerald sheen on his outstretched neck that caught my eye first.


Hmm, this bird looks familiar...

Hmm, this bird looks familiar…


He turns to look at me as if to say, "Why yes, I am PIGEON!"

He turns to look at me as if to say, “Why yes, I am PIGEON!”


Standing proud.

Standing proud.


High in the sky, that pigeon. Not on the ground.