|Our Feathered Friends - Feb. 23|
|Wednesday, February 23, 2011|
By RAY POPE
Time to rest and give the people a break from all the racket emanating from behind my house. Robins were singing their signature spring “time to mate” songs that we are all so familiar with. Why do most people consider the Robin as the harbinger of spring? That was something I had always heard since I was a little fellow.
I remember my mother, Margie Pope, when we lived here at my current address back in the ‘50s, talking to mama Robin who had built a nest on the back porch. It seemed like the Robin and her were on the same page. Robins have always stood out in my mind as maybe a sacred bird.
Even as a small youngster, I had a BB gun and was a terror to the sparrows in our neighborhood. I was so good of a shot the family cat would follow me whenever I took off with my trusty Red Rider. I would never take aim at a Robin or Mockingbird.
Several years later, we moved to Clearview Drive where my brother, Don tried his hand at giving mother Robin a helping hand with her little ones. An old hackberry tree on the northern property line was the perfect spot in which she placed her nest.
My brother grabbed a shovel and dug up a mess of earthworms in the backyard and in a few minutes had straddled the limb next to the nest where the hungry babies were. Back in the old days I don’t think birds were as protective as they are now. Anyway back to my story. Don was up the tree, right next to the babies and was feeding one little one as the
Mother Robin took some of the worms and fed the others, never fussing or having a hissy fit because of the human intervention. Some things like that will stick in my mind for many years to come.
The Robins that spend winter with us are from farther up north while our summer residents have gone a little south of here to escape the colder temperatures and the snow. The American Robin (Turdus migratorius) is a member of the Thrush family like our Bluebirds.
Only when they are very young do they show off the spotted breast which soon fades to the more familiar red. Robins most always lays four eggs to a clutch. The color of the eggs was such a different hue of blue that they got their own color name, “Robin egg blue.” My father had an old 1949 Ford and painted it the same shade of blue, prettiest car in town at that time.
Parents incubate the four eggs for about 14 days and the race is on to feed the babies. Some people used to say to a picky eater, you eat like a bird. That is because they don’t realize that a baby Robin can eat 14 yards of earthworms in a single day. In another couple of weeks the babies have left the nest and running around chasing their mom and dad, trying to get the choice meal instead of their brothers or sisters.
Like I mentioned earlier, to me it seems like birds have grown tired of people trying to get up close and personal with them. I even get fussed at when I approach too close to one of the little ones, even though I wouldn’t hurt one for the world. I guess back in the older days things were laid back for us humans and our bird friends.