A Heart Breaking Story of...
J U N C O
by Les Elias / mynicowynd.com
I am one of millions of juncos living in North America. People call us Dark-eyed Juncos. We are sparrows, grayish with darker heads and with dark eyes. My story began early summer when I started to look for a place to build a nest, hidden from big birds like crows and jays.
I found this home surrounded by old cedar trees. There were several flower baskets on the deck. One was hanging close to a wall and had dense flowers. It was an easy decision. Nobody would look for a bird nest in it. It felt natural when I got inside under the flowers as I found that the basket was made of moss.
Finally I had my nest built deep inside the flower basket. I brought in the finest grasses I could find to make it soft and warm. Then when time arrived, I laid four eggs. I was so happy and proud and was looking forward to see my baby-chicks.
Next day Man showed up on the deck. I flew out of the basket and waited nearby. He went to a flower basket at the other end of the deck with a long hose and let water run on and into the basket. Then he went on and did it to the next basket. And then to the next... Will he come and do it to my basket too?
I was horrified. How to stop him? How to let him know that my nest is there. I could see that he noticed me as I was flying around and almost jumping from one place to another near my basket. But he did not understand me and did it to my basket as well. I was was chirping so loud, but did he hear me? What happened to my eggs? I wanted to go to my nest hidden by the flowers to keep the eggs warm but he was still around and I was so afraid to go inside the flowers. Finally Man went inside his home and I could go to my nest...
...Everything was wet there. Including my nest and eggs. I quickly got on the top of the nest to keep the eggs warm. The next day Man put a chair under my basket, climbed up, looked at me and spread the flowers. He was looking at my nest. I was horrified again. What is he going to do? I was so concerned that I did not realize that I came so close to him, partly hidden behind the house wall. I could see him with one eye only, but I kept on watching him.
He must have seen my nest and eggs. What will he do...? He did nothing.
Next day when he was watering other flower baskets and finally came to mine, but he did not water it. He just sprayed water on the moss sides of the basket. I was watching him. He looked at me and suddenly I was relieved. I understood that he will not water my nest.
Days went by, maybe a week, and Man did not come to water the baskets. Then one day my babies hatched. They were so small, like small balls of a fine wool. And they were hungry right away after they hatched. I felt so good. I was a proud mom and together with my partner we started to get as much food for our hatchlings as we could. But...
...Man appeared on the deck. He went strait to my basket, climbed a chair and looked inside the basket. He must have seen my babies. What will he do? My partner and I, we both started to chirp loud and jumping and flying around the basket to let him know that they were our babies and we were afraid.
Man looked at us and went inside the house. He came back with a small black box in his hands. You would call it a camera. He climbed the chair, spread the flowers on my nest basket, stuck the camera in and and likely was taking pictures of my nest and one day old babies.
Watering of the flower baskets went on as before. My basket flowers were not getting enough water from spraying the moss sides only and started to fade. Man let the flowers fade just to keep our baby chicks alive. But we still were afraid to come to the nest when he was near. We would wait, holding on with the food for our chicks until he went farther away or left.
He noticed our worries and started to watch us from farther away. Only then we went on bringing the food to our hungry chicks as much as we could. They have to grow fast. There are only 10-12 days for the hatchlings to get out from the nest. Long days and nights - just to get through them safely. We can bring food and chirp loud, but we cannot fight bigger birds. Our always hungry baby-chicks were growing fast. You can see them here only two days old.
We were busy getting enough food for them, flying in and out of the basket. And the flowers were fading more.
At the same time I had to find time to keep them warm. It was summer, but it was not warm enough.
I started to be concerned by the time they were 8 days old. They did not look healthy. They did not move too much and they were skinny. Did they get enough food? Were they cold? Was I just a too concerned mom and they were just right?
Next day they did not look better, but they were at least eating. Not much, but still eating. I felt something was not right. How can I help them? I watched how Man was taking pictures. Does he know that they are not healthy? Can he help?
It happened in the following day. A preying bird got into my nest a took two of my chicks. He killed them on the deck railing.
I could not help them. It hearts. Why Man was not here? It wouldn't have happened. I wish I could cry.
My last chick must have been hurt when his siblings were taken, or was he really sick? It was the last day when I've seen him still alive, but barely moving.
Next day he was dead. He was 12 days old. My chicks should be flying by now, joining other juncos in this world.
My life has to go on, with a heartbreaking experience of a small bird's short lasting motherhood. I have to look forwad to my next nest.
I came back to see my flower basket one more time if the flowers have finally got enough water and recovered.
DARK EYE JUNCO INFORMATION
The Dark-eyed Junco is one of the most common birds in North America and can be found across the continent, from Alaska to Mexico
The female chooses the nest site, typically in a depression or niche on sloping ground, rock face, or amid the tangled roots of an upturned tree. Around people, juncos may nest in or underneath buildings.
Occasionally, juncos nest above the ground on horizontal branches, window ledges, and in hanging flower pots or light fixtures.
The nest is a cup made of grass, moss, lichen, rootlets, twigs, and bark fiber, and is lined with fine grass, hair, or feathers.
The female incubates 3 to 5 eggs for 11 to 13 days. Both parents feed the chicks, which leave the nest at 9 to 11 days. Pairs typically raise 1 or 2 broods per year.
A recent estimate set the junco’s total population over 600 million individuals.
The oldest recorded Dark-eyed Junco was 11 years 4 months old.