Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Baby in the Back Yard. Our Northern Mockingbird.

This summer, G was throwing baseballs up against the wall in our terribly unkempt back yard.  He came running into the house saying that there was a baby bird on the ground.  We went out and looked at it, and it was moving around among the leaves, making occasional peeps.  Since Rich and I had awakened, we had heard the anxious chirping and calls of the birds outside our window, and wondered what was going on, and this seemed to explain it.  The poor little guy(?) seemed pretty helpless-- his feathers were not fully formed, and had kind of a sweaty, matted look, and his little beak had yellow "lips" and that wide-mouthed look that made it seem as though meals must come from a doting parent.  I can't find the photos I took of the bird at this stage, but he didn't look ready for this adventure.

 I looked into the tree and saw three separate nests at different places.  There were adult birds flying around the tree and wall in the yard, chirping and scolding.  I have no idea about birds, and wondered if they had accidentally pushed this little one out of the nest early?  What should we do?  So, I did a little bit of internet research and found some good links about finding baby birds.  Based on this info. we built a replacement nest out of a plastic basket filled with twigs and leaves, and G climbed into the tree and zip-tied it up there.  G helped me carefully place the bird within the nest, but when we came back that evening, he was gone, a single downy feather drifting in the breeze below the tree.  Oh, no!!  I assumed a cat got him.  At least G knew that we had done our best to try to help him.

     However, three days later, G came running inside again saying another bird was out there.  Here is what I found:

He was hopping energetically around the base of the wall and calling out for his parents.

I did some more research, and decided that it was probably the same baby bird grown up a few more days.  We celebrated-- he had somehow survived!  Probably the plentitude of overgrown grasses gave him plenty of camouflage.  After looking online, we decided that maybe it was a northern mockingbird, a northern mockingbird who had thrived in our dried-up and un-maintained back yard for several days now. If you have a better theory about what happened, let me know.  The parents were hanging around the whole time, and occasionally became worked up about one thing or another.  Sometimes we would hear the little bird calling his parents.

Two days later, here is who I found under our terribly overgrown bush:
I saw him once more up in the branches later that day.  After a day or two more, we no longer heard him calling his parents, and the frantic adult birds disappeared from our tree and wall.  I'm hoping that means he made it.

Here are some of the links I found:
Backyard Birds of Tucson  This site was really comprehensive about lots of local bird species.
Some Q & A Site that acually helped.
Audubon Society birdweb.  From Seattle-- but I bet a lot of the same species migrate through.
Place for Wild Birds.  This site was incredibly helpful for figuring out how old the bird was.
Blog entry about Mockingbird behavior made me almost certain that's what these were because his description of the behavior was extremely similar to what I saw in the adults.
Tucson Bird Count has audio of the bird calls, which was really fun.

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