Friday, June 8, 2012

Bird Briefs

Plumage-Watch Duty Ends
It pleases me to inform you that LuckyBird now sports a full and glorious tail of red and black. The tailless Cardinal has frequented our feeder ever since I first reported him to you—sometimes alone, other times accompanied by his Sparrow pal. He always peers through the window at us, as if to say, “Hey! Are you in there?” or “Hi guys! Watcha doin’ today?” or “Are you ever going to invite me in?” He acts as if he’s part of our inner circle.

Horsepower and the Urban Barnyard
Walked down our street the other day and saw the Chickens again. They were exploring their new next-door neighbor’s driveway. I love that I can see a Maserati parked there one evening and the next watch some curious fowl strut around the same area. (Yes, my quaint, manicured neighborhood of tiny, storybook homes occasionally offers a little eye candy to car enthusiasts: Ferraris, Aston Martins, Porsches, vintage Mercedes and Jaguars… Interesting demographics here. You can’t pigeonhole these folks.)

See Me! Feed Me! Love Me!
It’s baby-bird season now and I have delighted in watching their feeding rituals. The Sparrow mothers have been feeding their offspring from our feeders—sometimes in the yard, sometimes on our window ledge. The youngsters flutter their wings at a hummingbird pace while crying at a frantic pitch. They hold their mouths open, reaching their heads toward the sky in anticipation of their mothers’ next nourishment drop. Once these babies are on their own, their first few trips to the feeders are both comical and worrisome. They teeter on the perches, fighting to remain upright. They struggle to figure out how to turn toward the food while maintaining their balance. And just when it looks like they’re about to relax into a meal, an older bird swoops in and scares them back to Square One. The laborious process begins again, but their confidence is shakier than before. The feeder is a class in bird behavior and an inkling of how much the fledglings must learn in order to survive.

Hearing a Different Tune
Confidence was no problem for one unusually small young Sparrow. He swiftly mastered the balancing part of the feeder routine, and approached the eating stage in a far more direct manner. He worked his way down the perch until he could lean against the ceramic wall of the feeder. After a bit of maneuvering, he managed to extend his right foot up onto the edge of a feeder opening and hoist his upper body in through the opening. All I could see of the diminutive acrobat was his tail and his left leg. He got what he came for and I haven’t seen him since. But I will never forget his resourcefulness and chutzpah.

“The moment a little boy is concerned with which is a jay and which is a sparrow, he can no longer see the birds or hear them sing.”
—Eric Berne

I know precious little about birds. Many times I wish I could match the song or call I hear to the bird it’s coming from. Part of me wants to know more about their behavior and social structures. But I think I derive greater pleasure from their mystery, allowing it to stoke my imagination and my fondness for them.

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