Thursday, May 7, 2009
Baby's Got Back
One of the things I love best about spring is that the activity at my bird feeders and baths increases ten fold. Starting in February and lasting until fall, my yard suddenly becomes party hearty central for close to a dozen different species, from year round residents to those just passing through to the plain ol' lost ("I knew I shoulda taken a left turn at Albuquerque," said the buff-breasted flycatcher.)
Which can be a problem for our year round denizens, who, quite frankly, are a lil' pissy about sharing. Like our population of pine siskin, a smallish species of finch that hangs out in the trees on our property pretty much year round, making their nests in the taller of the piñon trees. These dudes love to engage the house finches in nasty turf wars, both at the stand feeders and the thistle tubes.
So, we're pretty familiar with adult pine siskins. Which is why, one afternoon last week when we were happy houring it out on the back patio, S.B. nodded his head towards the feeder and said, "That bird ain't right."
I followed his gaze and spotted this little dude (dudette?) hanging out in the feeder's catch bin. It looked like a pine siskin but then again, it didn't. It had the yellow tipped wings of the species, but also the downy feathers of a newbie bird. And, well it was, um, chubbier than the others of its kind. And there appeared to be something wrong with its eyes.
"Well of course there's something wrong with its eyes," said S.B. "He's like Cartman from Southpark. He's eaten himself into a stupor."
It did appear that Cartman was gobbling seed at a furious rate. Other birds were flying in and out, squawking up a storm, but he wasn't budging from his single minded task to eat every single sunflower seed he could get his beak on. Another question: if he was booted from the nest, how did he fly himself over here?
So while we waited to see if Cartman would, in fact, eventually get himself back up off the ground, we speculated about the events that might have led to his abandonment.
"Maybe his mom and dad kicked him out of the nest because, you know, he's not right?" said S.B. "Now he's got to fend for himself?"
"Or maybe his parents died," I offered.
We discussed everything from a vicious hawk attack to poison to a child's errant aim with a bb gun.
But we were stopped by a motion at the feeder. Cartman was no longer eating. Instead, he was hopping around unsteadily while at the same time rustling his wing feathers. We watched, hopefully, as he hopped to the edge of the feeder in what looked like preparation for lift off. It didn't end up being the most graceful of flights – more C-130 than Gulf Stream – and it didn't last long – he barely made a low hanging branch on a nearby piñon – but he did it. Then he flew back again. And commenced to stuffing his face.
Finally, another of his kind showed up. Was this his mommy? His daddy? Or a neighboring adult patiently waiting for him to finish up so he could get his share. We never found out. We took our attention off the feeder for a few minutes and when we looked back, both birds were gone.
Cartman, wherever you are, I hope you make it to full fledged bird. And remember, you're not fat. You're just big boned.