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Following this neighbor is for the birds

By Debbie Leffler • Apr 11, 2019 at 12:00 PM

The bird is back.

I’m not just talking about any bird. I’m talking about the bird that made a nest in the tree outside my daughters’ upstairs bedroom window.

There is a tall evergreen tree there, so tall that it is as high as the second story of our house. And in those high branches, well hidden, a mother bird chose to make her nest last year.

She is a large bird, gray with spots on her back. She is beautiful — or maybe it is just me who thinks so. I think she is a dove.

Last year, from my safe spot inside the house, I watched her come and go. Actually, most of the time she sat — sat on that nest. If I was patient, occasionally I would see the father bird perch on the phone wire next to the tree, and then the mother bird would leave the nest and the father bird would immediately take her place. Soon she would be back again.

For quite a while, I saw no baby birds. But they must have been in there, because by the time I saw their little heads — mostly all beak — they were rather large. There were two or three of them, and I couldn’t understand how they could all fit inside that small nest, but they did, with the mother bird sitting on top of them.

The best part was when I saw their open mouths, and the mother or father bird putting food in their mouths. Toward the end, their appetite seemed insatiable — always mouths open, looking for food.

Toward the end ... and it did end. As I said, they seemed much too large to fit in that nest, and one day, the nest was empty. I unfortunately did not see the moment they left the nest. What was that like? Did the mother bird push them out, or did they just leave? And how did they know it was time to fly? There were no dead birds on the ground — I checked — so they must have been able to fly away. I wish I had seen them do it.

After that, there were days and days of empty nest — no more pretty mother bird to watch; no more baby birds. But then — one day — the mother bird was back again, sitting on the nest, and I got to watch her care for a new set of babies — first steadfastly sitting on the eggs, then the eggs must have hatched and she and the father bird once again cared for the little ones, never leaving the nest unattended. And then, one day, the nest was empty — not only the little ones, but the mother and father gone as well, their job done.

This happened two or three times last summer, and I forgot about it  — until this year, last week, when I saw the mother bird had returned.

I wanted to hug her, to talk to her, to welcome her back, but of course that would have scared her away. So I sit in my safe perch, inside the second story bedroom, watching her silently from the window.

I don’t know how she knew to return to that same tree, but I’m glad she did.

I wonder if she has contact with any of the baby birds she so steadfastly nurtured in the nest last year. Does she know where they are? Are they having their own baby birds in my neighbor’s tree? Are they far away?

I don’t know much about the life cycle of birds, but it doesn’t seem so dissimilar to our own. Only they don’t need any equipment other than a nest and some worms. They don’t have baby showers, or books to consult about when to expect their offspring to do what.

I wonder if they, too, feel a sense of loss — or pride — or a combination of both — when their little ones’ wings carry them away.

Debbie Leffler is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. She can be reached at [email protected]

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