Jul 152011
Sparrow Hatchlings: our fine feathered friends have flown the coop

This post is the final in my Sparrow Hatchlings series that documents a family of sparrows that we have been “fostering” over the last month. Here are the prior three posts in the series: First Sparrow Hatchling!, Second Sparrow Hatchling has arrived! and Sparrow Hatchlings: mohawks, feathers, eyes open and chirping too!

Our Sparrow hatchlings are officially Sparrow chicks now. Feathers covering their entire bodies, they have been getting bolder everyday, trying to hang out of their nest. One is particularly bold and usually stays towards the front of the nest while the other two burrow down when they see me peeking in to look at them. No longer do those little beaks open up seeking food when I approach.

Here’s a photo of the three chicks before they grew all of their feathers. The one on the right is the bold one.

The last few days, I’ve been hearing more chirps outside the bedroom window. It’s the little ones’ voices growing stronger. Today, I heard a frantic amount of chirping going on. Soon after, my husband came to tell me that two of the chicks had left the nest! He found the third one on the ground when he let our dog out. He had the forethought to put the dog back in, put on a pair of gloves so he could pick up baby chick and put it back in it’s nest so the dog wouldn’t “play” with it while she was out. Apparently mama Sparrow and papa Sparrow were not too happy about this because they freaked out and made lots of noise (which is what I heard). They actually got within two feet of my hubby as he was placing their baby back in the nest.

After my husband told me what was going on, I went out immediately to see for myself. The last chick was sitting in the nest and going nowhere. Mama and papa Sparrow could be heard chirping and I could hear the other two chicks as well. It seemed all of them were trying to encourage the third little chick to leave the nest, but it wasn’t budging. I did some investigating, followed the chirps of the other two little chicks and found them in our fenced in compost area. One of them, presumably the usually bold one, was trying to fly up the fence while the other one was hiding beneath some old branches. I felt relieved that I had found them and that a squirrel, gecko or some of the other creature hadn’t gotten to them. Of course, mama and papa where right there sitting on top of the fence warning me away. I’ve become adept at recognizing their sounds over the last few weeks. I can distinguish a “warning” signal from a “I’m right here with food, but I can’t come to the nest right now because these crazy humans are hanging around” signal.

Anyway, I decided that I would give the last little chick a chance to get out of the nest and join its family because it was chirping a forlorn little sound that translated to me as “Don’t leave me, I’m right here.” I also felt that, perhaps, in trying to keep the little chick safe earlier, my husband may have inadvertently stopped the chick’s natural proclivity to leave it’s nest. So I put on some gloves and picked up the nest to carry it closer to the compost pile. About half way there, the chick jumped out and started hopping around. What else could I do but try to guide it in the right direction, right?? So, here I am following the little one, zig zagging around with a pail containing the nest in one hand and my camera in the other, and this little bird is going every which way except the path towards the compost area! Of course, mama, papa and the other two chicks were making a ruckus and this poor little birdie probably thought I was trying to hurt it. After all, I’d picked up and moved it’s entire home while he/she was still in it! The birdie finally started going in the right direction, but then scooted under a pile of rocks about four feet from the compost pile. I waited a couple of minutes to see if it would come out, but there it sat while its family waited. I decided it would be best to give it a slight nudge. Finally, the chick came out from under the rocks and went hopping towards the compost area. Those little ones can travel pretty quick when they want to!

Here’s a photo of the chick just before it went beneath the rocks

Our from under the rock pile after a little nudge from me

Finally found the compost area and climbed in through the fence–YAY!

Mission accomplished: All three chicks were together again. Mama and papa Sparrow seemed a lot calmer, yet still remained watchful while I tried to take some photos. I left the little family alone, grateful that I was able to reunite them without too much angst (well except for the zig zagging around part) and came in to write this post.

Here’s a quick video of one of the little ones hopping around flapping its wings in the compost area. The other two are camouflaged behind the branches.


Here are mama and papa sparrow

I just checked on the bird family and they are no longer in the compost area. I can see papa sitting on the fence keeping watch and I can hear mama and the babies beyond the fence in the alley so I assume that they are now officially out in the world.

So ends our “fostering” of the Sparrow hatchlings. I can’t believe it’s only been a month since they came into our lives and have now moved on. The hatchlings came into the world during the Fourth of July weekend. Within the last 11 days, we’ve had the privilege of seeing them born out of 3/4 inch eggs, their bodies bare and bright pink, their eyes covered by a membrane. Every day, we saw little changes happening. The first fuzz was their mohawks. Then they started growing feathers where their wings would eventually be. They made no sound initially. A few days later, their eyes opened, they started to make quiet, little sounds and their bodies started growing more feathers. Yesterday, I noticed that they were fully covered in feathers and the length of their beaks had matured too. My husband noticed last night that all three were getting bolder and moving towards the front of the nest. Today, they flew the coop and are learning to make their own way under the guidance of their mama and papa.

As for the empty nest? I think we’ll leave it as is. Maybe one of our little chicks will come back some day — we certainly hope they do.

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