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TITLE: A Delicate Balance
By Loretta Leonard
03/12/07
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Ornithology. There it was on the schedule of classes for Biology majors in college. I had already finished general biology and one year of anatomy and physiology. I loved animals so I focused on zoology courses. What to choose? I eventually chose another course but I maintained my interest in birds and their habitats. I studied the various types of birds with a descriptive colored handbook in front of me to learn the general names. My favorite area for study was in the Allegheny forest where we had a cabin. The large picture window was the perfect place for study.

My first real experience with birds started shortly after we were married. I had never been allowed to have pets while growing up so browsing at the pet shop was a favorite store to visit. We were looking at parakeets in a mall in Indianapolis and the brightly colored but noisy birds got my attention. We left the pet store and focused on shopping and I never gave another thought to the pet shop. My husband disappeared shortly after we had wandered around the mall. He came back with a solid yellow parakeet that was hopping up and down in the little box. We dubbed him Pretty Boy. He was an ingenious little guy who would fly out of his cage and read the paper. We would place the newspaper flat on the floor and in no time Pretty Boy flew down and landed on the open pages. He walked across the paper and when you decided to turn the page he would walk off the one page then walk right back and repeat this process until we decided to return him to his cage. Pretty Boy stayed with us for about four years.

For the next few years we turned our attention to rearing four boys. Our life was full of activities that centered on everything from football and taekwondo to parent-teacher meetings. We moved from state to state due to my husband’s work and eventually found a home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I spent my first few years teaching but it became overwhelming when I had to teach and supervise the boys’ homework. It wasn’t long until I decided that I was needed at home. I devoted my time to being a mother and a part time chauffeur running errands with the boys in tow.

Around that same time I decided to try my luck with birds. This time I chose a pair of zebra finches. They hopped around in their cage and chirped with a melody that resounded throughout the house. I decided that it was time to update the interior of the home and I made my first attempt at some home remodeling. I stripped the wallpaper off the wall and proceeded to sand the rough spots so the surface would be smooth for painting. I worked with the radio playing in the background but forgot to remove the birds from the area. When I finished phase one of my home improvement task I stepped back admire my work. But I discovered that my zeal for home improvement was dampened by the fact that both of the finches had died. I neglected to think about their delicate little breathing system. The dust from sanding was more than they could handle. Thus ends my second attempt at raising birds.

My next experience with birds was actually a bird that my son found and brought home. Troubles entertained all of us. He would hop around in his cage and then perch on the cage bar that went from one side of the cage to the other side. Without any fear, Troubles would make a 360 degree circle around the wooden rod. It was unbelievable to watch this parakeet do a complete circle over and over again but he never seemed to be afraid. Troubles lived to be about five years old.

For the next few years we moved again and I watched the outdoor birds. A family of wrens made their nest in my hanging basket on the front porch. Cardinals, blue jays, and robins always seemed to be abundant. It wasn’t until after our move to Arkansas that I had my got my next bird. It was a gift from my son and daughter-in-law. A lovely solid white parakeet with shades of blue peeking out from underneath his wings. Powder had a very special place near the dining room window. He was suspended from the ceiling and he was a little quieter than most of our other pet birds. When we received Powder we already had five cats. Unless Powder wanted to become a feast for any of them we had to be extra cautious. One wrong move and the parakeet could easily disappear from our home, through no fault of his own. Powder eventually died to a deformed beak that would not let him pick up food.

My next experience with birds came around Mother’s Day. No one seemed to be able to think of a unique gift so two of my boys spied some beautiful finches at the pet shop and thought it would be a nice gift. They asked questions and since we couldn’t decided between two different species, we went home with a society finch and a spice finch. After reading more about the care of finches we discovered that the sales clerk had misinformed us about selecting finches. The rule was that if you get more than one bird both of the birds should be the same variety. In spite of the blunder the birds got along remarkably well in their new floor cage isolated in a bedroom where the cats could not find “lunch”.

The society finch died first while trying to lay an egg. I was melancholy but I could accept the fact that there was really nothing I had done wrong. The spice finch was named Mr. Spice and his melody and song could be heard throughout the house. On one day that I was extra busy, my husband came into my computer room with the sad news. Mr. Spice had died due to lack of water. Oh, my goodness, I had neglected the one thing that the little guy needed most of all---water. Saddened by the loss, I decided my experience with pet birds should be abandoned. I just didn’t have the focus I needed to keep a bird without somehow seeming to attribute to his death.

