The Wild Turkeys that took up residence in the woods near the after school day-care center connected to my father’s work were a bit more tenacious in their attacks than the geese who just sat and waited for you to try to pass. I remember, with laughter now, the many afternoons when I was little being chased by Wild Turkeys up on to the play equipment, teasing turkeys had its downfalls it seems.
Every now and then the turkeys or a surprise pheasant would leave behind a feather. Their feathers were to me a treasure that I loved collecting. I became that child who would constantly be drawing feathers in the margins of my homework and notes, daydreaming about their shapes and colors. My father would tell me about the Northern Cardinal that he grew up seeing in Illinois, with its beautiful red feathers, orange beak, and spiky crest. I looked around my own town and did not find something as alluring as the stories of the birds my father grew up seeing. For the remainder of my childhood and teenage years, birds were something in the background for me. I enjoyed drawing them and hearing their beautiful songs in the morning, but there were no resources in my small town to help nurture that budding interest.
DISCOVERING THE JOY OF BIRD FEEDING
Fast forward a decade, post college, and my partner and I had purchased a small bungalow in the city of Fargo, North Dakota. One morning, when I was leaving for work, I heard a familiar cooing and a warm memory of waiting for the bus as a small girl came rushing back to me. I looked up at the power line running over my garage and there they were, two old friends, my much-loved Mourning Doves. It was then that I suddenly realized that I could feed the birds in my backyard! I was no longer limited by college dorms and rented apartments. A quick trip to a local hardware store after work and my tiny backyard was transformed into a mini waystation for hungry Mourning Doves and… European House Sparrows. While some folks may have groaned at that, I was none-the-wiser to what I was seeing. There was no Merlin app at this time, and I was not aware that you could go and buy a bird guide. For the five years we lived there, I fed my Mourning Doves, House Sparrows, and beautiful yellow Goldfinches. The joy I had had watching birds as a child was starting to make its way back to the surface.
In April of 2016 my partner, three cats, mutual best friend, and his snake picked up our North Dakota roots and made the move to South Minneapolis. We were in a small townhome in a semi-industrial area, so my hopes for feeding birds weren’t high, but the landlord was a kind woman from small town North Dakota as well and she approved the bird feeders that I asked to put out. I will be forever grateful for that kindness, as I don’t think I’d be here writing this article if she hadn’t allowed me to put out my feeders.
It took some time to unpack everything and get my feeders set up. Shortly after, the usual suspects showed up: Mourning Doves, Goldfinches, and so many European House Sparrows. I was thrilled to be able to still observe my feathered friends, some of which were brave enough to land on the feeders while I was outside sitting on our tiny slab of concrete. Being only a foot or two away from my sweet Mourning Doves was a thrilling experience for me – they really have a soft, calm beauty about them that instantly makes me happy, even today.