Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Parental Mentors

Neighbor M walks mornings and evenings carrying a small Rubbermaid container with succulent worms nestled in oatmeal. Birds know her and fly along the street, sweeping down to grab a grub that M has tossed and fly back to sit on a telephone line to feast. Some would call her obsessed, but, no, she's the bluebird guardian and teacher in our neighborhood. She has encouraged everyone on the block to place blue bird houses in their yards-- making them herself, and even installing for those who have little time.

This summer I observed a heartwarming situation of how bluebirds have the instinct to take care of their offspring so well.

A few months back a guy bluebird met a girl bluebird and they decided to take a nearby house (in our front yard), free of rent, and make a nest to raise a family. With eggs snug in leaves, moss, and fluff garnered from here and there, girlsoon realized that motherhood didn't agree with her. As she sat on her nest she dreamed of all that was missing in her life. After the babies hatched, she declared "Enough!" leaving crying babies behind to join a fly-by-night group seeking fun. New dad came home after a few days of hunting to find starving babies. Mama's gone! She had been missing so long in getting the kids fed on time, they eventually died.

Rejected boy bluebird flew around the yard, searching for his mate. When he realized she was gone for good, he spent no time before checking out the singles. He spied a young bird with big eyes and soft feathers. She found him handsome and virile. He and she made a nest. Readying for a family, she laid eggs. A few days later he came home late from being out with the guys and found she'd blown the coop! And four eggs churning! Like Superman to the rescue, he took over sitting on the eggs for weeks until one evening they hatched. We were watching from our dining room window, knowing birth time was within the next few days. What excitement! Little dad's journey to feed his brood every 10 minutes began. Back and forth he went constantly, bringing in food, and taking out the dirty diapers. He wasn't accustomed to housecleaning, but he knew the importance of keeping his babes germ free.

We kept a close eye on our cat, Bobbisox, who was keeping track of the birdies. R began to help little daddy by supplying worms between times of neighbor M's schedule. When the birdies began to fly, little dad was there, urging them not to get discouraged. He tucked them in at night and found a few hours rest in the branches above his house.

Bluebird parents have known "tough love" long before the term was used by humans. We turn to self-help books or tutoring from others in our quest to be decent parents. For the blue birds it's natural.

M has observed the antics of birds from the time a couple make a home in her yard to fledgling stage and later as young adults. One afternoon she told me that mamas discipline their kids with certain noises. One is the freezing chirp, used to teach kids manners. If a kid fails to behave, like getting a worm on time, a chirp sounds and the kid freezes in place. M has seen a birdie freeze with wings spread and one foot off the branch, ready to fly when the chirp sounded. If birdie doesn't follow the rules for eating, Chirrrrp! mama swoops down like a dive bomber to prevent the kid from reaching his supper. Mama will see that junior misses a few meals when he misbehaves. Oh, when have we sent our son or daughter to bed without supper or made him/her eat the same plateful at as many meal times as needed until all food is consumed??

Neighbor M has made me more aware of this wondrous aspect of nature through her constant care of/and information about bluebirds. She isn't the only bird lover, she's just the only one I've met. Time to clean out the bird houses so a traveler can find rest overnight.

1 comment:

mreddie said...

It seems that sometimes birds have more sense about raising little ones than us humans. ec