Monday, April 16, 2007

The Bird Wars

I get taken in every time. A little sunshine, and I think it's a glorious day for a bike ride. Which it would be except for the gentle 80 mph breeze whipping off San Francisco Bay. Still, we had some three day-old bread to donate to sea gulls, so off we went.

As soon as you make a throwing gesture with one arm, they swarm in for the kill. Even the ones who are so fat (from previous bread crumbs) that they can barely fly. Thirty miles out to sea, they sense a free meal and waddle in on wings. I have great aim. After much practice, I know how to compensate for the stiffest wind to lob carbs to the bird of my choice. I have a thing for underdogs underbirds. I try to feed the ones who are less aggressive, usually females. While also dropping tiny crumbs for the pigeons and other birds of small pride that cluster wherever sea gulls feast, vying for leftovers.

Suddenly a woman appeared on the next bench, carrying a sack big enough to smuggle a body in, filled with rolls. She had a whole frickin' bakery right there. On the next bench. In a heartbeat, nearly all the sea gulls abandoned me and flew over there, screeching and quivering in anticipation. I couldn't believe she set up shop right next to me. With a bread warehouse.

"She stole my birds," I said. Flip shrugged.
"How far apart are these benches, about 30 feet?" I asked him.
He looked at me nervously. "WHY?"
"Don't you trust me?"
"No. What are you planning to do?"
"She stole my birds," I repeated. "MY BIRDS."

The wench wasn't even dressed nicely. Or pretty. Yet she had so many birds around her that it looked like a Hitchcock movie. She was just sitting on the bench, tantalizing them with her huge bag of loot. Then she stood up and tossed a small crumb onto the boardwalk. Two dozen gulls dove for it. I think she was slipping them diet pills, or cocaine. Those good time Charleys didn't even remember me. I am not a particularly contentious person by nature, but we were in it now.

Competitive Bird Feeding 101.

What I needed was a large meathook or mechanical crane to airlift her out of there. I didn't have either one.

I tried telepathy. On the birds. "Poop on her. Poop on her now."

I tore up a handful of large crumbs and tossed them. Only five gulls remained in my camp. Five loyal gulls out of 40 or 50. And a lot of pigeons.

You know who loves ya, baby.

Another flock of sea gulls flew in from Hawaii and settled themselves on the bulkhead, watching her intently.

She rattled her gunny sack, just to be mean.

They waited patiently. Like high school boys checking out a new girl. With my bread going to waste 30 feet away. Organic bread. With 3 kinds of seeds in it.

She tossed another smidgen to nobody in particular. They acted like she hung the moon. She doled out crumbs as if she didn't care whether they were there or not. They inhaled every morsel like white on rice.

Men and sea gulls are suckers for indifference.

Next time, I'm going to spread my bread crumbs with peanut butter.


Chani said...

LOL!! Love it! Competitive bird feeding!




mist1 said...

As a competitive bird feeder, I would like to let you in on a secret. Protein.

Try feeding them seeds.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


How are you feeling?


The bread had seeds all over it. Whole Foods gazillion grain with 73 kinds of seeds on it.

AND the trespassing troll was feeding them soft hamburger buns. There's no nutrition in that.

meno said...

You know, 5 birds our of 50 ain't so bad. Really. 10% know a good thing when they see it.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


You're toying with me, ain'tcha?

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I agree with mist1. Try seeds.

EsLocura said...

competitive bird feeding should be a new sport, I personally would like to kill pidgeons, am currently at war with them, I wonder if it's possible to feed them until they explode?

Kate S said...

LOL, that was great. Hey, Chicago should be hosting the olympics and we have lots of lake gulls around. Maybe you can bulk up and come out here in 2016. Competitive Bird Feeding ought to have taken off by then. :)

furiousBall said...

Throw a rock at her, then take her bag out of her hands and dump the crumbs on her, the gulls will peck at the crumbs and that will teach her to try and take your birds.

Joan said...

So...are you this competitive about everything in life? You should know...I have a real fear of birds (what can I say, a rogue parakeet landed on my head when I was really young) so I will never fight you for the right to feed those scary creatures!

Ian Lidster said...

Men and seagulls ae suckers for indifference. I hate it when women are so damn perceptive about males, since it's true.
Otherwise, we call gulls 'shithawks' in these parts.
Oh, and your overseas gulls must have come from elsewhere than the Islands, because there are no gulls in Hawaii, unless they were vacationing there.


Lee said...

"Poop on her. Poop on her now."

