Friday, June 9, 2017

Baby Birdies

May 26, 2017: Mama Porch-bird sits diligently on her nest.

Back on May 6th, I blogged about the little bird who'd begun building a nest a few days earlier, perched atop the light fixture hanging from the ceiling of our porch. We've been watching her with great interest ever since.

It hasn't been easy to follow her progress. The nesting site was well chosen, because it's so high up that we absolutely cannot see into it, not even with a ladder (believe me, we tried). However, we were able to tell when she'd laid her eggs. Instead of nervously flitting in and out of the porch, adding more bits to the nest, she'd suddenly settled in and rarely left the area.

Our presence continued to rattle her for the first week. I wasn't able to get a single picture of her during that period, because even the quiet sound of my careful hand on the doorknob sent her fluttering off the nest. She didn't go far, settling on a low pine branch just out of reach of the porch, waiting for the intruder (me) to disappear before returning to brood on her eggs.

During the second week, she seemed to decide that we humans weren't a serious threat, after all. She remained on the nest throughout all our comings and goings, keeping her sharp little eyes on us (as you see in the top photo, the first time she allowed me to aim my camera at her).

I tried twice to get pictures of her eggs: dragging out a kitchen chair, climbing on top, standing on my tip-toes, and straining to raise my camera as high above my head as possible. All I got were fuzzy shots of the side of the nest. So we have no idea how many eggs she laid, their size or color, or anything else we were dying to know.

One of the ladder-shots. At least two nestlings visible, possibly three or four.
June 3, 2017

So last Saturday, my daughter Sarah brought my ladder up on the porch. We were going to get pictures of those eggs one way or another! Except...the eggs were gone. In their place were these fluffy pink-and-gray chicks. We waited until Mama-bird was off the nest, but before I even clambered up we noticed that both Mama and Papa were fluttering nearby with what appeared to be little insects in their beaks. We knew then that we were too late for eggs.

I still couldn't see into the nest with my own eyes, even from the top of the ladder. And my camera was too bulky to fit between the nest and ceiling, so the best I could do was get some slanted shots. I have no idea if they captured all the babies, and I couldn't even tell what parts exactly the two beaks we could see were attached to.

Sarah climbed up after me to try her hand with her cell phone. By now, Mama-bird was getting anxious, hopping closer and clearly ready to feed her little ones. We were nervous that she might attack Sarah and knock her off the ladder, but all she did was fly into the porch twice, fluttering around Sarah, who quickly climbed down.

June 5, 2017: Papa-bird takes his turn at feeding the kids.

I wish I knew what breed these birds are so I could learn more about their nesting habits. I may even have Mama and Papa mixed up. I know in some breeds the father is the one who sits on the nest and takes on most parenting duties. For now, though, I think of the one who spent weeks on the nest as Mama (Mark named her Bupp; go figure) and the other, who was usually somewhere in the near distance, as Papa.

Since the chicks hatched out, though, it has been a real team effort. Mama flies in and settles right into the nest with the babies as she feeds them. Papa is a little less hands-on, perching on the edge of the nest to stuff those peeping little mouths, but they work like a well-rehearsed tag team as they take turns flying in and out with tiny wriggling treats for their family. 

Perhaps someone reading this can give me a clue as to what type of birds these are. The coloring of both adults is pretty much identical: medium to light brown with some dark brown in the wing tips and tail feathers, with a white throat and a light orangeish-red underbelly. They're definitely not robins; we have lots of those around, as well. Mama is plumper and slightly smaller, whereas Papa is leaner and faster. Papa is also more nervous about people. He'll take the longest time to get the treat to the babies, flitting from perch to perch if we're too close (as you can see in the third and final video clip below). Mama is more relaxed, not nearly as concerned if we're nearby.

This feisty little guy was the first to stand tall and demand attention.
Probably standing on top of his little siblings...

June 6, 2017: A day later, two heads were peeping above the nest's edge.

June 7, 2017: And then, two days ago, a third little peeper popped up!

There may yet be a fourth, but there's no way to get close enough to find out.

I was amazed at how quickly the babies grew from limp bundles of fluff to energetic, demanding, chirping chicks. From newborn to "terrible twos" in three days! They are certainly fuzzy little balls of softness, but so far they're actually kind of homely. I'm sure that will change over the coming days.

It's been a fun and new experience, listening to the parents whistle as they return to the nest (one short, high-pitched tweet that's not at all musical) and then hearing the chicks excitedly respond with similar but softer whistles to their parents' approach. On the other hand, I didn't expect to feel so responsible for the babies' well-being, worrying that we're disturbing the parents too much and the babies won't get enough nourishment; dreading the possibility that we may come out one day and discover that a chick has fallen from the nest to the hard wood floor of the porch; worrying that a predator might find its way to the tender little ones in their fragile bed. I had no idea what a huge sense of responsibility this nest would create!

We will continue to observe the comings and goings and changes in our little overhead birdy home, and I'll be sure to document whatever I can! 

With apologies for the quality, since I could only stand on the doorstep and raise my camera as high as possible (meaning I couldn't see what I was filming), here's a closeup of our little chick-a-dees. At least it came out better than I expected...

Mama and Papa work in tandem to feed the kiddies. Mama drops her bug in the nest, then snatches it back up to digest it before serving it up. Ewww...

Even though I was sitting a good three feet inside the front door, hardly moving as I filmed this, Papa seemed too nervous to take the little black spider in his beak to the babies. Eventually he decided I wasn't there to hurt anyone, and the little ones were fed.

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