Can bird watchers be impartial? Are they capable of turning the same kindly eyes upon all species? Does each feathered visitor get the same welcome at their winter feeding stations? This ethical question is now being asked by bird fanciers in the northern reaches of Pennsylvania's Bucks County, and I am afraid that, in a surprising number of cases, the answer is—no.
The specter of partiality stalks this pleasant countryside as a direct result of an unprecedented invasion of mockingbirds. Upon first being identified in local yards this fabled songster of the Southland is greeted with enthusiasm. How nice to have mockingbirds added to the list of winter visitors! Will they sing in spring? Do you think they'll stay? What if they nest? Much early affection is lavished upon these jaunty birds in gray.
Then the mocker descends upon the feeding station. He not only descends upon the station, but he also descends upon the regular winter birds that flock around it. Chickadees, juncos, tufted titmice and little downy woodpeckers are put to rout. The welcomed visitor becomes a feathered juggernaut bearing down on the tails of the regulars as they put for the tall timber. They sneak back to snip at the suet, but the invader seems to be everywhere. No longer is there peace in the garden.
At this point the human provider changes his tune. The owner of the feeding station switches from terms of admiration to explosive invective. Take, for example, the case of my neighbor John B. Hulburd.
When the first mocker showed up in Jack's yard he was tickled pink. He had me rush over to help make sure of the identification. It was a mockingbird all right—a gray bird, the shape and size of a catbird, and with white in its wings and tail.
Jack already had been cheered by those visitors from the far north, the evening grosbeaks. "Think of having evening grosbeaks and mockingbirds in the yard at the same time," he exulted. "Do you think he'll stay?"
The next time I saw him it was a different Jack. He roared into my living room with hardly a hello.
SUCH WORDS FOR BIRDS!
"You and your blankety-blank mockingbird," he shouted. "He's chasing all the other birds away from the feeding station. I'll—." He continued. I've never heard such words for birds. But Jack is a man who thinks for himself. He is an airplane pilot, and bird watching is just his hobby. Nothing would make a mockery of his feeding station. In this crisis he thought out a plan.
Carefully selecting a site just south of the guest house, he put up another feeding station, stocking it with raisins and other tidbits calculated to soothe the mockingbird gullet. Now a semblance of order has been restored. There are three mockingbirds in his yard, but they hang out around the new station while the regulars have returned to the old lunch counter on the other side of the house. The invaders still make occasional raids, but for the most part they linger in their newly designated territory. Even so, it is an uneasy truce.