I know they appear when I go out the back door. But is it just a conditioned association? Have they not simply learnt that food appears shortly after I do?
Why do they scold and chirrup in that distinctive way as if they are asking for me to throw some crusts up on the studio roof?
If a member of a stone-age tribe once noticed a certain type of bird, and then afterwards there was a particularly benign winter, they might have associated the benignness with the bird, and called it 'The Benign-Winter Bird", and then later "The God of Good Winters". Is it the same?
If the appearance of the Bird means Benign Winter, then is it not a short step to trying to attract the Bird in order to create a benign winter?
If the sparrows do attribute the food to my hand, am I a god to them? Do they have a religion? Is it "All hail the mighty Katherine-Woman-Who-Brings-The Food"? Are the distinctive chirrups them singing hymns to me?
What about the people trying to please the Bird? Seems to me that that is dependent on the human attribute of compassion: They know that they are more likely to do something if they feel altruistic, therefore the Bird will be more likely to make a good winter if it is pleased with... birdseed? Virgins?
Do birds feel altruistic? I don't think so. So I doubt I will be offered any fledgelings as sacrifices any time soon.
Hang on... Elephants hang around their dead ones... dolphins rescue people and each other. Do dolphins have religions? What about dogs? Dogs like us and seem to care. Do dogs have Gods?