I was still fascinated with birds so I turned my attention to watching the birds outside my window. I put up some hummingbird feeders and placed two feeders with seed that was designed to attract songbirds. I was not disappointed. The hummingbirds perched precariously on the little perches and flapped their tiny wings back and forth putting on quite a show. Bluebirds, cardinals, outdoor finches, tiny wrens, chickadees and blue jays all visited and feasted on the combination of nuts, berries, and seeds. Even a red-bellied woodpecker showed up. Some birds chose to hop along the surface of the deck to pick up seeds that had fallen down. My Bengal cat loved to watch “television” by the large window and attempted to catch as many as he could. Of course, he never made it but hearing him chatter and watching him try to pounce on the birds outside the window was entertaining.

At last I had a new way to enjoy birds without being completely responsible for their individual needs. One day though I discovered that my flowerpots had been turned over and dirt was scattered on the surface of the deck. I couldn’t figure out what happened at first; then I realized exactly what had taken place. The small kitten that I had rescued over the summer and given to the young boy next door just happened to be very interested in trying to catch the birds and was very expert at finding a delectable meal, compliments of my ability to lure birds to my place.

Now it was back to a battle of wits to see if I could enjoy my view of the birds from the garden or whether I would have to give the victory to Inky. No matter what I tried to do Inky, that delightful kitten that I had rescued, was determined to stay put in my yard. I had to give up attracting birds since it just didn’t seem fair to put out seeds to entice the birds to my yard only to have them threatened by a predator cat. Since the neighbors moved away from here about four months ago I am now able to watch the birds again. Gone are the cats that stood guard on my deck and for now there are no other cats that pose any threat to the birds.

Each experience with birds taught me one thing. Life is in a very delicate balance. Upsetting the air quality and letting tiny particles of sanded sheetrock into the air will cause death rather quickly. Powder succumbed to death because he couldn’t get the necessary food into his mouth so it could be digested. Neglecting to give food and water to an indoor finch leads to its death. Outdoor birds may be interesting to watch but the most unsuspecting songbird is threatened by stalking domestic cats. Hummingbirds are dainty works of God that amaze us with wonder at how intricately God made them, but if we fail to keep the feeder full with nectar they have to find another source. In finding that source there is always the possibility that the food source is already gone. Just one tiny error can tip the balance in the opposite direction. What you once appreciated and enjoyed as part of God’s creation can just as easily be threatened by adverse conditions.

As God takes us along in our journey through life, we have to be sure to keep the right balance of nutrition. When we receive Christ into our heart, we are like small birds that have to begin life dependent on their mother. We need to be fed small portions of His word and Christ is the one who nurtures us as we take tiny baby steps. When we begin to get into His word and learn about His care for us our diet changes and we are able to digest more of the meaning of the Bible. We have to learn how to walk with Christ.

Just as young birds adapt to the world around them, they leave the security of the nest and venture out on their own. Seeds, berries, and even worms may prove to be a tasty treat but the boundaries have been widened. The birds will spend more and more time learning about predators, locating places to build new nests, and experiencing the joy of just sitting on a branch and feeling the wind gently caress their wings.

Soon the birds begin to mature and make nests for eggs. As the eggs hatch, the birds are ready now to take over basic parenting skills. They are able to spread their wings and fly and they are old enough to face life on their own. They can test their boundaries and become over confident in what they can do. They make the wrong decisions and discover that cats really do like birds. A few missing tail feathers make the lesson one that will be remembered easily.

Just like the birds, young Christians just starting out need to learn how to become independent. Young Christians begin to mature in Christ and to grow deeper in His word. It is a time when they can test their knowledge of what has been learned. They may test their skills by moving slightly away from the Word and inching out their boundaries just a little. They may neglect to read the Bible, miss some Sunday services, and fall into bad habits. No matter what they choose to do in life, Christians mature and leave an imprint on the lives of others. It isn’t easy to always keep our eyes on God.

For the bird, the life span varies. Usually, the smaller the bird the shorter the life span is. A parakeet will live around seven years if given proper care. Some outdoor birds only live twelve to fifteen years. Birds like cockatoos and macaws can live fifty years and longer. No matter what type of bird lives here, their life, too, is in the Maker’s hands. “Consider the ravens, for their neither sow or reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn and God feeds them” (Luke 12:24 NKJV)

Our lifespan too depends on God. We are fledglings who bravely put our trust in Christ. We learn to use our mind to find the right nutrition for growth as we walk closely to Him. We breathe in the fresh air of God’s Word and let it rejuvenate our soul. We reflect on His goodness and sing the “good news” of Christ to others. We learn to rest in God and hide under His wing of protection when life becomes difficult (Psalm 17:8 NKJV). Our testings will either bring us closer to God or move us away from His tender care. He is our strength and support during our growth as a Christian. As we depend on Him we can raise our heads proudly and look into his face. Our songs of praise are just as pleasing to Him as the warble a bird perched on a branch with his face pointed to the sky.
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