It’s too bad Dona Rose’s arms aren’t longer. She would be able to pat herself on the back.
Not that the 80-year-old retired auditor needs self-congratulations. She has the gratitude of the entire hummingbird population.
Led by Rose’s letter-writing campaign — plus a petition and plan to contact state officials as an insurance policy — corporate ownership of Rancho Benicia backed off its demand for residents of the senior mobile home park to remove all hummingbird feeders.
Yes, hummingbird feeders. Those glass tubes containers with store-bought nectar or, in Rose’s case, homemade sugar water.
Hillsboro Properties, Inc. in San Mateo demanded that all 231 residents remove all hummingbird feeders because “food of any kind left outside of a homesite can easily attract wild animals that live and visit the area. Once feral animals view our community as a reasonable food source, removing those that already visit and discouraging others from entering the community can be an onerous challenge.”
The letter continued: “Given the tremendous dangers and health and safety issues that come with feral animals, we prohibit any food from being left outside of a homesite.”
Rose’s initial reaction?
“Disbelief. My first thought was, ‘What the hell?’” she said, estimating “one thirdish” of the Rancho Benicia residents sport hummingbird feeders.
“I wondered what the genesis was. I found out I was only one of five or six on this part of the park that received the letter,” Rose said. “I thought, ‘I’m not going to let this pass. I have to write a letter and find out what the problem was.’”
A subsequent letter from Hillsboro included the word “hummingbirds” and cited the Introduction to the Rules and Regulations mobile homeowners are given when moving in — specifically that homeowners are required to “do nothing to unreasonably affect others adversely” and “do nothing which unreasonably endangers anyone or other persons’ property.”
That June 25-dated letter extended the deadline for hummingbird feeder removal to July 2.
Rose was incensed.
“I’m thinking it was their thinking we would just roll over,” Rose said, recalling one resident responded by “taking her feeder down right away. That broke my heart. You’re afraid of what you perceive as authority. And, even though she agreed (it was unfair), it took a while to get it (the feeder) back up.”
Rose encouraged others to write letters. She got a petition signed by 70 residents.
“Everyone has a complaint about something. I wanted people to focus on the issue: Save the damn hummingbird feeders,” Rose said.
It wasn’t merely a case of homeowners’ rights, Rose said.
“Hummingbirds are wonderful. They’re pollinators like bees. We need them. They’re important,” she said.
One neighbor walking her 11-year-old beagle Tuesday morning agreed.
“It’s beyond silliness,” said Lori Santiago, 58, calling the demand to remove nectar hummingbird feeders “ridiculous and controlling. It’s a senior park. What do senior people like to do? Feed their little hummingbirds and putt around.”
“I understand birdseed. That does attract mice and rats,” Santiago said. “But it’s not a hummingbird feeder that attracts them. It only attracts bees, hummingbirds and flinches. I’ve done the research.”
Rose continued writing letters, explaining that in her 11 years living here, she’s never seen any wild animals lurking around her two hummingbird feeders. She responded to Hillsboro’s second letter with a counter-attack.
“In my research, I find nothing supporting your claims that hummingbird feeders affect others adversely or endanger anyone,” wrote Rose. “Nor can I find any evidence that hanging a hummingbird feeder creates a health and safety issue because it can attract feral animals. I don’t think hummingbirds are feral. If they truly posed a danger, I believe the City of Benicia and health agencies would have sent out notice.”
Rancho Benicia ownership wasn’t swayed, sending off a reply letter noting that “the only difference between their feeder and that for another bird is the nutrients that a homeowner chooses and, unfortunately, we are in no position to constantly monitor which feeders have what type of food source in them.”
The letter concluded that if “we are still aware of any bird feeders in the community after Friday, July 9, we will have no choice but to take appropriate action toward those homeowners.”
Rose considered the letter “a veiled threat,” responding with a July 1-dated letter noting that “you must have permission to come on our property. It would also be illegal to remove any feeders. That action would be immediately reported to the Benicia Police Department and constitutes a misdemeanor.”
The last letter from Rancho Benicia Management — dated July 8 — defended the request to remove hummingbird feeders but finally surrendered: “We have decided to exclude enclosed hummingbird feeders from our June 16, 2021 request that homeowners remove all food sources from the exterior of their homesites. Those homeowners should understand, though, that if we find that their hummingbird feeder is the cause of any infestation, not only will we take appropriate action to address the matter but the homeowner will be financially responsible for the problem and any ancillary issues.”
Not exactly an apology.
“Oh, hell no,” Rose said.
Still, though “spending three weeks of my life” on the letter-writing campaign and petition, this feisty octogenarian believed it was worth it.
“The real winners are the hummingbirds,” Rose said.
Though Santiago “hasn’t gotten around” to replacing her broken hummingbird feeder, she said the hassles with ownership were motivating.
“I’m going to hang 10 of ’em,” she said.
Rose hoped seniors everywhere wouldn’t “roll over” if faced with similar situations.
“Our way of life is really nice,” she said. “Just don’t mess with us.”