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Balance of Power

Feeding birds comes with some risks. The food can contain non-native and invasive species that end up growing from uneaten seeds. Feeders concentrate groups of birds making them more susceptible both to predators and the spread of disease. Feeders will attract other species as well, some of them problematic like rats and bears. Sometimes the placement of feeders can increase dangerous window strikes for the birds. While consistent feeding will not create dependency, it will alter the birds’ behavior. It has been a contributing factor to some species expanding their ranges, competing with established species. Likewise, inconsistent feeding will not cause starvation, but certainly creates a hardship.

All power has the potential to help as well as to harm. Fire simply does what fire does, it burns. It doesn’t matter to fire whether the fuel is in the furnace, in the stove, or the house itself. Fire is a prime example of a dangerous gift. When we choose to interact with the wildlife in our domestic spaces we often offer a dangerous gift. Feeding birds can seem like a pure gift to the birds, with the only expectation being that they come near enough and linger long enough for us to appreciate their innate beauty. Certainly, that is the core relationship. Like any relationship, it comes with responsibility. In effect, bird feeding is a form of taming wild animals, which establishes a continuing duty to care. Caring demands maintaining a clean and healthy feeding station. Empathy needs to be strong enough to convince you that the hardship of filling an empty feeder in the bitter cold and snow is less than the hardship the birds are facing. Like any relationship worth maintaining, work is involved.

No relationship is static. Change is not only inevitable, it is expected. When we exert our power, we create change that we intend for good, but it always comes at a cost. Relationships don’t exist in a vacuum. The seed you buy for a feeder came from somewhere else, transported using fossil fuel no less than when you drive hours to see a rare bird. A Red-bellied Woodpecker may be a welcome visitor from the south to your suet feeder, but the Hairy Woodpecker who has to compete for territory with him may not feel the same. When the Cooper’s Hawk discovers that your feeder is an avian buffet, you may not be happy, but she will be grateful. This doesn’t mean that should stop trying to do good, simply that we need to see how every action has an impact. Ultimately, the goal should be to achieve a positive balance.

Prayer: Great Source of All Power, teach us to juggle our actions to achieve the good we intend. Amen.


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