I find myself having this thought way too often. You are hilarious.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


But I never have any leftover seeds. Feeding birds is a pleasant way to dispose of old bread instead of just trashing it.


I have absolutely no doubt that birds will eat enough to burst.

Let me know how your science experiment turns out.


If I need to bulk up, maybe I should be eating those bread crumbs myself. Some of these gulls are pretty large.


So where were you when I needed you?


Actually, I am not generally competitive at all. Feeding the birds is peaceful, and fun when they hover in mid-air catching morsels.

I was just disappointed that I got left holding the bag, so to speak.


Flip lived in Hawaii for many years (before we met,) and said that he'd never seen gulls there either. Somehow, I didn't notice when I was there.

I was once on a student ship crossing the Atlantic, exactly halfway between Montreal and La Hague, when a seagull squirted on my cheek. What are the chances?


How does that work out for you?

roonie said...


heartinsanfrancisco said...



Anonymous said...

This was golden, simply golden. You have such an amazing mind, I can literally see it jumping and hurdling along. It is quite a sight. I love the dialogue with Flip, the mind voyage. "She stole my birds." This is great.

And not every man is a sucker for indifference.

Anonymous said...

And do all women have to have allthe love -- can't they be happy with the love of one or two little gulls?

QT said...

LOL! Perhaps you should start bringing a crew of birds from your own hood for loyalty purposes?

heartinsanfrancisco said...


They're not? Oh, that is so good to know because I'm not very good at faking it.




Now there's an idea whose time has come. Crips and Bloods, doing it birdie-style.

MsLittlePea said...

Ha!So sunny.

The birds where I live are a bunch of thieves! They are so sneaky they will hover in the line of sunlight so as to blind you then swoop down and steal whatever you're-well I mean- I'm eating right from my lap.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Sweet Pea,

Ooooh, bad birds! Bad, Bad, BAD!!!

You should carry a decoy, a scarecrow or blow-up doll to distract them. Hopefully, by the time they figure it out, you'll be finished with your meal.

Some of the local gulls are sneaky, too. Last week, one of them swooped down and made off with a whole bag of bread. He just carried it off in the sky like a stork delivering a baby.

(Yes. I do believe that. Why do you ask?)

The Moon Topples said...

Try fish paste?

And remember that not all things are about volume. This is difficult for us Americans, but the love of your five was perhaps greater than the hunger of the masses.

jali said...

The birds love you - they were just acting like boys and checking out the other girl's goodies while stringing you along. Birds can be sooooo immature.

They would have eventually come back.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


FISH PASTE? That can't be good.

And that tired old thing about quality vs. quantity does nothing for me.


Maybe so, but how could I take them back after they cheated on me so blatantly? I got pride, y'know.

We'll see how they feel with peanut butter stuck in their craws.

velvet girl said...

LOL! Perhaps the gulls just haven't been told about the environmental benefits of eating organic.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Perhaps I should offer classes to educate them. Or perhaps I should just hang a large banner from my feeding bench.

I'm sure they'll believe it if they read it.

Anonymous said...

Was that last image here before? Is it new? Am I crazy?

Is it a personal shot, perchance?

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Dear Thomas,

I really am not qualified to determine whether or not you are crazy. Surely there are others who could clear that up for you.

The picture was added. I am very camera-shy. That is why it is so very small.

La Cubana Gringa said...

Forget the peanut butter. It's all about the crack.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

La Cubana,

The peanut butter was not to entice them, but to choke them.

I don't handle rejection well.

Thank you for your visit.

Kevin said...

Why do people have to be like that?

Anonymous said...

I am crazy, good friend, and it appears you have no reason to be shy.

Glad you put away the ruby slippers though. They can get a little slippery near the water.

Open Grove Claudia said...

Ok, you know I hate those flying rats but I can appreciate that you might not hate them as much as I do.

(Trust me, I lived in Venice Beach during the riots and earthquake - these birds do nasty quite well.)

What flying rats love is carion - you could try that.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Really. I cover the waterfront. Didn't she realize that?


The ruby slippers are for travel. I wished I had them when I flew to L.A. a few weeks ago and had to remove my laced Pumas for security. How much easier to have simply clicked my heels together and been there.


Carrion. (Snorting and giggling.) That is the best suggestion I have had.

"I'm sure this time our side will win."

Jocelyn said...

The photo at the end is terrific.

I hope you fawned over the 4-5 birds who stuck with you, giving them an allowance, building them bunk beds, buying them a new nest lined with gold flakes.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Of course I did. Ice cream cones all around, and I'm taking them to Disneyland for their school vacation.

