Friday, February 10, 2006

How to Starve a Blackbird Chick

It's a fairly typical morning in the back yard, except that the concrete is still damp from last night's rain and the sky is overcast with the promise of more showers to come. There's a female blackbird perched on the back fence, a worm clasped in her beak, still wriggling. She watches me warily as I come out the back door and light up a cigarette.

Her gaze follows me as I stroll across the yard to the gate and back again. We watch each other for a minute or two then it occurs to me to get out of her line of sight. She waits a minute more, then flies across the back yard of the neighbours behind, into the wisteria at the corner of the back porch where she has hidden her nest.

It's always the female; the male is usually perched in some high place - like a TV antenna or a vent pipe, keeping an eye out for worm-poachers and singing out the usual reminder that:

This land is my land,
This land is my land,
From that fence over there to somewhere near the dumpster in the service station at the corner,
Oh and that palm tree's mine too, so you just bugger off sport ...

It'd be a bugger for the both of them if they've been fostering one of those parasitic cuckoos, whose mother flew into the nest one day while they weren't looking and left behind her single egg and flew off again, with no more thought for her offspring than thank God that's done - bird, but it gives you a sore clacker.

Postscript: I started this piece a few days ago, at the start of my alleged hiatus. A day later a fledgling blackbird turned up perched on top of one of the bins. So it looks like that's the breeding season over for another year.

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