Most of us spent the past few days munching on one of the few bird species that we actually eat. Me too. But I also spent a considerable amount of time, well, watching birds eat.

I feed them, they dine on my deck and they practice that tried-and-true superiority game all we creatures do: the pecking order.

At the top of the ladder are the blue jays — or blue bullies, as I call them. At the bottom are the mourning doves, feeding off the floor like beggars despite their long and formal coats.

In between are the cardinals and those little brown thingies — hey, I’m a backyard bird watcher not an ornithologist. Grackles also visit, as do woodpeckers, especially a famously mis-named red-bellied woodpecker. They have red heads, not red bellies. My favorite of these is a frequent-flyer called Woody the Red. The woodpeckers hold their own, but like all the other birds they’re, well, flighty.

Every day this idyllic scene is violated by those scruffy-tailed rats — you may know them as squirrels — who hog all the bird food, dining acrobatically by hanging upside down on the feeder with their Velcro paws and scooping the bird food into their mouths. No matter how many times I grease the pole.

I tried mixing chili powder into the feed — birds don’t have taste buds, but squirrels do — but these squirrels must be immigrants from south of the border, illegal of course.

Squirrels sleep an average of 15 hours a day, but they must sleep in shifts around here because one or more of them are always available to steal the bird food. I know squirrels have to eat, too, but why don’t they go to your house?

What bugs me the most is that the birds, with perfectly good beaks to insure the pecking order is sustained, don’t beat the crap out of the squirrels. The birds are quicker, better armed and they outnumber them.

Didn’t the birds ever see that old King Kong movie where the little planes swoop all around and harass the hell out of the big ape until he plummets to his death from the Empire State Building.

Maybe if squirrels were constantly besieged by pointy flying beaks they might turn into better bottom feeders, which they are naturally anyway.

Is there a dojo for birds I don’t know about? I’d buy a scholarship for Woody the Red.

Saturday sermon

“The lord is at the mall / And the demons are in the trees / The devil’s in the details, baby”

— My Morning Jacket

So you’re so smart …

Last week I bet you couldn’t name the world’s two largest islands. My answer: Greenland and New Guinea. Getting it right were Ted M. and Bert H.

Most everyone got Greenland right, but other guesses were Indonesia, New Zealand, Antarctica and Madagascar.

“The biggest island is easy: Greenland. Number two is tougher,” writes Doug W. “In my mind it comes down to Borneo and New Guinea, and I’m going with Borneo as my guess. As soon as I send this message, I’ll go on Wikipedia and check my answer. Film at eleven.”

Now, I bet you can’t name the most populous cities in these three states: Florida, Ohio and Missouri. Want a hint? Take Miami, Cleveland and St. Louis off your list.

Columns for Kids

Donations can be sent to The Greater Attleboro Area Council for Children, PO Box 424, North Attleboro, MA 02761. Its website is And make sure you note that your donation is for Columns for Kids.

Thanks. See you next week.

ORESTE P. D’ARCONTE is a former publisher of The Sun Chronicle. Reach him at

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