September 18, 2020
When I got up this morning Melissa said she had watched an amazing display by the birds on our backyard feeders. About fifteen Blue Jays had descended on the six feeders we have along the back fence. The jays had been joined by seven or eight Cardinals. They all took turns at the feeders. In the past whenever the Cardinals and Jays got together there was a huge fight. The Cardinals would gang up and drive off the Jays. If it were a Jay and the finches, the Jays would drive off the Finches. Perhaps it was just because there were large numbers of both (and the presence of more food?) that they were getting along. There were even two Turtle Doves on the ground working the scraps that fell.
While our birds generally fight, I saw something a few days ago I had never seen before. A female Cardinal had firmly planted herself in the middle of the sunflower feeder with a male Blue Jay sitting on the wheelbarrow directly below. While the Cardinal was feeding herself, she would also occasionally pick up a seed and toss it down to the Jay. This went on for ten minutes until they had both eaten their fill and flew off. I thought this was an amazing act of coexistence.
There were lower numbers of the Jays and Cardinals at the feeders when I got up. They left shortly after and were replaced by seven or eight House Finches. These attacked the Thistle feeder but also went for the seeds left by the larger birds. Apparently, there was an established hierarchy for the breakfast hour based on the size of the bird. When I watch the feeders at other times of the day there are usually just one or two birds at a time, and they often battle for supremacy, usually based on numbers.
THOUGHTS: I have watched similar examples of coexistence on the nature channel. Male lions tend to let the females hunt and kill the game, but then are the first allowed to eat. When Hyenas bring down prey it can be taken by an adult male lion. In both cases the lion eats its fill and then moves on, allowing their subordinates the chance to eat as well. I have never seen any documentation of a dominant species feeding a subordinate one as the Cardinal did, but it seems both coexistence and mutual aide can occur when food is abundant. By contrast, humans hoard resources for ourselves regardless of the amount present. Economic inequality is then intensified in times of shortage or crisis. If a Cardinal can share its resources with a Blue Jay, why can’t we decide to cooperate? Change is coming and it starts with you.