Monday, June 25, 2012

OCD Bluebird

At first I thought it was because she was playing hard to get, and it was breaking his heart, and that was why he was trying to break his head by crashing into our porch windows.  I'm talking about the father of the bluebird family that was hatched and reared in the nest box a few feet from our back porch, and disappeared one fine morning two weeks ago without leaving a forwarding address.

Now he's back, all blazing blue and orange and white, and obsessed with our window.  He flings himself at it, so that the glass, which is covered in dog slobber and nose prints at the bottom, now has bluebird foot and beak prints at the top.

For four days he's been hurling himself at the glass, then perching on the nest box and crying "Heee-re!  Heee-re!" to the heavens.  For a long time, there was no response, and I worried about how much head trauma a small bird could sustain.  Then Saturday morning, as I squatted on the hot patio for three hours, pulling up chamomile and crab grass and lemon verbena from between the slate slabs, I was rewarded.  Out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed the bluebird a distance away, following another bird.  He came back to the nest box, sang his "Heeee-re!" and banged into the window some more.  Then, as sweat poured into my eyes, I saw him perched on top of a pine tree, a respectful distance away from another, browner bird on the same tree. 

As I threw the last of the weeds to the hens, I saw the female perch on the gutter next to the next box.  She stuck her head into the hole, then flew off.  No wonder she was loath to commit.  I had seen what hard work it took to rear that first brood, bringing in bugs and taking out poop sacks round the clock.  To be fair, the male had done his part, but she was the one who'd laid the eggs, and sat on them.  Maybe, instead of raising a second batch of babies, she wanted to take the rest of the summer off.

But he didn't.  He was driven.  Bang!  he would go against the glass.  "Heeee-re!" he would cry piteously.  At one point I saw him shaking his wings as he sang, in imitation of a baby bird's plea for food.  I didn't think that reminding her of all the future meals to be dealt with was a productive romantic strategy.

While he was mostly present at the nest, she was mostly absent, and from sunup to sundown he called and threw himself against the glass.  Wolfie, the self-appointed protector of our lives and property, didn't like the banging on the window, and barked and growled whenever the bird approached.  I wondered if I would soon find a little blue cadaver among the echinacea beneath the nest.

Yesterday, surfeited with drama, we stood on a garden chair and peered into the nest box.  Not only had a new nest been built, but there were two M&M-blue eggs in it.  So she hadn't, after all, been deaf to his pleas.  Another brood was on the way.  But why, then, was he still hurling himself against the window?

I think that he just likes the percussive effect of wings and feet and beak on the glass.  He likes it so much, in fact, that he can't stop.  Even while his wife has given in, and is laying eggs, he has to hear that thwap-thwap-thwap.  It makes him sound big and powerful.  It accompanies his melody.  It started out by chance as he tried to fly through the window, and now it has become his reason for being, his obsession,  like hand-washing or hair-pulling.

On the other hand, perhaps he's just an artist.


3 comments :

  1. Perhaps. Some say that the behavior is territorial, the bird seeing a competitive male in the window...

    And who was just talking about a bird acting like this, inexplicably, but then a red-tailed hawk came down and took that bird out? Of course, unless that hawk is parked in your yard, that wouldn't be an explanation here...

    ReplyDelete
  2. We tested the territorial theory by hanging a mirror over the window, to see if he would attack it even more fiercely...but he just switched to a different window. No hawks, that I can see. He's starting to drive us nuts!

    ReplyDelete
  3. how bizarre! but i like your theory. poor guy. men do suffer for their posturing, don't they?

    ReplyDelete