Kissed by a goldfinch

The staccato hammering echoed across our farmyard as one of the resident pileated woodpeckers repeatedly slammed his face into the flesh of an old catalpa tree.

I’ve noticed over the years the incredible force with which those crow-sized birds whack trees in search of tiny critters lying under bark and beyond. There’s little wonder why, with such head-hammering, that sort of woodpecker’s flight is so choppy and that their call is the laugh-cry-scream of a brain-addled human.

A flitter caught my attention on a nearby tree, pulling my eyes from the pileated woodpecker. There, I saw two smaller woodpeckers quickly doing a bit of pitter-pattering with beaks much less smaller than the pileated’s proboscis. Their neck-jarring hammering also was much quicker and seemed less precise than that being done by the larger bird.

In a couple moments, one of the smaller woodpeckers flitted its way to our bird-feeding station and clamped its feet onto the edge of one of the feeders. It contorted its neck to reach for a few of the feeder’s seeds, still snapping its head at the seeds as though working the most hardened bark.

It occurred to me about then that I’ve known people who attempt to show love or passion by kissing akin to the way the woodpeckers were kissing the trees and those seeds. Indeed, I’ve been kissed that way, tightened lips and flashing teeth slamming into my cheek or lips with such force as to punch a hole in a white-oak tree.

In my youth, such woodpecker-like attempts at kisses were quick deal-closers for anyone seeking my attention. I valued my lips more than a second date with a girl who kissed like a woodpecker.

Then which of the birds, if any, might be worthy of a second date based on their kissing skills?

I glanced around the farmyard and saw a robin hopping along, searching for the right moment to slam its face into the ground to snatch a worm or other soil-bound critter into its beak. Like the woodpeckers, there would be no second-date consideration for the robin because of the pointedly quick whacks they make.

The cack-cack-cack-whistling of a red-winged blackbird drew my attention toward an evergreen. Incessant cack-cack-cack-whistling. A cack-cack-cack-whistling so incessantly annoying that even such a lovely bird wouldn’t have made the cut for even a first date. Its kissing abilities likely would never have mattered.

The same went for the glowing beauty of the cardinals and blue jays perched in the nearby bushes, both so beautiful but such bullies that no other yard-birds dare get in their paths. No warm and loving kiss-tests for them, either.

Just then, I caught a glimpse of two goldfinches landing on opposite sides of our bird-feeding station’s tubular thistle-seed feeder. They’d approached the feeder in the shyness of hesitant flight, seeming to only hope they’d be welcomed. And then, their small feet gripping the feeder’s little perches, they simultaneously reached their mouths toward the feeder.

Gently, their beaks probed into the feeder to find and savor the best seeds they could find within. Except for the two or three inches of feeder separating them, it seemed they were reaching with measured passion to meet in the softest of kisses to sate their hunger with the same fullness as the feeder’s seeds.

It’s an odd thought, I know, that of which sort of birds would make the best kissers – if birds could kiss. But from what I saw that spring morning at our little farm along Eimon Ridge, I suspect the finches would be the best feathered smoochers.

If I’m to be kissed by a bird, then, let it be a goldfinch – at least until the oriole and hummingbird migration arrives.

— Scott Schultz

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