Monday, June 3, 2013

War And Peace Among The Birds

How would you like to sit in my sun room one of these afternoons, gazing out into the verdant woods while the hens amble through the tall grass and the frogs sun themselves on the lily pads?

Trust me, you would not.

You would soon feel jumpy, anxious and stressed out, and you would beg to be led away from the big windows, away from the blows and noise of the war between the phoebes and the bluebirds.

A month ago the phoebes, who in past summers would rear their broods in the front porch, instead made their mud nest on the elbow of the downspout by the window of the sun room, about five feet from the wooden nest box that's attached to the wall of the garage.  They flitted merrily from the apple tree to the nest and back to the tree, catching bugs on the wing, wagging their tails in that phoebe way and singing their rusty-hinge phoebe song.

And then the bluebirds arrived.

This is the same pair that colonized the nest box last summer.  How do I know it's the same pair?  Because the male has the unfortunate habit of throwing himself feet first against our window, over and over, day in and day out.  After a series of bangs he flies to the nest box and tweets for his mate, then attacks the window again, purely, I've concluded, because he likes the percussive effect.  (I've written several posts on this in the past, so I won't describe again our many failures to discourage him.)

Now he's back, having flown all the way from Rio or perhaps Asuncion, to his favorite nest and his favorite window.  But he wasn't expecting to find the phoebes, and they, needless to say, don't like his incessant banging on the window just inches away from their nest.

The result is war.

It's really hard to watch the little brown phoebes perching on the apple tree, wanting to get back to their eggs.  But the blue maniac is there, flinging himself against the glass, and they hesitate.  I don't blame them.  When the male phoebe makes it all the way to the roof of the garage, his enemy flies at him, sky-blue feathers glinting cruelly in the sun, and scares him away.

One hot afternoon, as the temperature reached the 90s, the battle raged unabated, the combatants panting, beaks open wide, as they flew at each other and tumbled in the humid air.  I worried that they might fall dead of heart attacks.   If merely watching the commotion stressed me out, what was it doing to the birds themselves?

Of late, though, the phoebe seems to be spending more time on her eggs, and the bluebird's window battering is perhaps a tad less violent.  Could it be that the two pairs have resolved their differences, and the little phoebes and the baby bluebirds will have a safe and peaceful childhood?

This is such a hopeful thought, on so many levels.  After all, if birds can do it, maybe there's a chance for us.

8 comments :

  1. Let hope there is a chance for us!

    I'm certain that that Bluebird thinks he is fending off a contender for his crown. I would if white paper would help. His reflection would be less noticeable.

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    1. Last year we tried paper both inside and outside the glass. He didn't care. I really do think he likes the sound, since he alternates quite rapidly between banging and tweeting.

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  2. Our poor eggs from all sorts of birds can't hatch for the mean crows stealing them. Nature keeps natureing!

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  3. That's a near perfect post. Regardless of the war of the birds, I would love to sit in your sun room one of these afternoons.

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  4. Just put Vermont on one of your travel itineraries, and we will!

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  5. When you're a phoebe, you're a phoebe all the way...

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  6. I like the phoebes even better now that I've seen how brave they are.

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