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Bird Nest Update: And Then They Were Gone

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Back at the end of May, two house finches decided to make one of our porch lights their home. They built a little nest but were so shy they only showed their butts whenever I tried to snap a photo.

A little while later, there were eggs! Five little beautiful eggs that hatched into four little pink babies (unfortunately, one didn’t make it). They grew bigger and bigger, and we saw both Momma and Daddy bird tending to them. I couldn’t wait to see the babies learn to fly!

One of my most recent photos of the baby finches.

But then one morning, to my horror, I looked up at the nest through our front window and saw that the lightbulb in the porch light had fallen down near the nest!

Oh no! The lightbulb fell down!

Originally when I saw Momma and Daddy bird building the nest, I unscrewed the bulb. But I couldn’t get it out of the light fixture, so I just left it balanced on top of the socket. At the time it seemed pretty stable to me.

I went outside to investigate. All the birds were gone! Babies, Mom and Dad, everyone. The nest was completely empty.

Oh dear…an empty nest, thanks to the fallen lightbulb.

And it stayed empty. All day. And the next day, and the day after that.

What happened? How did the lightbulb fall? Maybe Mom or Dad bumped into it. I didn’t think the babies were ready to fly yet, but maybe they were? They were definitely too big for Mom and Dad to carry them to safety. There was no evidence of baby finches anywhere around our front lawn, so I guess the whole family flew away.

It is interesting, because if the fallen lightbulb was the reason they all fled, the lightbulb had been there the whole time. It just fell close to the nest. Although the birds might have been “used to it,” was it now just too close for comfort? Or did they never really notice the lightbulb in the first place and suddenly this big white thing tumbled down? Or maybe the babies were ready to fly away anyway, and during their mass exodus, they dislodged the lightbulb. Maybe the lightbulb wasn’t the reason they’re gone after all.

I guess what really happened will remain a mystery. I just hope they are all okay.

It was such a sweet surprise to share our spring with a little bird family. I learned so much. And my kids got to see the birds start a family and witnessed our excitement and respect for nature. For all of that I am grateful.

A male and female house finch. Maybe we’ll host another family next year? Photo source: iNaturalist.

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Bird Nest Update: The Babies Have Arrived!

By Posted on 2 min read 765 views

About two weeks ago I told you about birds that built a nest in our front porch light. And I couldn’t get a good photo of the momma in the nest because she kept showing off her butt. Well, here is an update! And it is exciting.

Several times a day I look out our front window at the light to see how things are going in the nest. Momma still shows me her butt now and then, but now I often see her hunkered down and her sweet little eye seems to be watching me. I try not to scare her, so I just peek from the side of our window. This week I realized it’s been a while since I took the photo of her two eggs, so I waited until Momma was not in the nest and I took another picture. Look at this:

Look! Now there’s FIVE eggs!

There’s no longer two eggs, but FIVE eggs! Wow! Momma has been busy. This is so exciting!

But wait, it gets even better.

This morning I thought I’d check in on them. And look! Babies!

Brand new baby birds. Hooray!

They are so new and pink and beautiful. And as you can see, there is one egg left, or maybe it’s just an empty eggshell. It’s hard to count the babies because they are in such a tight little bundle. I hope, if it is a full egg, that the baby is just a late bloomer. But it got me thinking: What happened to all the other eggshells? From what I could find online from reputable sources, adult birds can eat the eggshells (a good source of calcium), or they fly from the nest, carrying the eggshell, and drop it far away. It’s not good to keep eggshells in the nest because: (1) they take up space in an already squishy home; (2) they are sharp and can cut the delicate baby birds; and (3) the exposed inside of the egg is not camouflaged like the outside, and can act like a beacon to predators. Which made me think, Aha! No wonder I sometimes find empty half-eggshells lying around outside, seemingly nowhere near a nest. Momma bird dropped it far away as part of her parenting duties.

Welcome to the world, little ones! You are such sweet little pink packets of joy, and I look forward to watching you grow.

Reference

Birkhead, T. (June 20, 2016). The art of hatching an egg, explained. Retrieved June 6, 2020 from https://www.audubon.org/news/the-art-hatching-egg-explained

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Bird Butts and Drama

By Posted on 4 min read 970 views

The other morning I was sitting at our dining room table (my writing spot) when I noticed some commotion outside our front window. Two small birds were flitting around one of the light fixtures above our front porch. My heart swooped. Are they thinking of building a nest? In the past birds had used our light fixtures as a home but it’s been a long time since that happened.

(Which makes me wonder, why did they stop building nests there? How does a bird decide where to build its nest? Does it depend on the type of bird? Questions for another day and another blog.)

A little while later, when the birds were not around, I went outside to look. They WERE building a nest! Hooray!

Our lucky light fixture that might be a new home for birds!
A bird’s-eye-view (ha-ha) of the beginnings of a nest.

It is amazing how fast those birds work. I didn’t time them, but it was like less than an hour or something from when there was nothing in the light fixture to the scaffolding of a nest seen in the photos above.

Then I felt a twinge of panic. What if we turned on the porch lights at night? With two small children in our house I couldn’t guarantee that everyone would remember to leave the lights off. The light would blast the birds and they’d be terrified, I’m sure. And then they might abandon the nest and they’d have to find someplace else and start all over again. And selfishly, I want the birds to stay so I can watch them start a little family!

I have to unscrew the lightbulb, I thought. So I waited until the birds were gone, stepped up onto a stool, and tried to unscrew the bulb. But it was tricky. Because of the metal ornate design it was hard to get my fingers around the bulb. Then I got it, and unscrewed it…but then it fell onto the nest! AAAaaaahhh!!! Isn’t there a saying somewhere that if you touch a bird’s nest the bird won’t come back?? Nooooo!!! I panicked. I frantically reached in amongst the (annoying) metal loops and swoops of the fixture and eased the lightbulb up so it rested on top of the socket. Phew. I hope the bulb didn’t contaminate the nest…

(Note: Here is what Scientific American and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game have to say about disturbing birds’ nests. According to them, birds might abandon a not-quite-finished nest if it is disturbed. But birds will not abandon their babies.)

I hurried back inside, crossed my fingers, and waited eagerly for the birds to come back. And they did! Phew. They worked on their nest and by the end of the day, it looked like this:

The birds came back and continued to build their nest! But it’s not quite finished yet, as the bottom still has some spaces.

By the end of the next day, the nest looked completely finished:

The nest is finished! Hooray!

Next, I wanted to figure out what kind of birds we are hosting. I saw them flying around the nest and they were always moving, so it was hard to get a a good, close-up look. (I watched them from inside our house at our front window.) And each time a bird was in the nest, all I could see was her butt! She always faced her butt to our front window:

Anytime the momma bird was in the nest, all I could see was her butt…

From what I could see when the birds had been flying around building their nest, there was a male and a female. The male had soft, blushy red around his head and neck, and the female was a speckled brown. After looking at photos online I think we have a family of house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus).

A male house finch (left) and female house finch (right). I think this is the type of bird that built the nest. Source: iNaturalist.

For the past couple of days whenever I look out our front window, I can see the momma bird hunkered down in the nest. I can just see the top of her head. If she’s staying in the nest a lot, that could mean she is laying, or has laid, eggs!

Yesterday I waited until momma left the nest for a bit (probably to grab a bite to eat?). I peeked into the nest and…look what I found!

Look at the two beautiful eggs in the nest!

Yes, I am a huge animal nerd. But there is something so sweet and heartwarming to know that you’re sharing your home with little wild sparks of life.

I’ll keep you updated!

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