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Phoebes Growing, Phoebes Learning

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Luther, June 21. 23 days old.

Avis, June 21. 23 days old .
Avis, top, and Luther, June 20. 22 days old.

Like the White Rabbit in Through the Looking Glass, I'm always running, always late. I'd love to give you daily updates on the phoebes, but I'm too darn busy feeding them and taking care of my family and houseguests. The phoebes are growing, flying, learning new things every day. We have a routine; I take them out to their fledging tent at dawn, feed them every hour until dusk, and bring them back inside, locked in a pet tote, for the night. I put them in a dark stairwell so they won't flutter and fuss; they hate to be put in the tote. But raccoons and black rat snakes, as we all know, are ever vigilant. I looked out just in time to see a coon peering into the tent yesterday afternoon. Now that they're flying so well, there's little chance it could catch one, but dang! I'd hate to lose them now.
Today, June 22, they are 24 days old. Little things tell me their brains and neural connections are maturing. When a baby bird grabs a moth from a forceps without having it stuffed down its throat, that's progress. It's a mental leap from being fed to feeding itself. Moths prove irresistible to these birds. They already know what they like.
On June 20, day 22 of their short lives, they started to process their food, beating crickets against the perch. They get better at it every day. They aren't able to knock the legs off them yet, but they will get there.Today, Luther, the smaller, sweeter one, whirled out, grabbed a housefly off the tent wall, brought it back to the perch, and released it. Well, he's getting the idea, anyway! My heart sang. They're acting like phoebes. They sit on high perches, bobbing their tails, sally out after nothing in particular or perhaps to peck at a moth, then return to the perch. They're flycatchers at last.
We've got maybe another week of this hourly feeding, until that magic day when they fly down and take crickets out of a dish. I did my huge weekly grocery shop at 5:30 AM today, so I would get back in time to put them in the tent and feed them at 7:30. Grocery stores are weird places at dawn. You do what you have to.


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