Friday, April 21, 2006

Friday Animal Blogging

There are these people who study birds. They call them orno... ornitholo... bird people. There is even a popular blog run by some of them. Even still, I don't quite get it. Why birds? The lizard/snake clade is so much cooler. Some of its members can kill a man. None of those 10,000 bird species can do that. Okay, sure, the Tuang Child was killed by an eagle of some sort. But that was two and a half million years ago. What have they done for us lately?

Nevertheless, I don't like seeing an animal in distress. About a week and a half ago, I saw a juvenile specimen of common, boring dove sitting in my driveway. He was a little guy, not quite old enough to fly, who must have fallen out of the nest. And the driveway is not the safest place for a little bird to be. I was concerned that Fluffy would get him. So I brought him inside and did the only thing I knew how to do, which was to take pictures of him and put him in a shoebox.

He's a cute guy alright. Unless I use the flash and expose all of his downy baby feathers, in which case he looks like a freak:

The left side of his face had some dried blood around the eye, as if he took a punch. He must have landed on his left side when he took his first ill-fated trip out of the nest.

He warmed up after awhile (it was somewhat cold out) and began twittering in a voice that said, please feed me. So I killed a house fly (no shortage of those around) and tried to feed it to him. No dice. He wasn't taking it. It occurred to me that I had no clue what I was doing. This wasn't an all-devouring ghost crab, this animal had special dietary needs and rituals. He was going to starve if I tried to keep him and raise him myself.

So reluctantly, after I had made sure that the cat was safely sequestered, I put him back outside. I stuck him near a tree where I figured he would have some sort of shelter and cover. And what does the dumbass do? He goes wandering right back out into the middle of the driveway. Here's what's cool though: The mommy and daddy birds came right up to him and started taking care of him, apparently oblivious to the human stench that must have been all over their baby.

Mommy started doting on the little guy while Daddy did sentry duty around the perimeter. Isn't that sweet? (Although maybe I'm being sexist; I have no idea which one was Mommy and which one was Daddy.)

I stayed away thinking that maybe the parents would figure out what to do with their wayward child. Next thing I know, the landlord, who lives upstairs, who owns a gun shop and kills things for fun, was hard at work building an impromptu nest. A nest made out of a bucket. Funny thing is, it worked. He shoved the bucket into a palm tree, stuck the baby bird in it, and lo and behold, the parents took right to it.

But the next morning, disaster struck. It was a windy day, and the bucket fell. The little bird, now having survived a second fall, was apparently fine. My roommate and I put the bucket back in the tree (after I cleaned out the bird crap -- it's amazing how much of that can accumulate in under 24 hours), and this time we secured it with bungie cords. Funny thing is, now the parents wouldn't go anywhere near it. What to do? The baby bird, either because he was trying to exercise some independence or because he was desperate (or maybe he couldn't stand all the bird crap he had made), came out of the bucket and perched himself on a nearby branch.

Finally, a couple of days later, I saw one of the parents feeding him. Phew! He wasn't going to starve. As the days passed, the little bird, who was looking more like an adult each day, moved onto ever higher and more distant branches. One morning, my roommate tells me that the bird had fallen down to the ground but managed to fly his way back up into the tree. It was an awkward attempt, but he managed it. I don't believe I've seen him since. The little guy apparently made it.

I guess I'll have to admit, birds are cool afterall. At least that's what I'm thinking right now. When I have to climb up that tree to get my bucket back, I'm sure I'll think differently. In the meantime, people who come over ask why there's a bucket in the tree. You missed one heck of a party, we say.