Sunday, July 17, 2011

Parenting in the Bird World

The grandchildren and I went for a walk a few days ago and noticed a few baby sparrows perched on a neighbor's house. One of their parents flew up with some food, so of course, we rushed back to the house to get my camera. When we returned, they were gone.

While we were at the park, we noticed a house sparrow flying in and out of the thick metal tube that the swings connect to, and this truly surprised me. I imagine it is rather hot inside the tube right now!

Disappointed, we went back to the house, fetched the wagon, and went to the park. On the way back, we once again saw the baby sparrows. This time, they were perched on the street sign in front of my daughter's house. Four little babies chattering madly as their parents flew back and forth with bugs to soothe their insatiable appetites--baby birds eat about every twenty minutes.

And I thought it was challenging feeding my babies! My goodness, by the time those poor birds choose the juiciest bug, wash off the dirt (or boil it if its the first child and the parents are still in that over-protective mode), fly back to the babies, choose the child that will eat this round, stuff the bug in the beak of the baby who, by this time, is chattering loudly and flapping all over the nest, pick up the toys they've scattered around the nest, toss a load of dirty feathers into the washing wonder it takes both parents to shop for the family groceries! Seriously, though, it must be exhausting to be a bird parent!

I am also surprised by the large number of birds in Colorado right now. They seem to be everywhere! Colorado, however, is generally a very dry state, and while Texas is plagued with drought at the moment, Colorado has so much rain that mountain towns, such as Estes Park, have daily flooding in the parking lots and public parks, and the park down the street from my daughter's home has sand bags piled up in various places around the park to prevent the water from overflowing onto the park's access roads. Water brings plants, which bring bugs, which bring...birds!

I suspect we are seeing the baby birds in Colorado right now because they also had a very long, cold winter. When I left Texas the first week in June, we had skipped right past spring and were already experiencing 105 degree summer days.

Before I left Texas, I took many pictures of a mated pair of cardinals that stopped by our bedroom window tray of seeds every morning. For a short time, the father appeared alone and we assumed the mother was at the nest with the babies. Then one day, we noticed juvenile cardinals sitting in the tray--three females and a male. It is easy to spot a juvenile cardinal--they look awkward, are missing feathers, and almost appear as if they've been in a fight! At first, we could not tell their sex, but it gradually became more obvious as their feathers filled in.

And these were the magic moments. Every morning. we watched in awe as the mother and father cardinal took turns feeding the babies. After awhile, it became obvious that the parents were trying to teach the babies how to crack open seeds. The father actually appeared to be demonstrating this act. Then we realized the baby birds had learned the technique, though they continued to flap and chatter noisily, begging for food when their parents appeared.

What amazed me the most, though, was the undeniable fact that the parent birds were showing emotions. We could actually see this through the window--the love, tenderness, and compassion they felt for their children. It was a family truly blessed by God.

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