About three days ago, they hatched. They woke me up screaming in the middle of the night, and I knew they had come out of their shells. I have never been a fan of repetitive sounds, and they were so loud I had to stuff toilet paper in my ears to sleep.
The noise made me start to worry. If I’m plugging my ears, will the neighbors complain? Will they tell the apartment office about them and make someone remove my little birds? I dreamed that happened.
I hear them chirp every morning before sunrise, the newborn sound of spring, although they have gotten quieter. They were the loudest when they first emerged, unsure of their surroundings and unaware that they live in a flower pot.
They chirp when their mother leaves them briefly to retrieve food. One morning I caught her in the act and a glimpse of the two babies. They wobbled beside her with gray downy feathers, and when I opened the door to sneak a peek at them, she had one of their tiny beaks in her mouth nourishing the little chick.
She is a good mother, only leaving their side in the early morning hours when she knows no predators are lurking about staring at her through the patio door. When she flies away to hunt, they chirp.
I was particularly worried about them Monday night when the temperature dropped. It was so cold the next morning, and when I heard their cries, I knew they must be freezing without a big, fluffy mama bird to sit atop them shielding them from the cold.
I worried about them again Wednesday afternoon when I arrived home and four children who live downstairs greeted me with a plastic container filled with baby birds. They wanted to show them to me, and when they lifted a bath towel revealing what was inside the bucket, my heart sank to my stomach because I thought they had my mourning dove babies.
Many thoughts raced through my mind. Could the neighbors have complained and sent a maintenance man to retrieve them? Had someone trespassed on my property while I was at work? Then I slowly began to realize they were not my baby birds. These were a different breed and almost old enough to fly. I asked the children where they got them, and they said a man had found their nest who planned to kill the mother bird.
The thought made me cringe with fear and disgust, for I have come to know a mother bird who is as devoted as any mother has ever been to her babies. She sits motionless atop them when I approach the patio glass and stares at me with caution. Sometimes I talk to her sweetly, but I know she isn’t fully convinced that I am not a threat. And the thought of someone taking her away, hurting her or carelessly and callously handing over the offspring of which she has been so protective to the rowdy neighborhood children breaks my heart after having had such a personal experience with nature.
I am praying that the weather and humans leave her undisturbed until the nest she carefully built in my plastic flower pot is empty, and two new mourning doves have taken flight.
Shortly after writing about my noisy birds, I took a peek at them one night to see why they were tweeting so loudly and realized it was not my birds that have been making all the noise. When I peeked at them, they were sitting quietly underneath their mother’s wings as still and serene as can be.
A couple of days later, I came home from work and found the mother bird in another flower pot outside. No longer in her nest, she sat still with a puzzled look in her eye and seemed concerned that her babies were not near her.
When I looked around, I saw only one underneath a plastic chair. He also seemed puzzled, like he knew he was supposed to fly away, but didn’t know how or didn’t trust himself enough to do it. Perhaps his sibling had already flown.
His mom didn’t seem to know where he was, and I sat and watched him a while. He’d walk to the edge of the balcony and walk back under the chair. Then he’d walk under another chair and return to the same spot, as if he were trying to gain momentum and courage each time.
On his last attempt, I saw him flutter his wings and land on the balcony fence, almost brave enough to fly, but not quite.
It was hard to watch. I just knew he was going to fall and splatter below. Maybe he just wasn’t ready. And if not, the consequences were dire. Flying, it seems, is just one of those things you better get right the first time. I left after I saw him flutter on the fence.
A few hours later, I came back to check on him. To my surprise, the mother bird was now perched on the railing in front of me, a place I’d never seen her before. And she wasn’t moving. She just stared at me with a puzzled look, like I might have stolen him.
Confident she wouldn’t fly away, I opened the door and looked at her closely. I even decided I’d point to her baby several times, hoping she might realize he was under the chair. Then I went back inside, closed the door and left them alone again.
When I returned a little later, she had found him and was sitting beside him under the chair. And the more I watched them, I realized she was teaching him to fly. He now had someone to walk with him back and forth, as he tried to muster enough courage to spread his wings.
Back and forth they went each time to the edge of the balcony. Then she flew over the balcony fence and sat on the edge. He followed, and the two sat together quietly for a while.
I left, and when I returned again, they were gone.
Abigail, the mother bird, saw her mission through. She patiently sat beside him on the ledge until he was ready to fly, giving him the needed confidence for his brave, bold venture.
She could have just flown away and let him fend for himself, but like a good mother, she stayed until he left the nest and the balcony.
They say a good parent gives their child roots and wings, and in this case Abigail did both. The roots were in her flower pot.