We found Schnitzel resting on a bunch of spidergrass in the front yard. Throughout the day there had been a racket of noise coming from that corner of our front porch (there are starling nests all over the place) so I wasn’t surprised to discover our little starling had fallen/jumped/been pushed out. He is at an in-between stage where he’s too young to be on his own but old enough to only need a little more help before he’s flying off into the world.
A friend from Springfield, Missouri was staying over last night on a work trip and has fostered all kinds of baby birds successfully. She gave us some tips on how to keep him fed and happy, at least until he’s big enough to start hopping around in the grass and getting used to being on his own (remember Mr. Grumpyfeathers?).
Schnitzel is a good sleeper, a very good eater, and a good pooper – all extraordinary traits when dealing with baby anythings. In fact, he’s a better sleeper than my baby human was (and still is, at times). If you’re curious about the name, we collectively decided on Schnitzel because:
a) we’re big fans of the cartoon Chowder
b) we’d just had wiener schnitzel for dinner at Ingrid’s Kitchen
c) Mr. Grumpyfeathers was already taken
Schnitzel’s favorite treats? Softened dog food and hard-boiled eggs. Elle is a bit creeped out by a bird eating eggs, but Schnitzel loves eggs. Seriously, he gobbles them up.
There hasn’t been a successful bird’s nest in this yard in years. In fact, we haven’t really seen many mating pairs of birds for quite some time. In years past, if we weren’t wrangling hungry rat snakes out of the hanging planters, then we were hosting a colony of stray but lovable cats on our back porch, all of whom were intent on killing all kinds of things. If a pair of birds was even willing to take a chance on our yard and consider it a decent place to have some babies, bad things happened. It was pretty awful dealing with the consequences.
Last week, a pair of bluebirds showed up (a male and a female) seemingly looking for a place to nest. They were hovering around the same area that once was occupied by birdhouses and had housed a few pairs before them, before the stray but lovable cats began bringing us gifts in the form of dead baby birds. Were these the same parents? Where had they been nesting all these years? And am I giving songbirds too much credit in thinking they might mate for life?
Regardless, a birdhouse has been erected, especially for them. And, obviously, because of all the hard work (three freakin’ hours, folks) we put into getting this thing in just the right spot, nobody has seen this pair of bluebirds since.
prime real estate
It is staked high enough off the ground so that any snakes would really have to work hard to get to it. It is also strategically placed far enough away from any tree branches and fence posts to dissuade the squirrels from jumping onto it and into it, eventually. And when the time comes for mama bird to toss the babies out on their keesters, they will land in my garden, which is fenced off and has been a fairly safe, pest-free place, so far. The birdhouse is clean, cozy, and located in a pretty quiet spot in the yard. Yet it’s still empty.
Did that just read like a MLS listing in a real estate guide?
About five years ago, our back porch was taken over by rat snakes. I would find one coiled up on the outdoor table while another made itself comfortable below the step of our sliding glass door. One time, I opened the screen door to find myself confronted with an 8-foot snake climbing up the screen! I’m kidding – I thought it was an 8-foot snake, but it was really the two 4-foot snakes having a little fun with me. I eventually decided to cut off their heads since they wouldn’t take the hint each time I relocated them to different areas in the woods. Normally, I wouldn’t have done this to a simple, harmless rat snake. But where there are two, there could potentially be hundreds more in the form of babies. No, thanks.
Speaking of babies, it turns out that’s what the snakes were after all along! After cautiously stepping out onto the back porch one evening, I found Sid and Nancy (yes, I named them) trying to scramble out of one of the hanging planters above the porch railing. And because I’m clueless, I had no idea why the snakes would be remotely interested in flowers until I caught a pair of adult birds freaking out on a nearby tree. Once we had rid ourselves of the troublesome duo, I kept vigil over these baby birds for weeks, often having to clap my hands in order to get the babies to cheep cheep as their parents were constantly flying into the wrong hanging planter. You can imagine the terror and screeching coming from Mom and Dad when they realized OMG!!!! Where are the babies??? THE BABIES ARE MISSING!
No, stupid birds. Check the other planter!
Oh, there they are!
…until the next round of feeding.
(Polly the Cat seemed very curious about the babies – or, rather, about what was making all that noise – but otherwise lost interest quickly. No worries. She just wanted some snuggles.)