December 9, 2016

For The Beauty And The Birds

Sunflower seeds for the birds, like this blue jay.

Charles Lindinberg said, "If I had to choose, I would rather have birds than planes", and I agree. What a sad, sanitized and quiet existence it would be without our feathered neighbours. Things would actually be better without planes, on the other hand.

Birds generally are not doing so good these days. Numbers are declining the world over, which is very troubling. A decline in the number of birds also means a decline in the state of the environment. The birds (and the environment) need our help.

This past summer we were sent 3 precious sunflower seeds from a family member. Not 3 packs of sunflower seeds. 3 seeds. Not 2, not 4. Exactly three little seeds.

We planted them carefully, then nurtured them with staking and watering and worm castings and love. They responded by becoming three fantastically Fibonacci-spiralled beauties. Upon gazing into the yellow eye of the sacred spiral sunflower all bad things disappear, like a misty breath dissipating on a cold winter day. Nothing but beauty is left.

Staring into a sunflower is a good example of the Navajo prayer of Beauty:

Beauty before me.
Beauty behind me.
Beauty above me.
Beauty below me.
Beauty around me.
It is finished in beauty.

As the large flowers developed, and the seeds began to dry, I could see that the birds were testing them out, but finding them not quite ripe enough to pull from the flowers. Shortly after, one flower blew over in a wind storm.

I checked on the flower, now on the ground, the next day. I couldn't believe it - every single seed was gone. Picked 100% clean in only a few hours. Since I did not witness what ate them, I started to speculate. Was it mice? Mink? Birds? If birds, what kind of birds? I had to know.

I cut the stalks of the other two flowers, and hung them on our front porch so that we could observe them from inside our house. It did not take long before they attracted hungry flying feeders - blue jays and starlings, two birds we didn't see close to our house previously. Ah - ha.

They descended upon the flowers in numbers, sharing seeds with several birds landing at a time. And the show was going on just a few feet from our front door window. More beauty.

Over the next few days we watched as the diners cleaned their plates and moved on. In the middle I went out and collected a few juicy seed specimens before they were gone, for next year's garden.

I got more than three.

Growing sunflowers is a great way to introduce some beauty into your surroundings while helping out the birds at the same time.

Other things you can do for birds (and the environment):

  • create safe places for birds to rest and nest in your yard and community
  • use fewer pesticides and chemicals
  • buy organic produce and products
  • let dead trees stand 
  • install bird baths 
  • convert lawns and gardens to native plants 
  • school grounds, parks, vacant lots, and common areas can all be “bird-scaped"
  • talk to others about your favourite birds and how they may be affected by climate change
  • live simply


  1. The sunflower is such a beautiful symbol of abundance isn't it? It's tall, and large and abundantly beautiful, then it gives its seeds so that we and the birds can eat, and finally those seeds can also produce many, many more sunflowers. Wow!

    Nature holds all that people seem to be striving for these days - beauty and abundance - and it's right in front of us and absolutely free.


  2. Anonymous12/09/2016

    Nature is beautiful and amazing. These animals and ecosystems are so precious. We are cultivators and are here to look after this planet. I think we will miss the birds, coral and fish when they go. We need to reach out in our consciousness, beyond the obvious and overcome our voluntary enslavement, people aren't bad, just part of the crew on the ship of fools. Let's reach out far as the way flows through the whole universe.

  3. I want to do this next year along our backyard fence. We grew sunflowers when we lived in PA and it was quite a challenge because the squirrels kept digging up the seeds we planted. We had to protect them with upside down clear plastic soda bottles until they got big enough to survive on their own. We have an abundance of squirrels where we live now, so it might be best for us to try and start the seeds indoors.

  4. Anonymous12/10/2016

    Sunflower are mentioned in the Greek mythology and I got some seeds today and hopefully the result will show. Small family of magpies made home in my backyard, plus lots of native birds visits daily. Saffron-Australia

    1. Anonymous12/11/2016

      Sunflowers are also important image in the Chinese communist revolution and feature in films from the 1950's.

  5. From a gift of three tiny seeds sprang forth so much joy for you and the birds that found meals! I find it self-nurturing to help the birds any way I can. I've watched them for thousands of hours. They are "the connectors" between earth and sky.
    I love your list, simple things we can do. "Don't cut down dead trees" and I would add don't cut down living trees either. Only humans would cut down a living tree, a birds natural home to build a birdhouse. Really smart, isn't it?
    A brush pile is a great sanctuary for all kinds of creatures including birds. With the drought in so many areas, finding ways to provide drinking water and a place for baths that birds so enjoy is something we all can do easily. The water freezes here at night, so I empty the ice in the mornings and fill with water. I have lots of birds stopping by all day.
    I saw a hummingbird here a few days ago. Hummingbirds normal leave here in early September for their heroic long flight to Coasta Rica. It's mid December and freezing at night. Hummingbirds should not be here now. It was frantically flying from limb to limb in a bush looking for anything it could eat. As soon as I saw it, I ran inside and made it some food and got it out there as soon as possible. Since their food is liquid, I bring it in at night and faithfully take the feeder out the next morning. I hope I can help it get enough food so it can get in the air heading south.
    Living simply is the best thing we can do for all living things including ourselves.


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