For the Birds Radio Program: Morning in America (Placeholder)

Original Air Date: Nov. 9, 1992

Having a Blue Jay for an alarm clock isn’t most people’s ideal.

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Right now, it’s morning in America, quite literally, and I suspect that morning at my house is different than morning at yours.

The moment I get up, Sneakers the Blue Jay hears me and starts making soft peeping sounds. If I go anywhere near the family room where Sneakers’s cage is, she starts squawking and whistling desperately until I take the cover off her cage, so sometimes I use her as the house alarm clock. Once the cover is off her cage, she expects breakfast immediately. I heat up some Green Giant frozen corn, and then throw in some prepared bird mix, vitamins, peanuts, and anything else I can think of. If we’re making eggs for the kids, Sneakers gets a bite. In the summer she gets strawberries and raspberries from the garden, after Halloween she gets pumpkin seeds, and if it’s around any of the kids’ birthdays, she gets a few Froot Loops, Sneakers’s idea of the perfect breakfast.

I clean out Sneakers’s water, too, and she’s always torn between whether to eat or bathe first. She spatters a lot of water around the cage, so the next step is to clean up after her.

Then it’s time to wake up the nighthawks. Fred and little Annie stay together at night in a cardboard box. I open it, and they both hop onto my hand and ride out onto their nighthawk corral in style. Lately I’ve been keeping four of the nighthawks on a five-foot-long cardboard box cover. Fred looks at me with an eager, expectant look. He’s sort of the nighthawk version of a cocker spaniel when he’s hungry, so I feed him right away. Annie, whose humerus bone was pulle out the shoulder and also had a busted leg, hobbles along like Walter Brennan most of the time. But first thing in the morning, moved by a powerful hunger, she flaps her wings eagerly, attempting to run toward me. Problem is, her bad wing twists oddly, making her move literally backward, and the harder she tries to reach me, the further back she goes. It’s funny but also heartrending to watch this eager little bird fly backward. I always manage to get the food into her somehow.

Now the nighthawks in the pet carrier are growing restless. The second I open the door, Crabby Face rushes out, hissing irritably. I feed him a big plop of food. I can never get any crickets or mealworms into Crabby face–for some reason, he spits out any live or even dead insects right out and runs away indignantly . So the only breakfast Crabby Face gets is my bird food ash made from ground up Purina Hi Pro, bird minerals and vitamins, applesauce, Knox gelatin, and a host of other ingredients. It’s one of the few things I know how to cook, and fortunately, Crabby likes it just fine.

Poor Snarfy sits patiently in the pet carrier that she shares with Crabby Face until either I reach in and offer her a bite or she can’t stand the wait any longer. She always walks out in a slow, dignified manner several minutes after Crabby Face has rushed out.

By now Sasha the cat wants her breakfast. She walks in with Purina Cat Chow on her mind, rubs against my leg plaintively, and all four nighthawks start hissing and swearing. Sasha ignores them so they all raise their wings as if they were in a stick-up.

Meanwhile, the neighborhood jays are squawking for peanuts outside, and the juncoes at the feeder look hungry, too. I don’t usually get to sleep in with all these birds waiting for me, but they make getting out of bed every morning a jolly new adventure. And that’s the way morning in America should be.