The Nature of Things

There are a lot of birds on the island of Maui, most imported over hundreds of years of . . . I’m not too sure what to call it? Occupation? Exploration? Tourism?

Wild pheasants and feral chickens abound. (I swear this place should be called Chicken Island.) Red cardinals imported from the American South. Myna birds from Australia. Feathered beings from other islands and from Asia and Java. The bird song hangs sweetly on the air on the slopes of Haleakala volcano, aptly named “the House of the Sun” in Hawaiian. My morning meditations are filled with it, and the delicate trills and flutings reliably fill my heart with joy.

Indeed, the bird song is so delicious that I wanted more.

So I borrowed an unused bird feeder from a friend, made a run to Del’s Farm Supply for some wild bird seed and Ace Hardware for a metal hanger, and within minutes I had a bird feeding station dangling outside the windows next to my desk.

Days passed. No birds. Two weeks passed. No birds.

I’d almost forgotten about the feeder when suddenly what I soon learned was a Javanese sparrow flitted in for a landing. A day later there were several sparrows and some house finches. By the end of the week there was a deluge. The doves didn’t stand a chance, nor any other kind of bird. The sparrows and finches took over. Soon the intense fighting and squabbling squawks and screeches over food filled the air, drowning out the sweet background sound of other, happier birds in the fields and forests nearby.

Messily the birds tore through the food, at least 5 cups a days, spilling huge amounts of extra seed unnoticed on the ground. A rat arrived to take care of the food on the ground and was soon burrowing his noisy way somewhere into the sub-flooring. A couple feral chickens arrived as well, and soon the once pristine grassy walkway to my ohana was dotted with chicken shit that had to be carefully dodged. The birds used the railings along the porch for a staging and digestion area, and soon the handrails and steps up to the house were dotted with crap.


Hawaii is not Vermont or Montana, buried under neck-deep drifts of winter snow. The birds here are fine and well-fed all-year long. All I’d managed to do with my longing for more was muck up the natural order of things and turn my little corner of paradise into an avian battleground.

I’m not sure what the moral of this story is. Leave well enough alone seems kind of trite. But it sure appears to be true. Nature easily balances everything. Humans, not so much.

The 35 pound bag of bird seed was gone in a little over two weeks. Once empty, I quietly took the feeder down and gave it back to my friend. No wonder she hadn’t been using it!

It took a few days for the unruly feathered mob I’d conjured to disperse back into the wilds. But they eventually gave up.

Now there is nothing left but bird song.

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