A One-Leg Bird & Me

One-Leg at the bird bath on a cold morning.

When I opened a birthday gift last December, I had no idea that a simpatico moment with a bird was in my future. The gift, a fancy, upscale bluebird house, attracted shopping blue-feathers in early spring. 

Female Bluebird: I like the neighborhood.

Male Bluebird: Yes, it seems bird family friendly.

The realtor (a robin): It’s a high quality house and well located.

Female Bluebird: Yes, it’s attached to a sturdy pole.

Male Bluebird:  The locale will allow our fledglings to get a takeoff zone over the arroyo below.

The male bluebird inspects his prospective house.

A couple of local juniper titmouse couples inspected the bluebird house. But discrimination was in order. They were redlined. The robin chased them away. The male bluebird made threatening dives from a nearby tree.

Within 24 hours, the bluebird couple took the house. They flew in to furnish the empty structure with straw, grasses, and string.

This excited us. We watched the couple take on their nest-building task. After a week or so of carefully landed flights in, beaks loaded with nest-friendly finds, the female stayed indoors. 

“Beep! Peep! Beep!” came from the cozy house. The eggs that we suspected kept the female inside, had hatched. The parental twosome, especially the new dad, dutifully provided bugs and what have you for the boisterous hatchlings. 

Then one day, the beep-peep-beeping ended. The kids took to wing.

What a joy it was to watch this fast-paced lesson in parenting.

Bluebirds are long considered a symbol of happiness, love and hope.

Suddenly, the sequence of events began again—building a new nest, mother inside, and that baby bird announcement of “Beep! Peep! Beep!” and the male frantically delivering to the nest food for his onerous brood.

As the weeks passed, the curious ones poked their heads from the nest. Yes, they would take to wing soon. I had hoped to capture this on camera.

…the curious ones poked their heads from the nest

One warm night we heard massive wings flap outside the bedroom window, followed by a thud. We figured the bats were at it again. Yes, we have active bats that cherish hanging from the logs that hold our portal roof above the brick patio. 

The following morning a massive owl hung out on the fence. I rushed for a my camera, so darned excited to finally get an owl in the wild and not in captivity. While downloading the photos into my computer I noticed that the bluebird house hung to the study pole by one screw. The opening faced the ground. Oh no! What happened? 

The morning visit.

I rushed outside to inspect. The curious young bluebirds were gone. Furthermore, not one other bird visited our yard that day. It was as if the entire gang that feed on suet and drank from the bird bath abandoned our welcome.  No mother or father bluebird. Not even the first batch of young fledglings that had taken up residence in the surrounding pinon-juniper forest that surrounds our house showed up that day.

Silence.

This was depressing. At first we thought a coyote disrupted the bluebird estate. But once we pieced together the sequence of events beginning the night before, it had to be the owl. 

Forty-eight hours later, the gang of bluebirds, even more than before the housing catastrophe,  returned to the suet and the bird bath. The fledglings survived as they joined their older siblings who showed them how to cling to the suet feeder and dine.

But one of the new fledglings had a problem. There was something wrong with his leg. So he clung upside down with one foot and tried to feed on the suet. 

What was wrong with that leg? Did the bird fall from the topsy-turvy-owl-assaulted bluebird house and hurt its leg irreparably? Did it make a bad landing trying to fly before it was time? Nonetheless, it faithfully arrived several times a day and held on to the suet feeder with one leg while the other leg swayed in the breeze.

We named it One-Leg. We cheered it on as the other bluebirds chased One-Leg away, and it returned with a vengeance. Spunk. Lots of spunk.

Yesterday, One-Leg had a near catastrophe. Hanging upside down, as it usually does from the suet feeder, its good leg’s claw got stuck between the wire. Its wings flapped madly. It tried to pull itself up but couldn’t do it. I watched thinking it’s better not to interfere as nature has its ways of working out these challenges.

But One-Leg couldn’t get his leg’s claw unstuck. One-Leg’s wild wing flapping acted like a propeller that spun the feeder in circles. Oh, this was not good. 

I ran for the kitchen step stool and placed it beneath the feeder. One-Leg was in a frenzy. I slowly cradled One-Leg with one hand as I gently removed his stuck claw from between the wires. I then cradled One-Leg with both hands in order to give it a good inspection. 

One-Leg was clearly smaller than its siblings. His useless leg dangled like a piece of black string. We looked eye-to-eye. To the best of my ability I let One-Leg know that I meant no harm, only care. Like a flower unfolding, I opened my two hands, and One-Leg flew off to the nearest pinon tree. 

Of course I worried. But today One-Leg was back at the suet feeder, hanging by one leg and battling for space at the feeder

Now I’m emotionally involved with this bird. Little did I know that when I unwrapped my birthday gift last December that One-Leg would be my new obsession. 

My guess is that One-Leg has will. I can relate to that. One-Leg wants to be like all the other bluebirds in the yard—normal. I can relate to that. One-Leg and I are simpatico. Life disruptions be damned! We’re moving forward.

How the Bluebird Got its Color — A Pima legend

Categories: Animals, Nature, Uncategorized

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