Leaving the nest

One of the baby chickadees left the nest early this morning, around 5:30 a.m.  (See video of the nest I shot about a month ago here.)

Shortly after letting the dogs back in, I glanced out the kitchen window and saw a bird, too small to be one of the adults, poking its head out of the knothole and looking around.  Up, down, left, right . . . sort of scoping out the situation.  Then another bird popped its head up and pushed its way to the opening.  Just like any other siblings, they jostled for position and finally settled for sharing the view, taking turns sticking their necks out.

At last, the first bird decided it was time.  It hopped from hole to branch, just as its parents have done so many times.  There it sat for about two seconds . . . until it lost its balance and tumbled off.  Tiny (and I mean TINY) wings fluttered in a blur, making the fall slower as it wobbled downward.

Once it landed, the baby chickadee sat motionless in the grass for a long time, probably befuddled by what had just happened.  A ground bee moving past hovered slowly closer, and I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Would it sting the defenseless little bird?  As the bee moved in toward the bird, the tiny chickadee shot its head forward and pecked at it.  The bee backed up and flew off. 

Finally the chickadee took flight again, struggling to get higher than a straight line about a foot off the ground.  It made it to the top of our fence, then sat there for several minutes recovering from the effort before fluttering in a low, lurching line across our neighbor’s driveway to a bush at the edge of her patio.  Our neighbor has a bird feeder, so at least the baby chickadee will have some other birds and food around, if it has the wits to stay there until it’s stronger.

The adult returned to the tree at this point, perching on the rim of the knothole and leaning inside with food.  I wondered what it thought . . . or even whether it thought.  As a parent, I would be frantic to discover one of my children gone.  Do birds think this way, too?  Or does the expression “bird brain,” implying a mind incapable of complex thought, have any basis in reality.

The adult entered the nest, stayed for a few moments as usual, then slipped back out of the knothole and flew off. 

Not much later, a tiny chickadee face peered out.


About Katherine Wikoff

I am a college professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering, where I teach literature, film studies, political science, and communication. I also volunteer with a Milwaukee homeless sanctuary, Repairers of the Breach, as chair of the Communications and Fund Development Committee.
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3 Responses to Leaving the nest

  1. That is just amazing that you saw that!!! We rarely get a chance to witness “first flight”. Makes me want to keep my eyes open!! 🙂 karen


    • I could hardly believe it myself! Poor little guy; when he tumbled off that branch I thought he was a goner. I could almost hear his startled thought, Whoooooa!, as he fell, frantically flapping those tiny wings all through his zigzagged plummet to the ground. In fact, his wings were such a blur that he reminded me of a hummingbird.


  2. Pingback: Holing up for winter | Katherine Wikoff

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