Tuesday

A Small Tragedy


One day last week we heard a loud bang! at the kitchen window that means a bird has flown into the glass.  Usually they are dazed, knocked out for a few minutes, but this was not the case. It was the Phoebe, who had returned to the original nest for brood number two a couple of weeks ago. And she was dead.  Immediately and without hope of revival.

The chicks were big enough to stick their strange beaky heads out of the nest but not nearly big enough to survive on their own.  Right away David started gathering worms from our garden's broccoli leaves in the hopes of being able to feed them if it came to that.

We knew both birds had been feeding the chicks and hoped that she had not yet left the nest to re-build as is their way.  If she had already gone that would mean the deceased bird would have been the male, leaving the chicks without a parent.  Since the Phoebe has no distinguishing markings between male and female the gender question couldn't be answered.

After a couple of hours the other parent showed up and started flying around the nest but would not fly in.  Their's had been a relay type of parenting with one bird on the nest and the other out doing whatever it is they do on their time off.  

But the second bird was waiting for the first to fly out of the nest and would not go in.  The routine had been that one would flutter nearby and whoever was on the nest would then fly out.  But the Phoebe who was left seemed to have no way of knowing the other was not on the nest and would not fly in.

The chicks were becoming increasingly loud and seemingly desperate as the day went on.  We watched the now-single parent fly back and forth trying our best to will him to fly in.  You know how that goes, not very well.  Finally we decided that he had no way of knowing whether she was on the nest or not because it was hidden from his view.


So we took the body of the no-longer-with-us Phoebe and laid her out on the porch railing in the hopes that he would be able to see her, understand the situation, and fly into the nest.  And he did.  Within minutes he was back on the nest, feeding and fluffing the chicks.  Needless to say, they were very very glad to have him back in the nest.

And so were we.  And glad that the Phoebe way of parenting is that both share all but nest-building duties.  He has taken charge completely and the chicks are well on their way to becoming hungry hungry teenagers soon to fly themselves.

It was a small death, to be sure.  Meaningless to most, obscured by the weight of today's world. All the same, the sight of her lifeless body was heart-breaking and the cries of the chicks, as the day went on, wrenching. What the remaining bird feels I have no way of knowing.  But he is certainly busy and that is time-honored advise for getting through difficulties whatever their nature may be. I've taken that advise myself many times with good results and will hope the same for him.

Different species, sure.  Same loves and losses, absolutely.