published Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Dalton Roberts: Funny bird stories


by Dalton Roberts

Birds can be funny.

I have often written about Long John Cardinal, the one-legged cardinal I had for five years. But I haven't written about his sex drive almost killing him.

After I rescued him from starvation by placing his sunflower seeds on top of my patio fence, he got healthy and hardy, and his hormones started flowing. Most birds raise one nest of babies a year, but the first year, Long John raised three. And, of course, if you bring the little rascals into the world, you must help Mama Redbird feed them.

By the time Long John raised the last of the three litters, he only had a couple of tail feathers left on his body. By wintertime, he barely got enough feathers grown to get him through the winter.

Not only was he almost naked, he was so skinny he could have made Twiggy a good husband. A bird needs a little body fat to get through a Tennessee winter.

One morning I was feeding him, and we often chatted when he came in for his seeds. I said, "Long John, you must bring your sex drive under control. One more winter of three big litters, and you will be going the way of the buffalo."

I'll say one thing for Long John: He accepted counseling real well. He never again raised more than two litters, and several years he only raised one. His openness to counseling saved his life and enabled him to keep fully feathered.

Now let me tell you about big mean "Dalton the Bluejay Slayer."

Everyone in our family thought if Mama got upset, we had to do something about it. Woe be to any cat that disturbed her birds, for when her birds were upset, so was she.

One day she complained about having too many bluejays and said they were running off the other birds. Being completely devoted to Mother's peace of mind, I assured her I would trap them and relocate them. I took my Havahart Trap over there and put some table scraps in it to attract the jays.

In no time, I had a bluejay trapped. I didn't tell Mother, but I meant to chop his head off when she wasn't looking. I went out to extract him from the trap, and when I grabbled him by the legs and took him out of the trap, he turned his head sideways and looked at me with the most quizzical look I have ever seen. It seemed he was saying, "Now what are you going to do to me, Hotshot?"

I must tell you the truth. That was the cutest bird I have ever seen. His look melted my heart. I turned him loose and went inside.

I hadn't realized that mother was watching it all. When I got inside, she had laughed until she was wiping tears on her apron.

"What happened to the big bluejay slayer, son?" she asked. "I knew you thought you were going to kill him, but I knew you could not do it. You love birds too much."

I said, "Mama, if he hadn't turned his head sideways and looked at me, I could have killed him. Something about that pose destroyed my will to kill."

"Sure you could have, son," she kidded me, ending my days as a big bluejay slayer.

Email Dalton Roberts at DownhomeP@aol.com.

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