To the Birds at My Bird Feeders

Come, all ye birds, to my bird feeders! I’ve put out some black-oil sunflower seeds just for you. The kind I know you like.

bird feeder cardinalsCome, Cardinals, and delight me with your splash of brilliant red or (if you’re a lady) your subtle earth tones with just a peek of muted red around your wings. Come, you little black-capped Chickadees, you “darlings of the backyard feeder,” and steal a single seed and flit away to a nearby tree to eat it. Evidently you are too shy to stay and eat at my table, but you partake of my feast nonetheless.

Come, you Finches of all kinds–especially you bright Gold Finch. I’ve put out smaller seeds for you.  Come, Tufted Titmouse or (if there’s more than one), Titmice! I’ve heard you are so bold you’ll pluck hairs from a sleeping cat or dog to use as a lining for your nest. Such courage demands hearty nourishment. Come, bird feeder gold finchWoodpeckers wearing your stylish red, white, and black. I’ve put out some peanuts and suet for you.  Come, even you lowly house Sparrows. Though you are a dime a dozen where I live, you are welcome too. Your commonplaceness and dull coloring don’t lessen my appreciation for you. Come, Blue Jay. Though you are rather large, you still partake in avian gracefulness. Though you seem crabby most days too, your blue hue has persuaded me to include you on my guest list. So you are welcome, but (if I might be so bold to say): please watch your table manners. And don’t chase away my other invited guests.

blue jay

And you, my lovely orange and black Baltimore Orioles, I know sunflower seeds aren’t your thing. So bird feeder baltimore oI’ve put half an orange on the feeder just for you. Bird people tell me that this is your dining preference. And although I haven’t spotted you yet this year, I know you’re apt to show up as you did last year and the year before. I have a hunch you’ve already made reservations for a tree somewhere near my backyard in which to fashion your hanging nest.

And you, Ms. Chipmunk, what about you? Although you can’t reach my table (it’s not that you haven’t tried!), you are welcome to partake of the seeds that the birds, in their eagerness for my food, scatter on the ground below. I’ve seen you scooting away from my feeder, your tail straight up in the air, and your cheeks bulging with seed. I just want you to know, you are welcome. I’m a sucker for cuteness.bird feeder chipmunk

And Mr. Squirrel, I know you too lust after the seeds I’ve put out for the birds. And though not a bird, you are God’s squirrel_birdfeeder_270x224creature too (as my mother used to say when your kin stole food from her feeder.) But sunflower seeds are expensive these days and I just can’t afford to welcome you officially to my feeder. That’s why if I see you hanging from my feeder (often in very imaginative and acrobatic ways), I’ll tap hard on the window and shoo you away. But I know (and you know) I can’t be watching every minute….

So welcome, birds. And chipmunks too. But I have to draw the line somewhere. And so I do—at squirrels and raccoons and deer. Your stomachs are just too demanding for my modest fare. But sometimes I do put out some grapes and apples that are a little too ripe for a human (that’s me) to eat. And I notice they always disappear. I’m assuming you’re enjoying them.

So, all ye Birds at my bird feeders, I’m happy you enjoy my feast. But I just want you to know, I enjoy my feast too, the feast of beholding all of you!

bird feeder

Do you have a bird feeder? If so, what do you enjoy most about having one?

Do birds nourish your spiritual life?



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  1. Kathleen Magiera on March 24, 2014 at 5:37 am

    Yes, I too have a bird feeder outside my kitchen window. I so enjoy watching the various birds come and dine. We had to buy better bird feed because the birds were picking out what they liked and leaving the rest for the skunks.

    In the dead of winter, I enjoy watching the bird feeder come to life with my guests. It reminds me that even on the coldest days, there is still joy to be found in watching the birds. The birds are there hiding from the winter storms but they are still there even when I cannot see them.

    Happy Spring!


  2. Nancy Frederico on March 24, 2014 at 9:16 am

    Birds of the air Praise The Lord! Hi Sr. Melannie! What an awesome post with great photos!! I do have a birdfeeder…and enjoy watching my feathered friends gain nourishment and socialize with their kin. The male cardinal always seems to follow his spouse. If she leaves the party…he leaves! The saying ” eat like a bird” really isn’t true as they seem to eat or graze quite often. All in all they are quite amazing; as is all of nature…God’s eye is on the sparrow and how much more on us. During this time of renewal; all things are made new again, so it is with our spiritual lives if we depend on Our Father’s Love. We are just beginning to bud forth. Thanks for the great insight!


  3. Karen on March 24, 2014 at 9:35 am

    Well, we have tried, and will continue to TRY to rig up a birdfeeder that will feed the BIRDS and not the big fat squirrels, raccoons and skunks. Honestly, you would not think a squirrel with a belly that big could leap from the tree to the feeder like he (or she) does.
    But the “unintended consequence” of that action usually topples the entire feeder, spilling the seed for EVERYONE to eat. So the squirrel’s relentless and voracious gluttony ends up feeding a lot of neighbors too.
    There must be a life lesson in there somewhere …

  4. Colleen on March 24, 2014 at 9:49 am

    Matthew 6:25-34
    “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” I do so love birds and have feeders myself. I get my love of birds from my father who also has many feeders at his home. He is aging though and had a difficult time getting out to feed them during a particularly cold and icy winter so I would try to get over as much as I could to feed his as well. I am always cheered by the sight of my birds (and yes, squirrels and chipmunks) at my feeders. They are such a gift from God! I too have some favorites and some that I try to discourage just a bit-like the hawk who occasionally uses my feeder as his own personal smorgasboard! Thank you for the beautiful pictures and lovely sentiments!

