Line Manners at the Bird Feeder

by Cindy Post Senning on August 30, 2011

This post originally appeared at my parenting blog The Gift of Good Manners. I will be cross posting some of my favorite content from that blog here at the Etiquette Daily periodically. I hope you enjoy these posts as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Not many people think of line manners as etiquette. But, think about it. How often do we stand in line? School, fast food restaurants, movie theaters, the bank, the grocery store, getting on the bus, buying tickets – just about everywhere! I have always pointed out to kids how often they stand in line at school. In fact, I think line manners are primarily taught in school – or even pre-school.

Wait patiently
No cutting
Stay in line
Take turns being first and last
No fooling around
Follow the leader
Don’t shift lines (when there is more than one)

I had the opportunity to visit Beijing, China ten years ago. My experience in Beijing was that people didn’t queue up. Everybody stood in a bunch and just worked their way to the front. It felt so bizarre but it was the culture at that time and it provided me with a different experience of line manners.

Why the bird feeder? I’ve watched birds at the feeder for years. Do they have line manners? Some do; some don’t.  The chickadees are the best. They come to the feeder one at a time; they grab one seed; and then fly off to a branch where they can crack and eat their one seed. Another flies in and out, then another. The purple finches and the gold finches, on the other hand, land on the feeder and take up residence. They peck at any other bird who tries to come to one of the other feeding stations on the same feeder. No manners there. The rose breasted grosbeaks are more like the finches. But over on the suet feeder, the nuthatches wait their turn as do the woodpeckers. I envision a little line of chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers out in the maple tree waiting their turn. So polite!

In EMILY’S EVERYDAY MANNERS, one of my favorite illustrations is the one of the kids in line at school. Ethan is at the tail end of a long snaking line, but he knows it will be his turn to be first on another day. Steve Bjorkman captured the feeling completely.

We are a society that queues up and line manners are important. Adults and kids alike should show the patience it requires to manage standing in line. It will brighten everyone’s day just a little bit and slowly but surely we do get to the head of the line.

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