What I Learned About Myself from Feeding the Birds

I delighted in all the hummingbirds fluttering around my neighbor Marie Claude’s feeder, so a few months ago I bought one for outside our bedroom window. I dutifully bought the white sugar for the “nectar”, filled the feeder with the sugared water at a 4:1 ratio just like the Audubon Center recommends and then eagerly waited for the little ones to gather around, chirping happily.
Hummingbirds are amazing. It was lovely to watch them and to hear the hum of their wings as they hovered around my feeder, which I had to refill every 2 weeks. I was thrilled with the wildlife outside our bedroom window.

When I next saw Marie Claude, I told her she had inspired me to get a feeder of my own. She told me her hummingbirds drank so much from her 2 feeders that she had to refill them every day.

I was amazed. And envious. Was I making the nectar incorrectly? I groused to Ian that Marie Claude was probably doping the hummingbirds with too much sugar and that was why they were going to her house and not mine. She was probably killing them, while I was assiduously making nectar in the proper ratio, like a mother who feeds her kids vegetables while the lady next door lures them over with marshmallow sandwiches on Wonder bread.

I had been happy with the number of birds at my feeder until I learned that my neighbor’s feeder had more. Then my feeder became a source of anxiety. I wanted to be popular with hummingbirds! Why weren’t the birds liking me – I mean, my feeder?

Turns out, be careful what you wish for. Within 2 months, the hummingbird grapevine had spread the word that I had delicious, Audubon-approved nectar and now it takes only 30 hours for the birds to drain my feeder.

It is not easy being popular: keeping up with the Jones’ (or the Marie Claudes) feels like pressure – instead of enjoying the birds I am eyeing the feeder to figure out when I will need to replenish it. I do not want to keep it empty too long lest the birds starve or – more worrying – they decide there is a better feeder somewhere else.

This has taught me that I am still eager to please, loathe to disappoint, wanting to be liked, if it’s hummingbirds. From my reaction to Marie Claude’s more popular feeders, I realize I am competitive. I am also co-dependent, judging from my concern about the birds’ welfare, who were obviously doing just fine before I put my feeder up. I now see they’ll be okay if I’m out of town for a week. They will return even if I am not perfect. There is enough to go around and the best I can do is stop worrying and simply try my best to make things a bit sweeter for those around me.

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