Eating Disorder Pigeon and Friends

There are two bird feeders Yard  in our back yard. Not long after we moved in, Gareth appointed himself chief caretaker. He treats the birds very well, tut-tutting when they spill the seed boxes or crap in their water dish.

We first got addicted to bird watching during the lazy days between Christmas and New Year. Much of the scant daylight hours were spent by the windows with a cup of tea and a running commentary on the feathered soap opera.

I tend to view the world through my stomach so I was worried about the consequences of feeding the birds. Were they being fed elsewhere? Did they need any more food? Would our abundant bird buffet tempt them to eat more than they needed? Were birds in tune with their hunger signals? Did they have the power to eat to the point of satiety then fly away? Can you tell I was reading a lot of intuitive eating books last year?

Anyway, as it turned out, "eat like a bird" means different things to different kinds of birds.

This little robin is called Benito. He is the undisputed boss of the garden.

Benny

Benito is not a big eater; he seems quite indifferent to the food. But he objects to anyone else getting their beaks on "his" stash. He likes to sit on a fence post and survey his domain with his shrewd little eyes, daring other birds to come mess with him. He doesn't care how big or small they are; he'll take 'em on. The other day an innocent green finch hopped onto a feeder and Benito swooped right down and shoulder-barged him off the perch! I know birds don't really have shoulders but it's the best way of describing the violence of the manoeuvre. I can relate to this kind of territorial behaviour, especially if roast potatoes or chocolate rations are involved.

Benny again

This teeny guy is a blue tit. He's a bit of a grazer. He starts with a nibble of Fat Snax – crusty balls of lard, seeds and insects. Then he'll have a go of the peanuts and finish with a few seeds. He's very brief and dainty about it.

Upside-down

The blackbird is quite similar in eating style except he stays at ground level and adds worms to the mix.

Blackbird

This pheasant is a weirdo. Pheasants are like Scotland's small answer to kangaroos. If you go for a nice Sunday drive, they will wait for the precise moment you drive past to hurl themselves onto the road.

Our backyard specimen hangs around the table like a dog, hoping for scraps. Every now and then he'll gaze longingly up at the feeders and give his wings a half-hearted flap, but then decides he's better off just waiting for someone else to drop something.

Pheasant

Then there are the rooks. They are the teenage boys of the garden – noisy, unwieldy and hanging about in gangs.

They do a lot of skulking.

Bird on a wire

And a mega load of eating. They batter the feeders until they topple to the ground, then scoff scoff scoff 'til every last seed is gone. Teenage boys in cheesy commercials for bread or crumpets or whatnot, clattering into the kitchen after school. I'm staaaaarving Mum, what's to eat? Except here the rooks don't bother to ask and I'm shouting out the window, "Slow down and leave some for everyone else, you greedy glossy bastards!"

Nom nom

Would you cop a load of the beak on this fella?

Chop chop

My favourite bird is the wood pigeon. One pigeon in particular. His name is Eating Disorder Pigeon.

EDP

EDP has a hunger that can never be satisfied. He visits multiple times a day and doesn't graze or nibble. He just eats and eats and eats. One day I watched him while eating too many Caramel Digestive biscuits and, perhaps longing for a kindred spirit, I thought there might be a touch of the compulsive about him.

EDP at work

When he perches on the water dish on his tiptoes (tipclaws?), sticks his head into the little window, the rest of the world ceases to exist. Benito pesters and the rooks squark but EDP does not budge. Once I timed him and he munched for 40 minutes straight.

EDP on ground level

I shouldn't project my own issues onto an innocent wee bird, but just say he does have food issues, are we enabling him with this constant seedy smorgasbord?

Or perhaps it's perfectly normal consumption for a bird of his size. Maybe he just really loves his food. In that case, what will he do when we move house in May? It's not like he can take up kickboxing to fill the food-shaped void in his life. Then again we're not the only middle class saddos with bird feeders in this village, so I'm sure he won't go hungry…

Now look at this blue tit watching EDP tuck into the lard ball. One might say the angle of that little blue head is totally judgmental, but that would be paranoid!