  5. Mary Beth Pettek on March 24, 2014 at 10:03 am

    Sr. Melanie-What a wonderful way to welcome our Northeast Ohio birds back!! I, too, love to watch birds and can’t wait for hummingbird time!! It’s good to remember that the hungry squirrels, rude blue jays and common brown birds are all creatures of God. All birds amaze me as to how wonderfully they are made and how God gives each one what they need-especially the hummers!!
    Happy Spring!

  6. Marjorie on March 24, 2014 at 10:50 am

    Just some thoughts about blue jays. Their blue represents the sky while the white can represent Heaven. Black is for the earth. To me, they are a spiritual symbol. Blue jays are always welcome in my yard for their beauty and their courage. I have watched them attempt to chase the hawks from the trees and my birdbath. Yes, the hawks like to use the birdbath, too. We’ve seen Cooper hawks and Red-Tailed ones bathing. Often the hawks just sit in th water, looking for songbirds for lunch. The jays always know when a hawk is around, and they loudly alert all the smaller, pretty songbirds to that fact. If the hawks are anywhere near a jay nest, their courage is astounding. I like to think of blue jays as God’s little sentries. So, if you like to feed the songbirds, welcome blue jays too, as they will protect your smaller “friends.”

  7. Mary Schneider on March 24, 2014 at 11:37 am

    When I had my own home with a large garden, I used to love feeding the birds, a habit I developed with encouragement from Sr. M. Bernadette of the Irish Sisters of Mercy. There were neither squirrels nor raccoons in my high-mountain town, but I was forever trying to move out all of the magpies, pigeons, and enormous robins who kept the beautiful bluebirds, finches, etc. away. I occasionally had to venture under trees where my feeders were hanging to weed out the growth from the feed that fell to the ground and germinated. I just read about Pleasure in one of your books, and I think feeding birds is one of those very special gifts from God which bring great pleasure. Thank you Sr. Melannie!

  8. Mary Pollini on March 24, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    The extent of my bird feeding consists of scattering bread onto the snow in the winter, but the image of the cardinal brought back a memory. My first apartment was in the basement of the house that I grew up in – the kind with the windows up towards the ceiling. If I wanted to know what was going on outside, I either had to open the door or climb up on a chair! After my parents died, I moved upstairs. One morning I was sitting in a chair facing the window and noticed a red cardinal in a tree. I was actually moved to tears from the shear beauty of it, and I realized what I had missed while living “below ground.” Seeing that cardinal was truly a gift, reminding me of my “new life” outside of the cocoon of the basement.

  9. Annie on March 24, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    I love your reflection! But don’t you think the squirrels deserve some of your food too for their entertaining acrobatic ability? They could eat from the ground after the chipmunks leave. Or from the feeder when the birds aren’t there. After all, birds can gang up on larger creatures such as squirrels—or even a cat—if they really want to and get them to leave. 🙂 I just put out food and pray God directs the ones who are to receive it. I enjoy the birds and the squirrels and the deer. I think your solution is a good one—feed them all what you can.

  10. Janice Williamson on March 27, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    Hi, Sister Melannie! I’ve so enjoyed this “Sunflower Seed.”
    For several weeks I’ve been watching 5 male cardinals in our backyard. I think of them as dancing back and forth in joy and gratitude. My husband (a scientist!) thinks of them as marking their territory. Maybe they’re doing both … who cares? It’s still uplifting to behold them.
    Time for me to dance in joy and gratitude? A definite yes!

  11. Melannie Svoboda SND on March 28, 2014 at 10:28 am

    Thank you to everyone who responded to this week’s blog on feeding the birds. I appreciated every comment…how God”s eye is on the sparrow…the “unintended consequences” of our feeding…anticipating the arrival of those fascinating hummingbirds…helping me to have a more favorable attitude toward Blue Jays and acrobatic squirrels…how we are “cheered” by the very sight of the birds…and welcoming those “dancing cardinals.” Your comments extend my own thoughts and help me and others to see another slant on the topic. Thank you!

    I’m leading a retreat at St. Francis Spiritual Center in Tiffin, Ohio this weekend. I would appreciate prayers for me and the 15 participants as we explore some of the everyday epiphanies in our lives. Thanks again and God bless you all! Melannie

  12. Melannie Svoboda SND on March 28, 2014 at 10:31 am

    PS I just met one of my blog readers in our local library. She said she uses grape jelly to attract the Baltimore orioles who come to her backyard! She said they really love it. Thought you’d appreciate this tip. Melannie

  13. Mary carlin on March 28, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    Birds are mysteries in their most illusive style. With grace and strength they allude us while taking our dainties and making us smile, my niece in Kentucky buys gormet goodies and her porches are filled with a variety of small birds with magnificant color. It is so much fun to delve into this mystery

  14. JoAnn on April 5, 2014 at 8:21 am

    I loved your post. My husband and I are thrilled when a cardinal and his lady visit our feeder. We usually just have wrens which are not as colorful as the cardinals, or finches, etc. But, nevertheless, as God’s creatures ALL of us need nourishment. A little chipmunk showed up the other day, and there were mixed emotions with it, but it was fun to watch it stuffed its mouth and then scurry away and then show up a little later to start the process all over. Thank you for your reflections.

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