Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Baby Birds

This year, like every year, the sparrows have taken over the bird house in my yard. The bird house sits on the top of the bird feeder pole, which is high enough to keep the squirrels off. It sits right outside the second storey window where my computer room is, so I can work all day and watch their antics. I put it up to house the little red house finches that sit and sing so prettily. The tiny hole was made just big enough for a finch. Perfect.

Someone forgot to tell the squirrel that a bird house is for birds. I woke up one morning to the sound of something industriously chipping away at the wood. By the time I had chased the squirrel away from the birdhouse, the tiny finch size hole had been enlarged. Rob took a sheet of aluminum and wrapped the front of the house in it. Try and chew THAT! The birdhouse had been saved, but with a bigger hole. Just big enough for sparrows. So now every year I have a new batch of sparrow babies to watch grow up.

They start out making tiny little peeping noises you can barely hear, but as they grow the chirping gets louder until they get to the stage Rob calls Darth Vader birds. They're at that stage now. Soon they'll all fly away.

I keep hoping that one year I'll actually see one leave the nest. They get bigger and bolder every day. At first I can just see the tip of a beak and sometimes make out the top of a tiny head, deep within the dark recesses of the bird house. It doesn't take long before I can see the whole head with the beaks that seem to take over their whole faces. Baby beaks are a different shape than those of the parents. It's like they are hinged so that the whole top of the head lifts out of the way for the parents to feed them.

It's interesting all of the little things you learn when you get to watch them year after year. Things like, both birds build the nest. Papa bird crams the nest with all kinds of building stuff that Mama bird re-arranges and sometimes discards. Both birds feed the babies. Papa feeds whoever has his head out the hole at the time. Mama bird goes right into the nest to feed the littlest ones as well. All of the babies leave the nest on the same day. If one, the eldest jumps out a day or two too early, it will stay near the nest and the parents will feed it on the ground.

It's amazing to see the grown babies sitting in the middle of a pile of seed and still go running to the parents chirping incessantly, wings at the side flapping so wildly they're just a blur, mouths gaping open. They'll pick at the seed if the parents aren't around but they'd rather the parent pick it up off the ground and stick it in their beak than try and pick it up themselves. I wonder if their wide shaped baby beaks don't work as well for picking up seed.

One of these days I'm determined to see them "fly the coop", if not this batch, then the next. They always have at lease 2 clutches of eggs before the heat of summer sets in so I know I'll have several opportunities before the summer is over.

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