Recently we put up a hummingbird feeder with four feeding stations. Almost immediately it became popular with the hummingbirds that live in our area. Two, three, or even four birds would feed at one time. We refilled the feeder at least once a day. Suddenly the usage decreased to almost nothing. The feeder needed filling only about once a week.
The reason for the decreased usage soon became apparent. A male bird had taken over the feeder as his property. He is now the only hummingbird who uses our feeder. He feeds and then sits in a nearby tree, rising to attack any bird that approaches his feeder. Guard duty occupies his every waking hour. He is an effective guard. The only time another bird gets to use the feeder is when the self-appointed owner is momentarily gone to chase away an intruder.
We soon realized that the hummingbird was teaching us a valuable lesson. By choosing to assume ownership of the feeder, he is forfeiting his freedom. He is no longer free to come and go as he wished. He is tied to the work of guarding his feeder. He is possessed by his possession. His freedom of action is as circumscribed as if he were in a cage. He is caged by a situation he has created.
Written by W. L. Barnes