Robin said...

Great pics! Love the underbirds.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Thank you for coming by. I really like your blog, and the work you do.

urban-urchin said...

OMG! Mark the date folks there is a (albeit small) photo of Guilty!!!

You are as stylish and graceful looking as I imagined.

The bird wars are pretty damn funny.
Stupid fickle, johnny come lately birds....

heartinsanfrancisco said...


You're too funny.

I'll bet the scenery looks familiar, especially the mist o'er all.

Stupid johnny-come-lately doodoohead birds.

thethinker said...

I wonder what effect cocaine has on birds.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


It makes them prefer her to me.

I hope they all divebomb her at once when they're jonesing really bad, and there isn't any more.

Molly said...

You probably don't need another comment but this was fall down funny....

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Of course I need a nice comment like that. I hope you didn't hurt anything when you fell.

Sienna said...

Seagull stealers!

What can I say, here in Australia it is a grievious crime...she obviously went down there with sinning on her mind, promised them the white carb world and delivered nothing...

May she sleep restless tonight, along with the seagulls full of hyper carb energy and stuck up in the bowels now for days.

That is why they can't poop, too much carbohydrates you know.
You never stood a chance.

Hey, g'day Heartinsanfransisco! it's me Pam, I feed my seagulls chocolate covered coconut, "bounty"... they will never leave you...(well, it works for me), the ducks love it too, and the kangaroos. :)

Too funny! Love your blog, all the best.


Cursed Tea said...

must be spring - bird posts abound!!
Although mine is somewhat more tranquil!!

oh and definitely not as funny!!! (in fact pretty low on the funnyometer)

Best Wishes

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Hi, Pam!

It is, indeed, grievous, to go about with sinning on ones mind.

The chocolate-covered coconut sounds good. I'd like some myself. (And I'll never leave me.)

It is gratifying that someone understands my position. My husband is having many laughs over it.


Welcome back.

I read your post, and was enchanted with your ability to score the birdsong. Insomnia is not all bad.

And it WAS tranquil -- no stealth bombers or women bearing body bags. Also more melodious than seagull shriek.

Cursed Tea said...

Thanks for visiting my blog(s)!!

I thought I should quickly let you know that Academy of St Martin in the Fields is NOT a sexist organization!! I know that for a fact! So continue your Baroque litening (by the way check out "The Venice Baroque Orchestra" they are amazing - the play in period style (St Martins doesn't). And also Peter Wispleway's Vivaldi cello sonatas!!

(you see I am a classical musician by trade - I don't blog about it because it is a tiny and opinionated community which would pick apart and maybe misinterpret what I say - so I don't tell what I do on my blogs)

I love your pix on your other blog - SF is such a great city!!

Best Wishes

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I have another suggestion. Forget the birds and feed squirrels. Yes! That's it! Squirrels. We would never abandon you to your face. Never! We know how to cheat discretely behind your back.
Remember...."Squirrels are our friends. You feel like feeding squirrels."

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Thank you for the heads up about one of my favorite orchestras. I knew that you were a classical musician from reading your blog a while ago - I think it was a post about opera.

I will definitely check out the Venice Baroque Orchestra and also Peter Wispleway. I have several Yo Yo Ma recordings, and one of Ofra Harnoy playing Vivaldi concerti, no sonatas. Lots of other Vivaldi, who is my hero.


I had several "pet" squirrels as a child. I carried them around like dolls and they ate out of my hands. My mother was sure I would get a terrible disease from them, and from bird feathers, which I collected.

It's good to know that they were cheating behind my back.

Cursed Tea said...

oops i meant concertos (I have a masters in music - honest!!!)

I know the Ofra Harony - wispleway takes it to a whole different level!!


heartinsanfrancisco said...


I bought the Harnoy because I wanted a particular piece and Tower Records didn't have it by anyone I knew better. I don't love her.

Thanks for the heads up!

Catherine said...

I read this the first time while at work during a time when commenting was not possible. Anyway, I felt compelled to come back and thank you for such a great internal, hiding-from-my-boss kind of laugh you gave me.

And thanks for visiting earlier this week! I absolutely love when I make a return visit to a new commenter's blog only to discover a really talented writer has just been over!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Thank you. I'm so flattered. I really enjoyed playing in your yard with you and your delightfully chaotic household.

CS said...

Yeah, what's up with that sucker for indifference business? Such a silly game.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


It truly is. But I remember from my dating years that it is often the case. I was never able to pull it off unless I was truly indifferent, though, not being good at faking anything.

As for seagulls, inexcusable.