Watching, watching

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42 thoughts on “Eating Disorder Pigeon and Friends

  1. This is an AWARD WINNING post! I cracked up, because I do the same thing when I watch my feeders… they all do seem to have personality don’t they?

  2. This was a delightful read. Do you know anyone at Aardman? I think you should write up a few more episodes and pitch it as a stop motion clay animation series entitled “The Birds of Shauna and Doc G”. Once that becomes a huge hit, spin off EDP into his own series.

  3. This is hilarious. It’s great the way animals have personalities, and I love the way you’ve analysed the ones in your yard. Poor EDP, I think a lot of pigeons have this problem.

  4. Love this post – I live inner-city now, and I miss the birds like crazy. Back home we had a troupe of overfed Magpies who visited and carolled so incessantly that my Mum put a stop to feeding any but the one-legged outcast. Which can be a challenge, because the other crafty buggers sent him out as bait, and lay in wait until the food hit the dish then they would push him off his perch. Plus some of the smarter ones have taken to standing on one leg and tucking they other up into their bellies. Of course that only works if there’s only one them there. Any more and the Humans smell a ruse.

  5. This was the PERFECT tonic to a wet and windy Wednesday morning.

    It really made me smile – and will keep me amused all day. JUST what I needed today.

    Fantastic and fabulous, Shauna; THANK YOU!

  6. That Rook looks like a well shifty bugger LOL How lucky you are to have such a wodnerful array of colourful characters in your yard!! :)

  7. Awww. Now I want to make a bird feeder for our resident Kookaburra. But the thought of having to fill it with live skinks and lizards just turns my stomach LOL.

  8. Oh I loved this post!

    At the moment I’m mostly using my small child as a scarecrow because I’m trying to grow a lawn from tasty seed, and now you’ve made me want to let the birds have their feast instead, and then I’ll buy turf!

  9. Great photos! I haven’t had my feeder up for several weeks, since a tree we were cutting fell on it and bent it double. We usually have finches and cardinals, and some doves. And squirrels of course.

    I think “eat like a bird” really means “consume thrice your bodyweight each day.”

  10. Fantastic post and pics! I just love it.
    I’m always amazed at the fantastic array of birds over here but you’ve really reminded me how great the wee guys in Blighty are. Aww I miss robins and tits and those stoooopid pheasants.

  11. What a great post. I needed a smile this morning! I was drooling over the mention of the caramel digestive biscuits. Those are my favorite. Thankfully we can’t get them very many places here in America. Maybe I’ll trade you some TJs Almond Butter for some when I’m in Edinburgh this May!

  12. @Tina – Now that sounds like a good swap, hehe. They’re SO tasty aren’t? Chewy and sweet yet sort of salty. Addictive little buggers!

    Thanks fer all your comments folks :)

  13. Great pics…I really enjoyed the post! I totally enjoyed the bird by bird play and do the exact same thing when it comes to animals, judging them on my human standard…but then again, we’re animals too…so I don’t think it’s too far off.

    Thanks for the encouraging words on NaFOS btw :)

  14. How much do I owe you for that great post? It’s the hilight of my day! I don’t think we have those crazy big beaked pigeons in Pittsburgh. The squirrels eat all my seed.

  15. Oh my gosh. This post is genius! You guys have some very interesting birds. I don’t encounter pheasants in my neck of the woods, and that guy with the massive beak… seriously. Wow!

  16. Oh, I love Benito! He’d be welcome any day. A much nicer visitor than the fat magpies who eat the kitties food each day. We spend a fortune in cat biscuits for magpies. They scoff the morsels down so quickly, and there’s nothing more frustrating than watching them through the glass windows as we have our lunch. Many’s the time one of us will get up, fork in hand, sliding open the door and shooing them away. Mam says that you get ulcers if you don’t let your food settle.

    Hey, you could have wolfed down several packets of Digestives in that 40 minutes of watching the EDP. Oh bliss! I can almost taste it now… The tea-soggy digestive with melted chocolate. Licking the residual chocolate off the cup, then again off the moustache ..er… upper lip.

