Bird Watcher's General Store

Lazy Baby Birds - 07/13/01


Dear Bird Folks,

Yesterday there was a baby grackle sitting in a tray of sunflower seeds in my yard. Every time its parents came by it would scream for food until a parent fed it. Talk about lazy. Since the young bird was standing knee-deep in food, why wouldn't it simply reach down and eat instead of begging all the time?

Lou, West Yarmouth

Luoooooo,

Man, I like doing that. Yeah, that is pretty silly that the baby is too lazy to bend over to pick up its own food. Young birds are like human kids who always whine, "There is nothing to eat in this house." There is usually plenty of food, but it just hasn't been prepared and served to them. If it's not chips or cookies, it is hard for kids to recognize food. Well, the same thing is true for your lazy grackle. It simply hasn't figured out how to recognize its own food.

Most of what birds do is driven by instinct. It is their instincts that tell them when to mate, when to sleep and when to migrate. Instinct, and not opportunity, is what tells birds when and what to eat. This is why we don't have great blue herons or ospreys eating at our bird feeders. They are programmed to eat fish and not seeds. Young grackles are programmed to be fed and not to hunt for the first few days of their lives. So even though there is plenty of food around, their instincts force them to beg instead of helping themselves. But as we all know, it is just a matter of time before the grackles lose their urge to beg and figure out how to find their own food. And once they figure it out, there is no feeder in the world that they won't chow on and you'll be kicking yourself for calling grackles lazy.



Artwork by Catherine Clark


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