Bird Reflections

Autorin: Lisa Zhang

On my balcony, I have assembled a DIY bird feeder. It is a neat little thing consisting of two water bottles, one that functions as a feeder and the other as a water container. I have attached them with metal wire to a branch that I found close to our dormitory. They call it upcycling, to re-use old trash and prettify it. Something I recommend all students on a budget to try! Mainly because it reduces waste, saves you a little bit of money, and is quite fun to do if you are into that sort of thing.

In “Im Neuenheimer Feld”, many kinds of small birds come and visit my feeder. There are blue tits with their puffed up yellow breasts; they really are acrobats of the woods, jumping up and down, doing tricks from one branch to another. Then there are the slightly bigger green finches with their green tails; they are less common. Of course there is the common sparrow, who here in “Im Neuenheimer Feld“ is quite shy because the blue tits dominate. I have seen many a time blue tits chase away a sparrow. I suppose numbers do matter in the law of the jungle. But really, I never thought I would see shy sparrows in my life given that they are known to be aggressive birds when it comes to food – apparently you never know.

However, there is one bird which is the king of the bird feeder, and that is the rose-ringed green parakeet. It usually just sits on the feeder majestically, and grazes at the food until it is gone. These birds almost have a neon-green sheen to their feathers and as they mature, they develop a rose-coloured ring around their neck – hence the name. So obviously out of place in a town like Heidelberg, that, first when I arrived I thought they were from the zoo, until I realised that they had made themselves at home in these parts.

There is a big debate about rose-ringed green parakeets in Europe. Considered to be an invasive species, they, according to some, destroy the native habitat of other birds, build heavy nests which may fall onto people’s heads, and most of all, there seems to be a xenophobic fear that they are not native to the region. What might these strangers do to the natural habitat? Nobody knows. Nobody also knows how they really arrived to Europe. Myths flourish about how they initially were pets who fled from cages, but more likely I think, is that they have migrated because of the climate crisis. It has been a mild winter.

The parakeets are the noisiest of the birds that come and visit, and they often make a racket in the morning when they discover that the bird feeder is empty. I feed them sunflower seeds, which is supposed to be good for all birds. Never feed birds bread. When I started to learn about bird feed, this was the first thing that came up on Google. Apparently, bread is like fast food for birds. Quite yummy, but in the end, it only consists of empty calories. Sunflower seeds, and other seeds, fruits and nuts (and even mild cheese!), contain all the nutrition that the birds need. Oh, and never feed birds anything with salt, that is very bad for them.

I often wonder what the Heidelberg crowd think of the rose-ringed parakeets. Most people I have talked to seem to be of the mind that it is a nice exotic addition to our parts, although I think few realise that the parakeets might be on their way to becoming the next dove – that is how much they thrive. At least, when it comes to the debate, we are not at the brown versus grey squirrel situation yet. At least for now, they just function as my colourful alarm clock in the mornings.