Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Cardinals' Dinner

I once read that Daddy cardinals are the original male chauvinists, teaching their babies or fledglings how to survive in the world while Mamma cardinals remain bound to the nest with perpetual pregnancy. I don’t know if this is true or not since I witnessed cardinal tradition being broken once in Timothy’s garden.

One spring day, instead of Daddy cardinal arriving, a Mamma cardinal brought her baby to the feeder. She taught the baby how to eat, how to run from predators, and how to use a bird bath, then she let him go alone. The next day, Mamma cardinal brought another baby to the feeder and trained him in likewise manner. The third morning, she brought another baby to the feeder. While she fed her little daughter, the first two fledglings returned to watch. On a branch above the feeder sat Daddy cardinal like a sentry watching for danger.

Mamma cardinal fed the baby, then began to eat. The baby cried and flapped her wings for attention. Mamma ignored her. Daddy made no move to leave his observation post. Both brothers hopped down in front of their little sister and began eating. She watched them, then squawked in temper at their lack of attention to her.

Mamma brought some more seeds to her baby and fed her, then returned to feeding herself. Little sister cried again, and again her big brothers fed themselves in front of her. She looked first to her brother at her right, then to her brother at her left. She let her head fall into the sunflower seeds and raised it with three or four seeds balanced precariously within her beak. Her eyes opened wide with excitement and the wonderment of what to do next. She flapped her wings, turned from
brother to brother to mother for help.

Mamma stood in front of her daughter and slowly ate. Little sister began to move her beak. Some of the seeds tumbled out but she was able to grind open one seed, eat it, and swallow. She hopped in tiny steps, flapped her wings in happy success, and grabbed another seed. Daddy cardinal spread his wings and flew off. Mamma cardinal flew after him. I wonder if female cardinals became liberated that day.

Posted by Diana for Margaret

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Mocking Birds New Song

About thirty years ago, when Grampy and I were in our sports car mode, we bought a bright red sports car that came with everything new, even a new fangled alarm system. When we set the alarm, the car said, "Beep beep."  When we turned off the alarm, the car said "Beep beep beep." We parked the car under a large tree that, for obvious reasons became known as the mocking bird tree where mocking birds quickly imitated the car horn's music. All summer long, the mocking birds sat on the tree branches and sang what we called "The Beep Beep song." One bird sang out "Beep beep" and the other replied "Beep beep beep." This went on all spring and summer, up until the autumn days when the birds again departed.

The next spring, the mocking birds not only sang their Beep beep song, they taught it to their babies. I never realized until that time that mocking birds apparently have to teach their fledglings how to sing. Their teaching techniques were impeccable. With their babies lined up along a branch, Daddy (or Mamma) sang out a length of trilles and cheeps and twitters, then watched their babies expectantly. The fledglings puffed up their chests and sang out, a chain of squeaks and squawks resembling the wails of a badly played violin. Daddy or Mamma mocking bird never gave up and soon the fledglings were singing as good as their parents. I guess the baby mocking birds graduated when they were able to sing the Beep beep song. I wondered if the mocking birds had created a new love song or did they just happen to enjoy electronic music. They never did answer my question and their song died out when we bought a different car.

Posted by Diana for Margaret