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The Nest

Sunday,  07/06/03  11:23 PM

Around our house we have a bunch of old iron lanterns.  They are reasonably attractive, pleasant at night (with suitably low wattage bulbs), and difficult to maintain.  They also make great bird nests.  And therein lies a story, which I am about to relate...

There's a lantern on a balcony in my back yard which has had a nest in it for a while.  The other day I noticed a dead adult bird stuck in the bottom of this lantern.  I have no idea how the bird died - maybe it got stuck wiggling into the lantern, or it had some disease, or maybe it was just his time.  So, now I've got to clean up the dead bird.  {Being a longtime cat owner, this is not a new experience for me...}

Well there's a dead bird, and a nest, and a bunch of droppings, and overall a big mess.  So I decide I'll just hose out the lantern.  I drag over the hose, turn it on full blast, and squirt it into the lantern.  No good, the nest is stuck, the bird is stuck, and even the droppings are stuck.  I'm going to have to take the lantern apart.  Did I mention these lanterns are difficult to maintain?  Yeah, they were designed by someone who apparently figured there would never be any need to open the lantern.  Fool.  Like the light bulbs live forever, or something.  Not to mention the possibility of bird nests.  So I take the lantern apart, shake out the dead bird (yep, it's dead all right), and shake out the nest.

Woa!  The nest falls out, intact, with three baby birds in it.  And two other baby birds fall out of the lantern as well - a little wet and bedraggled looking (baby birds look that way anyway) - but otherwise seemingly okay.  They are wiggling their little wings and opening their mouths.  Way cute.  I'm no expert on birds, but these were little baby birds, as in no hair, eyes closed, etc.

So what do I do now?  Well, the two not in the nest look like they belong in the nest, so I put them back.  Now I have a nest with five baby birds wiggling around in a fuzzy ball, a dead parent, and a disassembled lantern.  Help!

I call my local pet hospital, explain the situation, and am referred to a woman who nurses baby birds which have been orphaned!  I call her and tell her what happened.  She says that birds like these typically mate for life, with the male and female sharing nest caring duties.  So there is probably another bird around to take care of the chicks!  She also tells me little chicks like these need to be sat on by a parent at night to stay warm (I would believe that, they have no feathers to speak of) and can't go more than a day without food (I would believe that too, they are so little).  I look around and sure enough, there's this little bird just like the dead one buzzing around the patio.  Most likely a really pissed little bird wondering what happened to her nest.  Sorry!  I reassemble the lantern - did I mention they are difficult to maintain? - remove a glass panel, and carefully put the nest back in the lantern, complete with the five little fuzzballs wiggling around.  What will happen?

Sure enough, the little bird buzzes into the lantern, and sits on the nest!  Yippee.  All's well that ends well.  My kids had a chance to see little chicks up close, and the baby birds probably needed a bath, anyway :)

[ Later: Please see revisiting the nest for an epilogue... ]