Thursday, May 16, 2013

Backyard Drama

One nice thing about retirement is the ability to sit at the kitchen counter at lunch time staring out into the back yard.  Yesterday, thus occupied, I noticed a sparrow-sized bird of dull tan coloring checking out each small gap between the patio roof rafters.  She was obviously seeking a nesting site.

Every spring I’ve seen sparrows do the same, but they quickly move on and I’ve never had a bird nest in that area.  The “nesting surface” is only three inches wide, and there’s no way to secure a nest there.  The first strong gust of wind will blow it out onto the concrete patio below.

This gal was an optimist.  She selected her spot, commenced gathering building supplies, and soon had a small pile of grass, trigs and leaves up there.  The breeze promptly blew most of them down.  Undaunted, she continued bringing materials.  Her pile grew, but now she was spending more time weaving them together before venturing off for a new beak-full.  The wind was no longer stealing her collection.

 About that time I also noticed a similar sized bird with a bright red-orange head and throat.  He would perch in a small, potted bougainvillea about 15 feet away from the nesting female and just sing and sing.  I looked him up in our Birds of Texas Handbook and learned that he was a male House Finch.  I took a picture of him.  I had to do so through a window and it’s fuzzy, but this will give you an idea:



THEN I noticed that every time the nest-builder flew off to gather materials, he followed in the same direction.  And every time she returned, he was right back singing on his perch.  I got it!  They were mates, and he was letting her do the building while he just advised her on the selection of materials.  Typical male, right?  At least he was smart enough to get out of the way while she was doing the skilled work.

After about a dozen round trips together my suspicion was confirmed.  She was arranging her materials as the nest was taking shape, and a sparrow flew up to the adjacent spot as if to consider its own nest there.  (See picture below.)


 Well, Mr. Redhead was having none of that!  In a flash he flew up to that sparrow, fluttered and squawked aggressively until the sparrow flew to the ground.  Not satisfied with that, this alpha male followed the sparrow down and confronted him there!  The sparrow, clearly a pacifist, opted to depart the area.  Mr. Redhead strutted a bit, looked all around, flew up to the nesting spot to ensure all was okay, and then resumed his perch in the bougainvillea, singing loudly.

 Late in the afternoon she had just about completed her work.  Whenever I went outside with the camera both birds flew off, so here’s another shot of the nest, with bird in residence, taken through a screened window:


Hopefully she has the nest secured sufficiently that the wind will leave it alone until eggs are produced, hatched, and the little ones can fly.  I’ll let you know.


Steve said...

The things we do for critters. Hope the wind doesn't blow them away.

Duke_of_Earle said...

Update, Friday afternoon: Yesterday was pretty windy, but the nest is still intact and in place. No further construction work has been observed. but as of today "she" is spending all her time sitting quietly in the nest. I think she may have already produced egg(s), since she will occasionally stand up, put her head down (out of sight) and move it a while, and then settle herself back down. Turning the eggs? More to come.

Steve said...

That's good news.

Nankin said...

That's so cool.