The Birds, The Squirrel and The Hawk

August 16, 2020

These days I am finding myself with lots of time to observe; not just see things and move on, but to observe and actually reflect on what I see.

Most recently, odd as it might seem, I spent time observing the life around my birdfeeder.  In the past if I remembered to put out birdseed, I just did it, then went about my day, not always noticing when it needed replenishing. There wasn’t much motivation to keep it full since birds didn’t seem too keyed into the food anyway; but the squirrels were another story; always lurking in the branches, waiting for an easy meal.  

Now, however, since I do have time for observation, I realize that my impressions of life around the feeder wasn’t exactly accurate.  The birds do notice the seed! They just can’t seem to get a place at the ‘table’ unless they show up at dawn before the squirrels manage to make their way to ‘seedlovers’ brunch!

It has all been very interesting to watch.  The birds are very generous in making room for all kinds of birds. They come together at the various openings on the feeder, eat enough to satisfy themselves, then fly off, as other birds take their place. No pushing, no shoving, no differentiation of species – all eat and all are fed.  Well, almost all.

Once the squirrels arrive, all bets are off!  

The squirrels come like an entitled mob, chasing away the birds and taking ownership of the entire feeder; one super aggressive large squirrel in particular!  That squirrel obviously never went to kindergarten because he wouldn’t even share the feeder with other squirrels!  Rather, he positioned himseIf upside down, did a faceplant into the feeder holes of my ‘squirrel proof’ feeder, sucked up as much seed as he could manage, then shook the container with his front paws, as he clung to the tree with his back paws, in order to get better access to any remaining sunflower seeds and fruit.  As long as that squirrel was there, no one else had a chance. I even put corn cobs around the base of the tree to entice him away from the feeder so other animals could eat, but no dice. He would hide the cob and come back for the seed!

I soon realized that the squirrel’s aggression had nothing to do with his size. Deer came to the feeder to eat and he chased them away as they tried to lift their muzzles to the seed, leaving them to forage whatever spilt on the ground!  That mean squirrel was unbelievable! He acted like he owned the feeder, and had bought the seed himself!  

Then, one day, as I was coming up my driveway, a tremendous hawk flew up from the ground near the feeder and I wondered, what the heck?  I soon discovered that mean squirrel dead on the ground. The hawk screamed at me from high in the trees when I stopped to look. Apparently, I was to go inside so it could finish eviscerating the dead rodent making it light enough to carry to its nest.  

Apparently, the squirrel had been so busy monopolizing the birdfeeder, it didn’t see the attack from above – the other squirrels and the birds fled unscathed.

Interestingly, with the elimination of the bully, the other squirrels, though still a bit greedy at times, are not quite as aggressive as he had been. All sorts of creatures have a chance to eat in peace now.

What a drama! What a remarkable opportunity to observe and reflect and just much we humans have in common with those animals! 

+ + +

All we that have is provided for us as a gift from God: our intellect, health, educational opportunities, our time, our lives, everything!  None of us are ‘self-made’ people. Nothing we have is truly ours for our exclusive use, either. All that we have, all that we are, is on loan from God for the purpose of not only caring for ourselves but for all others as well. Sure, we work to provide for ourselves and our families; but the means to work and to provide comes from God.

Once we begin to understand this most basic truth, the delusion of our entitlement to possess anything at all is shattered. 

Yet, often, we don’t want to accept this fundamental reality. So much of our lives are spent in acts of territorial aggression as we guard and squirrel away ‘our stuff,’ and chase off anyone who dares to encroach on ‘our space.’ 

Yet this isn’t a blessed way to live at all. Rather it’s a cursed life, a miserable life, an anxious life, a life that typically doesn’t end well, because there is always a hawk waiting to swoop.

What hawk?  The isolation and bitterness of greed that sinks its talons into us and brings heart disease and chronic illness; the grasping, hoarding, and aggressively competitive mindset that eviscerates us by stealing our joy and savaging our relationships; the bullying behaviors that lead to wars and societal unrest. And  I’m sure you can think of other hawkish consequences!

But then, consider the birds. They gather to eat and make room; not only for each other but also for the deer.  No wonder Jesus talked of the ‘birds of the air’ (Matthew 6:26) when He spoke of God’s provision and our need to not worry about stuff.  

I realize I am anthropomorphising, but perhaps the birds’ behavior demonstrates their confident trust that their needs will be met. They have no need to grasp to have it all. Of course, they ‘work’: nest building, baby raising, all kinds of bird employment (perhaps some, more than others), but all are welcome to the ‘table’!

As for humans: some of us do indeed have more than others – lots more – and it’s typically considered a form of blessing. I think of it more as God’s opportunity for us to observe those in need and share our blessings in order to bless others; to make room at the table, room in the board room, the classroom, the playground, room to become brothers and sisters together. Living in such a way is an opportunity to not only meet the needs of others but also to empower all to share themselves as we’ll until no one is in need. ‘

Of course, we can always choose to live like that squirrel….but if we do….all I can say is ‘watch out for the hawks!”  

And to God be the glory!  AMEN.

Published by Pastor Catharine

Retired ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. I have a Master's of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry (with an emphasis on Spiritual Transformation of Community) from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

2 thoughts on “The Birds, The Squirrel and The Hawk

  1. Such an awesome observation and so easily applied to the world today. The hoarding, entitlement mentality, and greed screams “squirrel”! I pray that the words you wrote will have as profound an impact on others as they did on me. We own nothing, we earned nothing, and we are masters of nothing – only stewards of all He has “loaned” us to use to love and serve.


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