My babies left the nest today. I’ll miss the little shriekers.
It’s been a busy summer for the songbirds in our area, building nests and raising families. A robin has chosen a cleft in the lilac bush outside our kitchen window for her nest, for the second year in a row. I’ve enjoyed watching the activity as sky-blue eggs appeared, and then tiny, cute-ugly dinos hatched out.
The first week, they’re naked and uncoordinated — little more than gangly legs and giant beaky mouths on tiny, floppy bodies, with spindly, wobbly necks barely strong enough to lift that enormous head.
But on a steady diet of bugs and fruit, the second week they become floofy and grow weird little pins (the start of feathers) on their wings and backs. By now they’re strong enough to snuggle down quiet in the nest and raise a vigorous clamor when a parent brings them a meal, begging for each morsel.
By the third week they begin to actually resemble birds. The pins grow into feathers and the floof covers them completely. They become louder and more adventurous, practicing for the next stage of their lives — fledging. (See photo of sleepy fledgling on the edge of the nest.)
Today was the day. One was bravely scouting the lilac branches. His sibling looked down and, with the bold optimism of youth, took a leap and left the nest. With parents guarding them and shouting angrily at intruders, they will scamper around on the ground until their feathers finish growing, and then they’ll fly. They’ll follow their parents around for a while, learning how to be birds — how to sing, eat, drink, and recognize danger. In fact, any time you see a bird fluttering its wings at another bird, that is a fledgling begging for food.
And next year, if they learn well, they’ll raise chicks of their own. Maybe in the same lilac bush.