Why My Bird Feeders Sit Empty

Walkers-by might wonder if I have become forgetful.

Two bird feeders that I normally fill every other day or so hang empty in my front yard. It could be transference, but I think the birds appreciate the free lunch. And it could be imagination, but I am pretty sure the chickadees cheer when they see me come out my front door with the Rubbermaid container full of black sunflower seed.

But there is nothing to cheer or chirp about today. The local news warned that a mysterious illness is attacking birds. It affects the eyes of birds such as blue jays and robins. It may even cause death. 

The current theory is that the illness is spread from bird to bird as they gather – such as at birdbaths and bird feeders. The birds that were mentioned in the article are not the birds that come to my feeders, actually. But, out of an abundance of caution, for the time being, my feeders will remain empty. And I am putting out tiny little masks in case they insist on being birds of a feather that flock together.

According to the article, “USGS is recommending that people remove backyard bird feeders, avoid handling sick birds and keep pets away from birds. ‘Because we don’t know what it is, we have to be that much more vigilant. We still don’t know if it’s caused by a virus or a bacteria or a toxic chemical in pesticides,’ said Jordan Rutter, director of public relations at the American Bird Conservancy.”

Who cares about birds getting sick and dying? Well, if Jesus is to be believed, God does. The First Nations Version of Matthew 6:25 reads,

“Look to the winged ones who soar on the wind. Do they plant seeds and gather the harvest into a storehouse? No! But your Father from above gives them plenty to eat. Do you not know he cares even more for you?”

His eye is on the sparrow

Matthew 10:29-30a (in the same translation) reads,

“Two small winged ones could be traded for two poorly beaded earrings, but not one can fall to the ground unless your Father, the Creator, knows. Are you not worth more to him than many small winged ones?”

God’s care for the birds is a hint about God’s care for us.

As I was preparing last week’s Bible study of Psalm 147, I came across verse 9 that also points to God’s care for birds:

“God gives food to the animals- even to the baby ravens when they cry out.” (Psalm 147:9 CEB)

This is very similar to another mention of ravens in Job 38:41 (CEB): “Who provides food for the raven when its young cry to God, move about without food?”

Maybe Jesus was thinking of these songs when he taught his lesson about God’s care for us.

His eye is on the raven?

Here is what surprised me in my study of these passages. Ravens are unclean animals. In Leviticus 11, they are called “detestable…an abomination” (NRSV)

God provides even for the detestable among us. Does the unclean abomination deserve God’s watchful eye or provision? No. Yet God’s grace is not truly grace unless it covers the raven chick.

Until the researchers discover the cause of this mysterious illness, I’ll keep my feeders empty.

I trust that God will keep the birds’ bellies full.

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