By Tony Hooker
Crowded ‘round the feeder…winter guests, both large and small,
jockeying for position, one for one, not one for all.
Winter winds have dealt them, yet another unkind blow,
with seed pods hidden safely, ‘neath the deep and drifting snow.
A proud and stately redbird, ruffled feathers, fiery bright,
a sparrow, finch, and titmice, stoking heavily for the night.
Comes a jay in bright attire, casts a cold unnerving stare,
then, rousts his small competitors, until he’s had his fare.—Patrick Kain
Standing at my kitchen window, sipping coffee and watching the birds, I was struck by the hierarchy of the feeder . So much so that I googled “poems about birds” and this is one of the first ones that popped up. I haven’t been able to find out much about the author, but judging from the birds he mentioned, he must be a Midwesterner, because I have seen every species he mentioned in his poem at my feeder every day since the snows blew in.
Of course, we all know my brain is wired a little differently, so I immediately extrapolated this budding bird feeder hierarchy theory of mine to Big Ten Basketball. Isn’t that what everyone thinks when enjoying a serene view at sunrise?
Currently residing at the bottom of the league are the finches, or in this case, Nebraska. Relegated to the bottom of the heap, these nervous nellies take what they can get from the ground spill, only occasionally allowed to grab a millet seed from the feeder.
Next up are the Titmice, as represented by Minnesota, Maryland and Northwestern. Not as neurotic as the finches but also often pushed off the feeder, they can still stand their ground and grab seeds on rare occasions. (Such as Maryland’s win over Illinois)
Starlings are next on my feeder’s hierarchy, with the ungainly bottom feeders aptly represented by Penn State and Iowa. They make a lot of noise and fuss, but don’t get a seat at the head table.
On occasion, sparrows come and overwhelm my feeder with sheer numbers and audacity. Sounds about like Indiana, Rutgers and Ohio State, right?
To me, Wisconsin is like the black capped chickadee. They’re an underrated bird, handsome in their coloration, but only rarely seen at the feeder.
My ornithological equivalent for Michigan State is the Common Grackle. A bird who tends to take shots at other birds and whose true colors only briefly reveal themselves.
Purdue’s birdfeeder representative has to be the Cardinal since Tolono’s own Brian Cardinal is a proud Boilermaker alum.
Finally, at the top of the hierarchy are the Fighting Illini, represented by the handsome and loud Blue Jay. They’ve made a habit the last few years of making themselves at home in other teams’ arenas, winning thirteen of their past 15 Big Ten road games, much like Blue Jays are known to usurp other species’ nests in the forest. I write this fully aware that by the time this goes to press, those Cardinals in West Lafayette may have successfully defended their nest against Illinois, but that’s the way I see it.