Tough Love in Birdland

Alert Gazette readers will recall this account of suspected predation of a nearby bird nest by a rat snake. As devastating as it surely was, the parents refused to be discouraged, went right back to work, and hatched another brood of birdlets (black phoebes, to be precise). To date, the new batch of nestlings has escaped victimization by viper and the siblings have grown to become the avian equivalent of millennials. Of course, that comes with a whole new set of challenges.

If you thought the snakes were tough, mom says something like..."hold my beer."

In a bit of serendipity, MLB happened to perceive some commotion on the back porch in the vicinity of said nest, and had the presence of mind to video the goings-on with her phone. The result is an extremely interesting bit of nature that I've only read about -- and even then, I've always thought it was fictionalized. I've stitched her video footage together with some of mine (things got even more interesting following her initial recording), and the following short video is the result. Feel free to take a look, then let's unpack what happened, shall we?



So, at the risk of overly anthropomorphizing the situation, this appears to be a case of a parent getting fed up with the kids who moved back home after college, and who spend their [brief] waking hours playing video games in the basement and not doing their own laundry. If any of you find yourselves in a similar situation with your progeny, perhaps you'll take some comfort in knowing that the instincts that you're barely suppressing are actually a normal occurrence in the natural world. 

Hawk in back yard pecan treeBut, we still have questions. To wit:

  • At least two nestlings were thrown out of the nest, but one was left. How did the parent decided which ones needed to go, and which one could stay?

  • After evicting the little bird from the nest, did the parent really warn it about the presence of the hawk, as I've theorized in the video? How else can we explain the quiet stillness of the little guy while the hawk was in the tree, given its animation before and after the hawk's appearance?

  • And finally, how much therapy will the remaining nestling need after witnessing the plight of its siblings?
If you care to weigh in on these ornithological puzzles, please do so. But until I hear a better explanation, I'll continue to assume that parental tough love doesn't preclude life-preserving behavior.


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This page contains a single entry by Eric published on May 9, 2019 8:10 PM.

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