The bird’s nest and cruel mother nature
In the weeks leading up to July 4 of last summer, I began to observe peculiar behavior of a small bird outside my old residence in Tacoma, WA. I realized that every time I came home from work, a Junco, a Washington bird that looks like a dark chickadee, would always meet my truck when I entered my driveway. We always had birds in our garden due to some bird feeders so I didn’t pay much attention at first. I thought the only reason this bird would come across my truck would be if there was a nest in my truck and that was impossible. I used this truck almost every day of the week and since there was no way there could be a nest in my truck, I just shrugged off the strange behavior of the bird. Well one day I decided to take a closer look and lo and behold there was a bird’s nest built into the radiator of my truck. It came complete with two baby birds and three unhatched eggs.
This truck is my main form of transportation. Sometimes he sits idle all weekend, but Monday through Friday he would take me back and forth to my office. My job was only a few miles from my house and the local speed limit was only 25 mph, so the little birds weren’t pushing themselves too hard. But I still couldn’t understand why mother bird built the nest there, and how the little birds had survived without starving or dehydration while I was at work. I came home every day for lunch so that mother bird had a chance to feed them. But I thought growing chicks needed constant feeding. And every now and then he would drive the truck a short distance on I-5 at highway speeds. I do not understand why the birds did not leave the nest on the road or were not sucked into the radiator.
I started to think of a plan to move the nest. I put on surgical gloves and reached for it. Well, mother bird chose a good place for the nest. I couldn’t reach it from the front, top or bottom of the truck. It was tucked securely between the radiator, part of the truck’s frame, and some plastic trim. Since it was the 4th of July weekend and I didn’t need the truck, I decided to leave it alone for the next few days in the hope that the pups would grow up very quickly and fly away.
Tuesday morning arrived and the pups were still there and I took the truck to work. I told my wife that the birds were out of luck. I wasn’t going to disassemble the front of my truck because of some little birds that probably wouldn’t even survive the move. I liked feeding the birds in my garden with bird feeders, but I didn’t think I was responsible for housing them as well. Darwin was going to take care of these birds. I went to work and when I got home for lunch my wife informed me that we were going on a rescue mission. I did not think it was possible because it was very difficult to reach them and if we moved the nest, there was no guarantee that their mother bird would accept it.
My wife decided that I would drop to the ground under the van with a pair of surgical gloves and she would search through the grate with two sticks and lift the nest from its ledge and then leave it in my waiting hands. Before starting the rescue mission, I located a safe place to which I thought I would move the nest. I planned to move it a few feet at a time, allowing the mother bird to locate it every step of the way.
Well my wife reached through the grill with the sticks. In hindsight, she was probably not the best person for this part of the job. You tend to get very nervous. As soon as he raised the nest with the sticks, the little birds got scared and began to squawk as loudly as they could. They probably felt the nest move and thought that Mom had come in with some food and that they were just doing their “feed me, feed me” routine. But this scared my wife who screamed, jumped and awkwardly overturned the nest. The nest, two live birds, and three eggs all went in different directions. I didn’t catch anything.
I picked up the nest, gathered the two little birds in it, and put it on the ground a few feet from the front of the truck. Two eggs had been broken. I tried to gently lift the third egg, but the thin shell collapsed on my fingers. We stepped back to let the mother bird, who was watching patiently from the roof of the garage, fly away to assess the situation. That’s when things got really interesting.
Mother bird swooped in to assess the situation near her nest. She ignored the nest and started looking at the eggs. Suddenly, several other Juncos pounced out of nowhere. Were they there to help? Nooooooo. They were there to eat. An orgy of cannibals began when the other Juncos began to fight over the remains of the eggs. The birds were frantically fighting for food and the mother bird was making a heroic but doomed attempt to protect the eggs. Needless to say, it was unsuccessful and the little savages took all the egg remains.
When the whirlwind ended, the mother bird’s behavior became even more interesting. She completely ignored the bird’s nest and screeching babies within a couple feet of her and flew over to the truck to search for the nest’s original location. I sat and watched hoping she would see her nest. Well, she finally found the nest, but she didn’t seem too interested in it. I moved it a few more meters and waited for it to find it again. She didn’t come back and I had to go to work.
So I left my 8 and 9 year old son in the backyard with the mission of keeping an eye on the nest and moving it a few feet to its new location every time Mom returned to the nest.
I got home from work at the end of the day and my kids ran to the truck to find me. They told me in a rather practical tone that the mother bird had never returned and that a crow came and attacked the two little birds. The raven tore the babies limb by limb as my horrified children watched. They took me to the butcher shop and sure enough, I found a bird’s foot or two scattered around the backyard.
This was the perfect time to sit the children down and teach them a good life lesson. Nature is cruel. It is not warm and friendly like a Walt Disney movie.