    Sigh…

  17. HILARIOUS.

    I can totally relate to the judgmental relationship of EDP and the little blue bird. I love how EDP is oblivious to the looks and stares of others!

  18. That pheasant would last five minutes in our back garden – husband would be out there with the bread sauce and rowan jelly pronto!

  19. ROFLMAO!!

    Fuck that was great reading.

    What the hell is THAT beak about?? It’s like Angelina Jolie Bird!!

    I wonder if a small note on the feeder alerting the birds to your new adress might be relevant??

  20. I love this post! We have a troupe of rainbow lorikeets that visit each day and their antics keep my husband and I amused for hours. Each one has its own personality. There’s boofhead, punk, biter, bully boy and the hippies – they’re the peace-loving mungbean birds who won’t chase the pigeons or magpies away from the seed, unlike boofhead and bully boy who are all ass, no class ;)

    I worry about their diet because I thought lorikeets are supposed to eat nectar, not seed. But they seem to enjoy it. Anyway, this post brightened my day – thanks so much.

  21. Wow! I live in Alabama; our birds are pretty boring. Not even pretty and boring, just boring. Although, I have a lake in my backyard and the drama between the two Canada Geese guarding their nest and the Blue Heron that wants to eat their eggs is very suspenseful. He got all but two gosslings last year.

  22. You have a pheasant in your back garden? Coo. Clearly you are closer to nature than we are. The only bird life I’ve seen in ages is rooks and seagulls, though it must be time for the starling invasion to start. You don’t get the classy birds around our way – maybe because there are no mature trees?

    I like Jules’s notion of a wee note on the feeder, but maybe the birds can’t read. Perhaps you should lay a trail of birdseed all the way to the new place?

  23. Where we live, on the edge of the state forest in the hills east of Perth, our garden is full of dozens of different breeds of native birds. We used to have a seed bowl out for the birds on a grassy area near our bedroom. For many months we would lay in bed in the morning watching the usual suspects frequent the bowl… and then the magpie babies fledged! From that day forth we ‘suffered’ hours of squawking of the ‘baby’ magpies (who are as big as their parents at this point) who stood IN the feed bowl but whinged for mum or dad to pick up the seed and deposit it into their beaks for them. This went on for weeks…. and then into a month and one morning we just couldn’t take it any more and my husband ‘cracked’. At 6am he stood at our open window and yelled at the top of his voice “for god sakes… just bend over and PECK!”. The kids heard this from their bedrooms… and I’m sure all the neighbours heard to (though perhaps they didn’t know to what he was referring to!). Consequently the bird feeder disappeared that day, never to return. The magpies soon got sick of hanging out waiting for the seed and the magpie youngster had to settle for scratching in our garden and squawking for mum to catch the bugs to put into his beak!

    My favourite birds are ‘willy wagtails’, wattle birds, New Holland honey eaters and blue wrens. Some birds get very tame – kookaburras and butcher birds and frequent our back verandah when we are out having a bbq….. they will take food from your hand and from the dog bowl even when the dog is eating from eat (she doesn’t seem to mind any more).

    Birds do certainly have different personalities, even within the same breed… its just not everyone notices! Great Post… made me smile too!

  24. You may need to cut EDP a little slack. I’ve raised homing pigeons and I’ll bet this one has a nest with little peeps in it. The parent fills its craw with food then regurgitates it into the baby bird’s mouth.
    Really great post. A lot of fun.

  25. I love this. We have a backyard full of doves, squirrels, and other birds occasionally, but you have some beautifully colored ones! And ED bird. Tee hee.

    Our squirrels are perverts, they always watch my fiance in the shower. Oddly enough, just him, not me. :)

  26. I wonder if lyrebirds and pheasants are related. I have a couple I run into (luckily not literally yet) in the mornings on my way to work. They explode out of the undergrowth and run across the road, seemingly under the wheels of my car. Like some crazy roadrunner. And dont get me started on the cockies – the bovver boys of the park!

  27. WOW, what gorgeous birds! It is odd to see birds from other parts of the world at times. Your robin looks COMPLETELY differnet from mine. Birds are lovely so friendly looking!

    Gorgeous photos!