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  • Writer's pictureJayne Lisbeth


I have always been an avid birdwatcher or Bird Nerd, as some call me. I love the varying bird seasons: meeting, courting, nesting, raising babies, first flight. I consider myself the patio Bird Mom, and Tim as patio Bird Dad. He throws the seeds, I tear up slices of bread, he shells peanuts, I throw them. He fills the bird bath, I clean it. We are great parents. Yet every spring our patio is eerily devoid of bird life. We wring our hands, fret and worry about our family. Where are they? Finally, we realize it is nesting time. If we weren’t sure, we are reminded each morning by the male cardinal sounding like a lawnmower starting up, crowing outside our window: chk chk chk chk SCREEEEEE SCREE SCREEEE. It is as though he is boasting to the neighborhood, “I got a nest and me and the little lady are sitting on eggs.”

Following are some observations I would like to share with all mothers provided by our bird families.

Bird Bath 101

A male Cardinal was in our birdbath taking a bath, splashing around when a tiny, fluffy baby Cardinal crash landed onto the edge of the bath. He watched his dad intently, as though saying, “WHAT are you doing, dad?” Baby nervously drank a few sips from the bird bath. Dad splashed the baby with water. Baby hesitantly shook his feathers. The routine continued as dad kept splashing baby until his fledgling got the hang of fluttering and fluffing his wings, like dad, to shake off the water. Finally the little one got in the bird bath next to dad and discovered how to wash and fluff out his feathers. Clearly, we were witnessing baby's first bath lesson.

Newcomer Wrens

Four tiny wrens were flying erratically guided by Mom, who looked harried. Eventually the fledglings landed haphazardly onto the patio wall. Mom then flew to another favorite roost of hers, our garden work table near our back gate and fence. The babies followed in wobbly pursuit. Mom then led her babies to the top of the fence. There, the kids hovered for a moment, before taking flight from the fence. Mom and babies disappeared into the morning sky, serenaded by the Cheerie Cheerie Cheerie of fellow wrens, congratulating the fledglings on their first flight.

Babies Collaborate

We were awakened early one morning by a tap tap tap on our bedroom window. Upon investigation we discovered a male Cardinal in the bush outside the window. He sang to us with his distinctive cheep cheep cheep call as the branches hit our window. On an adjacent branch was a fluffy little baby Cardinal, so tiny it had to be the one we’d seen a few days previously in the bird bath. Baby cardinals are easy to spot.

They have large, black eyes, are very fluffy, have short wings, and are gray-brown in color. They are more fluff than plumage and have a true baby look, big eyes discovering the world for the first time, as though saying: This is what it's like outside the nest?

Baby hopped around in the bush when suddenly dad took off. Junior continued to hop erratically from branch to branch, searching for dad. Suddenly, a baby Titmouse crashed into the bush. There is no other way to describe these newcomers with wings. They fly short distances and wobble or crash on landing. Baby Cardinal seemed thrilled with the new arrival. The two hopped about in the bush companionably.

Then, CRASH! Another baby arrived, this time a Carolina Wren, looking the worse for wear with all its feathers fluffed up and her short tail bedraggled. She looked around as if to say, “How did I get here?” She was welcomed by the two earlier arrivals. All three hopped around happily and chirped a baby song, as if to sing: “We’re here! We can fly!” (sort of…)

{Editor’s Note: Interestingly, Tim and I have frequently noticed that little birds, the wrens, Titmouse and Chickadees, stick together, forging friendships. We have also noticed the larger birds, Blue Jays, Thrashers, Woodpeckers and Flickers fight constantly.}

After all the babies finished congratulating one another for landing on a branch they became still. "Where is the rest of our world? Where are mom and dad?" First, the baby Wren flew wobblily off; then the Titmouse staggered into the sky. Baby Cardinal was the last to depart, looking once more for dad, then flying off in the opposite direction from whence Dad had departed, following his friends.


This evening at 4:42 Dad Cardinal showed up with baby, as he had for many previous evenings. Baby sat on the log on our patio wall. Dad hopped onto the patio where he began collecting a few shelled peanuts. Baby watched dad hungrily, urgently fluttering her wings, signaling frantically, FEED ME FEED ME FEED ME!

