The Nation's Pulse

For the Birds

There is a need to apologize for some rats in their midst.

By 11.19.08

Never thought I'd be writing an apology to the birds. But then, never thought General Motors would be looking for a handout, either. So here goes.

I know you feathered folk wonder what happened to the big bird feeder out back, and the smaller one containing thistle seed. You'd relied on it all summer and those of you who stick around in winter were looking forward to it especially. It was a pleasure seeing all of you: Cardinals, nut-hatches, sparrows, finches gold and otherwise. But it was not a pleasure the day not long ago when something else showed up.

Down below the feeder, there was a squirrel-like creature with a smooth, hairless tail, rummaging among the seeds and shells. Yeah, a rat. Next day, a companion rat, and the day after a couple of smaller ones, four in all. Fairly tame, like you birds. Some casual inquiry revealed that several bird fanciers had seen the same and had been forced to do what I finally did: take the feeders away.

I had been reading and seeing that there was a campaign in the District of Columbia to combat an outbreak of rats, but heck, these were the suburbs, miles from that problem. There is no such thing as "miles from a problem," I quickly learned. Bird feeders were coming down all around the 'burbs, like the Dow Jones Averages.

For several post-feeder days I watched the area. No rats, though an exterminating service had already collected a $129 and change just for coming around. And no birds, as if they had expected something dire would happen to the chowline and readily abandoned the place.

Not sure where all of you went, and so fast, without a farewell chirp. Perhaps you knew the lesson of diminishing returns before I did. At any rate, my apologies for being unable to cope with a circumstance that would have a deleterious effect on others whose participation in the event was peripheral at best. You have learned a lesson. Me, too.

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About the Author

Reid Collins is a former CBS and CNN news correspondent.