Sunday, June 10, 2007

Phoebe Update: A Casualty

Alas, yes, we have lost a Phoebe baby. I noticed this morning that competition was getting pretty intense among the chicks. The biggest one, featured in this pic--I call him Bruno--always muscled everybody else aside when the parents arrived with food. I've learned from watching other nestings that there's usually a bully in every brood, and this one is no exception. I went out about an hour ago and saw a chick on the floor of the carport. At first I thought he might be alive and I could restore him to the nest, but he was quite dead. I suspect he died earlier today, and most likely one of the adults pushed him out. That's not unusual.

It's hard to be sure, what with Bruno blocking the view, but I think there are still three chicks in the nest--so the dear departed was actually a fourth chick, who has remained in hiding all this time. The naturalist in me thinks this is just a sad reality of avian life. That little dude was obviously never very vigorous. Shit happens. But the conspiracy theorist in me wonders: What was the true mission of the unknown fourth chick? Who was he working for? Was he trying to come in from the cold when he was bumped off? Bruno's not talking.


Juvy Santos said...

Maria, I *know* what the realities are of nature...but still, how sad.


Anonymous said...

It's so sad, too, to think that the bully gets to live, so bullying is what nature selects. (Political comparisons *ahem* not discussed.)

When I was young, my mom did a lot of bird rehab. (Ah, remember when one moderate salary could support a family and have enough left over to save for the kids' college?) We had a few teenage birds who'd been punctured by cats, but also numerous barely-feathery babies who must have been pushed out. Maybe we shouldn't have messed with nature that way. On the other hand, my mom had an EXTRAORDINARY success rate -- something like 60-70% released! You'd think we would have found dead birds around who had been released & then not made it, but we didn't.

So, it's odd. Seems like the weakest one gets pushed out, but our experience shows that often the weakest one is still strong enough to survive with a little intervention. That makes the whole thing even a little stranger and sadder to me.

My Golden Retriever mix (he got in line twice for sweet, couldn't get in line for brains) has twice alerted me to fledglings in the backyard. He has stood over them, refusing to budge when called in, then pointed them out to me! What on earth could be causing him to do that, sensitive soul that he is??? Alas, my pittie boy (who almost certainly survived three months on the streets of New Orleans by catching things), doesn't feel the same way, which probably accounts for the headless teenage robin. Can't blame him, either.

Sad mysteries.... --Ellen

chayaruchama said...

Oh, Ellen, what a tale.

I know these things happen, but I feel awful when I come upon them...

BitterGrace said...

I have to admit, I also felt very sad when I saw that tiny carcass on the ground. Life is always cruel, as well as beautiful.

Ellen, that is amazing about your mom's success with baby birds. I tried many a time to rescue babies when I was a girl--with a 100% mortality rate, alas. The most I'll do now is plonk one back in the nest. I don't think there's anything wrong with rescue--I just think it's beyond my level of competence.

Your Golden mix must just have very intact retriever genes. They've had the killing instinct bred out of them in favor of a 'soft mouth.' That wouldn't have served him very well on the streets of NOLA, but it certainly is a nice quality in a pet. My 3 are all eager but ineffective killers.

David Maddox said...

Not true! Little Precious is merciless--she pounces like a cougar on any birdies that come in range.

BitterGrace said...

Okay, Dave--I'll grant you, Miss P is pretty ruthless. But I think she prefers stuff that's already dead.

Anonymous said...

What's weird is, the nest only ever has room for the eggs. Nests are never big enough for all the chicks. So it's in the design that somebody's gonna fall out. I picked up one such a baby bird when I was about 4 years old. My mother and I fed him and he lived. He used to visit us every time we went out in the back yard.

BitterGrace said...

"So it's in the design that somebody's gonna fall out."

Well, I think that makes sense. That unlucky somebody makes an easy meal for other somebodies. Carnivores gotta live, too.