Over the years we have often witnessed this behavior. When a baby flutters its wings, mom or dad would feed their offspring. Similarly, when a female Cardinal was being courted the male would chase her around the patio with a nut in his beak. Finally, she signaled her acceptance by stopping the chase, fluttering her wings and accepting the male's gift of the nut into her beak. It is always a touching, happy bird moment, the new couple's nuptials and the beginning of a life together.

A few days ago I noticed Dad Cardinal feeding his family. He was very patient, dutifully answering each of the kid's fluttering wings requests. Each baby was rewarded with a seed from Dad’s beak. Suddenly, dad flew off. The babies sat on the patio, watching Dad depart, as though saying, “Now what are we supposed to do?” They figured it out, quickly discovered the deliciousness of seeds they gathered.

The wren family was also learning. Mother Wren watched worriedly as her children crashed around her onto the patio wall. I could well understand her look, “These damn kids! I’m so tired. When are they going to learn to feed themselves?" She began eating seeds. She did not feed her children, as she usually did. Then, to the surprise of her offspring, mom flew off. The young ones watched her flight in perplexity. Finally, they understood. Mom wasn’t feeding them. They needed to learn to pick up the seeds themselves, as she had instructed them. Hesitantly, they did. They were on their way.


One of my favorite spring days is when baby birds take their maiden voyage. We watched four baby Blue Jays learning to fly on our clothesline one afternoon, with dad leading the way. There were many falls and short flights but they finally got the hang of it.

On this day, the baby Wrens were trying out their tiny wings. They bumbled about, becoming braver, but they still hadn’t mastered long flights. Today’s lesson was discovering and eating from the suet container at our French doors, which they had to reach by flying dangerously close to the doors. They propelled themselves, trying out their new wings, flying to the suet box. To assist, we have placed a decorative mobile perch next to the suet box.

The children were finding their wings, their balance and duration, with mom’s help. Mom and three fledglings created a ballet, dipping from the mobile, to the suet, until they finally discovered the easiest way to attain balance and dinner was to remain on the suet feeder. One little wren chose not to learn the ballet. Instead, she sat under the suet feeder and picked up the crumbs dropped by the rest of the family. She is destined to become a future Carolina Wren CBO.


Our patio family now consists of two baby Flickers, three baby Woodpeckers, four baby Carolina Wrens, three baby Titmouse, and an indiscernible array of Baby Jays, as they are as big as their parents. "Our" birds aggressively compete over the mobile, suet box, seeds, bread on the porch, bird bath, and strategically placed feeders. They fight constantly over the bounty. They chase one another, race from patio to feeder, from birdbath to suet, to patio wall to bread. This endless game of tag continues until finally they all grow tired, give up, and share the goods. Their parents watch from the canopy of trees overhead, admiring the antics of their offspring. The parents do not interfere. I imagine they are proud of their parenting. What more could any mom or dad ask for than providing independence to their babies and letting them fight, win their own battles and take flight?

Or, as Jonas Salk wrote in his advice to parents, “Give your children roots and wings: roots to know where home is, and wings to fly off and practice what has been taught them."

All the children have left their nests and are learning to live their own lives. Our backyard jungle has grown much quieter. Dad Cardinal has stopped singing his boastful early morning song and has returned to his usual chooo chooo chooo. I thought all the kids had flown the coop, but this morning I spied a late blooming baby Cardinal pick up a few seeds from the patio as mom watched by protectively. All we mothers will eventually have empty nests, but we'll always be here for our offspring.

Happy Mother's Day to all moms, whoever and where ever you are!

Cardinal's abandoned nest discovered in Crepe Myrtle

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2 commentaires

14 mai 2023

What a perfect blog for Mother’s Day. Beautifully written as always 💗

Jayne Lisbeth
Jayne Lisbeth
15 mai 2023
En réponse à

Thank you, dear friend and reader Robin! You are one of my greatest fans, and the woman who taught me how to be a mom! xoxoxo

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