Have you ever been away for a few days and when you returned noticed that the birdbath was dry so you scrubbed it and filled it up. In my case, this is exactly what happened, and after 30 seconds the excitement began. The birds in the yard lined up to take a turn in the clean, fresh water. The activity ramped up as time went on. There was much competition in the yard for possession of the birdbath. Birds like the song sparrow, the American robin, the purple finch, and the Swainson’s thrush all raced around the yard and the birdbath as if to say, “It’s my turn! It’s my turn!”
The orange-crowned warbler circles the bath waiting for a turn. The purple finch is also circling waiting for its turn. The Robin has taken over the bird bath. The orange-crowned warbler approaches. The robin lunges at the warbler and at any other bird that tries to take a turn or share the space. The American robin is not about sharing at all, and I think the song sparrow is just as bad. Thus, the birds continued to race around in the shrubbery by the birdbath trying to catch a turn. Finally, the robin leaves which allows the song sparrow to have its turn.
The Swainson’s thrush, however, is having none of it. It wants a turn and now! The song sparrow is also having none of it so it chases the Swainson’s thrush all over the yard. While this chase was on, it gave the purple finch its opportunity for a bath and maybe a quick drink. All the while, the American robin is on the alert for another turn. The Swainson’s thrush also got into the act. The three birds, all different, think they own the birdbath. The robin, being the largest of the three, takes over. It wins most of the time. In the meantime, the rufus and Anna’s hummingbirds got in on the act. They decided to dive bomb anyone who was in the birdbath. They especially did not like the robin hogging the bath water. In addition, the purple finch, Swainson’s thrush and the song sparrow were all fair game for the hummers. In this yard, hummers also love to spend time in the birdbath and take sips of water when they are thirsty. The hummingbirds were also dive bombing each other. Competition was fierce.
As if this play-acting on the stage by the most common birds in the yard was not enough, a male red crossbill chose to make a cameo appearance. Its appearance on the scene was amazing because this species is uncommon in our area in the summer and rare at other times of the year. It was a treat to feast my eyes on this beautiful red bird with black wings named for its distinctive bill in which the tips of the upper and lower mandibles cross over each other. These specialized bills enable crossbills to pry open conifer cones to get at the seeds inside.
All the world is indeed a stage. I believe this scene that I’ve witnessed after coming back from being a few days away repeats itself in any yard when the bird bath has been empty for a few days. The actors might differ, but in our area maybe not. Has this ever happened to you? I am pretty sure that all the world is a stage for the birds, and if you think about it, I’m sure you will agree that you have also seen this play acted out on your backyard stage!
”Common Birds of the Long Beach Peninsula,” by Kalbach and Stauffer, is available from the Chinook Observer, Bay Avenue Gallery, Time Enough Books and the Long Beach Peninsula’s Visitors Center.