Encouraged by your encouragement, I did a few more birds including a pair of Cardinals. They aren’t as fat this year, probably because they have to compete with a giant flock of starving Grackles.

I don’t know if the Grackles are really starving, but they act like they haven’t eaten in years. They act like that while they are eating, so I think that like the Duke, they are permanently ready for a good feed.

The problem is, they come down by the dozens and clean out every seed and all the suet. Our birdseed has doubled in price over the past three months — inflation, in case you haven’t noticed. What used to be about $45/month is now closer to $100/month which is a lot of money to a couple of retirees. There’s nothing I can do about it short of taking away the food, something I hate doing in the middle of the winter. I’m not putting any suet out until the Grackles move on or I give up and realize that from here on until they decide to travel, it’s Armstrong and the Grackles, together forever.

I keep being told that they will eventually move on, but ours don’t seem to be going anywhere except across the street where there are more feeders. I could manage a dozen Grackles, but there are at least a hundred — which is an unusually big flock. Not every bird is a Grackle though most are. A dozen or so are crows and there are a few Starlings mixed in the group. The Starlings are smaller than Grackles, so they sometimes show up without the rest of the gang and take over the wood feeder.

If we had a lot more money, I’d find a way to take care of every creature who lives in our woods, but we aren’t those people. I don’t know any non-rich folks who have the means to feed so many birds, especially not retirees. We have this fixed income thing, so as prices rise while our incomes don’t. It’s an endless battle to feed ourselves. I have no solution for this issue. Basically, what the Cornell people say is, “Well, at least they are beautiful and as American as any bird 🐦could possibly be.”

Indeed they are beautiful. And hungry.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 72-cardinal-ii_26.jpg
Before I go further, I wanted to show you what a fat little Cardinal looks like. They are thinner this year because they have to fight for the food with a couple of hundred starving Grackles
So he isn’t really as “off” as he looks because his picture shows his girth

This month, I have trimmed down my drawing because the Cardinals aren’t quite as fat — even with Garry, me and the Duke rapping on the windows (Garry and me), barking on the deck (that would be the Duke) and all that. They fly away, but they come back again and again and again.

I’m happy with how the Grackle turned out but I’m not happy enough with either of the Cardinals. They need work so until I draw one I actually like, I’ll keep trying.

Categories: #Birds, #Photography, Anecdote, Arts, Cardinal, Ecology, Grackle, Humor

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11 replies

  1. How about a fundraiser for the birds? I am certain that they are kindred spirits more than willing to help! Here in my city, we have so many groups to help stray dogs and cats and people are very generous with donations and any help that can see the strays through their plight.


  2. Your drawings — including the cardinal — are amazing!


    • I keep working on it. And they are getting better. I’m trying to make them look more “real” and less like cartoons. I haven’t quite worked out the “3-dimensional look” for which I’m striving, but I figure I’ll get there. Meanwhile, THANK YOU THANK YOU for the encouragement! It really makes a big difference.

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      • This cardinal doesn’t look at all like a cartoon — the only suggestion I would make is to look at where the tail joins the body (a little farther down than you have it, and the angle it gods (almost straight down) — it may be because he’s not sitting on the branch like in the photo, but otherwise I think you’ve got it!


        • He was sitting on the flat feeder. You couldn’t even SEE his feet. Also, have you noticed the weird stuff they do with their feet? They can actually turn them backward. I think they must have very stretchy ligaments in their feet. That was my first drawing of a bird. I think the recent ones are better — and for some reason, I have a lot of trouble with those red fellows. I’m not giving up!

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  3. A fat little cardinal! Great drawings Marilyn.


  4. Marilyn and Gary, thank you for your sacrifices in feeding these birds. Like you, if rich, I’d take care of more, too. 100 birds…wow! Your drawings are inspirational. And I think the “gerthy” cardinal is beautiful. The ones in my neck of the woods are skinnier. Perhaps because they fight for food as well. Keep up the amazing work!


    • All birds are essentially gluttons — but that’s because they normally eat their own weight in food every day — and they need even more in the winter. If we didn’t have so much snow on the ground, I’d feel better about taking down the feeders and letting them all fend for themselves for a few weeks until the Grackles move on. The other birds aren’t going anywhere because they nest here.

      I’m doing the best I can, but sometimes, it’s just really hard to keep going. I get discouraged when I realized how much is needed and how little I can do.

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