House finch

One finch doesn’t
fly with the others,
his eyes clouded
over. Whatever
panics the others
never shakes him,
gripping the perch
he had struggled
to find, flying by
sound, by shadows,
by the sudden wind
from fifty wings
leaving him alone
at the round
house of a feeder,
pulling gray sun-
flower seeds
from under
its doors.

11 Comments


  1. Oh yes. We’ve just been reading Oedipus, you know: and all through the play you sit there wondering whether being able to see is good thing or a bad thing.

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  2. Nice observational poem, Dave! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a visually-impaired bird — do they get cataracts, too?

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  3. I’ve seen similarly impaired birds at our feeders. On their last legs, grabbing one more sunflower seed before the sun goes down. A lovely poem, dave.

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  4. I found this very moving. Amazing they survive, these birds, we tend to think anything like that in wild nature is ruthlessly dispatched.

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  5. Very nice. I think I have read that house finches (or maybe purple?) suffer from a terrible eye problem. Don’t know how they get by. In fact, how does any bird survive the winter, even with birdfeeders?

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  6. This is very moving. The lines

    “flying by
    sound, by shadows,
    by the sudden wind
    from fifty wings”

    have been playing over and over in my head since I read this yesterday. I’m watching the house finches at my feeders this morning. They’re fine, but this is a potent reminder to keep the feeders clean.

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  7. Re: “how do they survive?” Long-term, they tend not to — but as noted, they can often get by for a while — and most small birds don’t live too long anyhow, even if they don’t get eaten by something or other, or bash their brains on an window, etc. As long as they can reproduce quickly enough to outrace the hazards, the species survives. (Life sucks being a small critter. Bugs have it even worse!)

    On the other hand, massive epidemics are a real problem, as are large-scale hazards like windmill farms on the migration path.

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  8. Whenever the ex and I discussed brief-writing, he’d invariably rant about judges who ruled for the party with the greater number (not quality) of precedents. He derided the practice as “the house finch theory of law.”

    So justice must be the blind house finch.

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  9. Oblivious, like we all are so much of the time. It interests me how injured birds or animals can be accepted by their flock so readily sometimes, even though they are quite separate from it

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  10. Thanks for the comments, everyone. There’s some good information on house finch eye disease (and a couple photos) here. We’ve also noticed it in one or two goldfinches.

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