Nappy

By Dr. Patricia L. Bay, Psy.D.
Published in W Magazine, June 2010

He was bold, selfish and looking out only for himself. Smaller than the rest, we named him Napoleon. We called him Nappy. Suffering from a bad case of poverty consciousness, Nappy acted as though there was never enough. He had to be the neighborhood bully in an attempt to keep everything to himself. If any of the others approached, he responded with aggression and fought them off with loud noises and flailing that moved faster than the eye could see. He was one mean and nasty hummingbird.

I often sat at the round, glass table in my kitchen and watched Nappy through the large window. It was amazing how he would take on up to fourteen other hummingbirds at a time. Our backyard is a hummers' paradise with gorgeous flowers and plants, but what they really like are the three 48 ounce feeders that are religiously kept filled with clear, sweet nectar. During the height of hummingbird season all three feeders must be filled on a daily basis. That was until Nappy came along.

Nappy liked to sit on the hanger of one of the feeders and guard his stash. If any other hummers came to feed, he would charge them mercilessly until they left. He looked like a one-bird F-18 fighter plane going in for the kill. As the season wore on the other birds got wise to his action. A hummer would fly in and get Nappy to chase him away. While he was in pursuit of the diversion bird, twelve others would fly in and vie for a chance at the feeders. Nappy would come tearing back at full speed and dive bomb the others until they, too, flew away.

I am not exactly sure that Nappy was a "he." I mean, I never could get close enough to get a good look at whatever it is I would look at to give me that information. I guess it is almost prejudicial that I would assume this behavior was typically male. Can you picture a "she" hummer getting all territorial and not letting anyone else eat? No way. She would be saying, "come, eat, enjoy, have a nosh, it's so lovely." Isn't that what we do as women, we nurture those around us? We feed the world.

I actually tried talking to Nappy. I thought a little reasoning might get through to him and end his selfish ways. I stood outside near his lookout perch and said, "Okay, little dude, you can't be this way. There is enough for everyone. I realize you are afraid that you might not get everything that is coming to you and that you must fight for what you think is yours. Have you noticed that none of the others want to hang out with you? Have you noticed that your fear is pushing them away?" My efforts were in vain. Nappy blatantly ignored my advice and continued to torture the neighborhood. He continued to live his life as though there was not enough.