A Short Bird Story: Lust and Loss
This year birds welcomed spring with a lusty flurry, celebrating the season by swooping through trees, trilling, cawing, pecking, whistling, singing, and chirping. Bright red birds, hopping robins, wood-peckers, red and gold finches, vibrant blue jays played and zoomed in the forest surrounding my house. Desire and excitement in the air. A Baltimore Oriole arrived and I immediately fed him half a tangerine which he pecked on my railing. I had never seen one in my yard before. Early hummingbirds whirled in a blur around their feeder. Even a wild turkey lazily strolled through my yard. I knew that this magical bounty was, partly, a result of my cat’s death last year. Even though he preferred rodents and never killed a bird, they may have been wary of his aroma and presence. The birds were my comfort for his loss. And they put on a great noise show.
I settled into the wonders of the continual music, startling flashes and fantasized a crow would be my friend. Then I noticed a female cardinal built a nest on in the Virginia creeper crawling up the wall by my front porch. She faced the wall her reddish tail extending from the nest or looked out into the forest. The Internet informed me that the male cardinal would feed her and the babies once they hatched. But I saw no bright red male. Perhaps, a hawk got him. Perhaps, he was a rare promiscuous cardinal.
I furnished as much solitude as I could, giving her the privacy and safety she needed as I peered out from the slit window by my front door to snap a photo. Occasionally she wasn’t there, out feeding herself, I assumed. At the wild bird food store, a clerk helped me pick out appropriate feeder and food. She warned that other birds like to prey on cardinal eggs, especially blue jays. After all, birds are the evolutionary progeny of dinosaurs, the violence evident in so many claws, teeth, beaks. Every creature kills something, (plant, fowl, mammal, fish, )to survive.
When I returned home, I noticed she wasn’t on her nest and figured she was out feeding herself and put out the food.
The next morning, she was still gone.
Throughout that day, I checked the twisting vine. No tell-tale tail, no sharp red beak. No momma. I waited.
No female cardinal.
After three days, I dragged a ladder to my porch, climbed up, and carried the nest down; there was only one egg with a jagged hole. No other shells. The nest was beautifully woven of delicate twigs, dark colored ones on the outside, and light, more densely meshed at the center. A work of the weaver’s art.
Maybe the egg wasn’t viable. Maybe the nest was attacked and the chick inside eaten. The cause, whether violence or unfortunate biology, would never be known.
Sadness swept me for the cardinal who built her nest and nursery so beautifully, and so dutifully tried to hatch her babies. As a human female who struggled to get pregnant, had many friends and family members suffer miscarriages and still-births, I was too keenly aware of universal female loss and again re-alerted about the fragility and miracle of the beginning of life, from conception to live reproduction. A sad end to a glorious lust.
As I see and hear abundant birds, my gratitude that they flood the forest with colors, music, and flight is boundless. And, once again, they gloriously prove the pageant of life prevails.