I am awestruck by their flight formation.
Other than that, I have never been particularly interested in birds — that is, until one landed on my head.
That day I parked the car in the driveway the way I had done hundreds of times. But this time when I stepped out of the car, I felt my hair twist and lift. I awkwardly swatted the air and looked around for the invisible hit-and-run perpetrator.
Then I spotted the long tail and gray slender body. She stood guard on the roof of the garage and stared at me — the perceived threat between her and her young ‘uns that I just realized were chirping behind me.
Birds don’t…couldn’t be.
I shrugged it off and walked into the house.
When I stepped out of the car the next day, I listened for chirping, the signal that the feathered baby sitter was near. I looked for her on the roof, on the neighbor’s roof, across the street on the mailbox, in the trees.
She might camouflage herself to look like a leaf. It could happen.
Although I couldn’t see her, I sensed her presence. She had succeeded in making me paranoid and I hated the control she had over me.
I got all the way down the walkway to the steps of the front porch when I felt the familiar twist on the back of my head. This attack was from behind and much more calculated.
I will not tolerate this.
It was then that I learned her name. Mimus polyglottos, the many-tongued mimic. Mockingbird. Mom. I hated her and revered her at the same time.
The person who answered at the Animal Control hotline advised me to wait two weeks until the fledglings grew up. At that time, my problems would flap away on the wings of their new skill set.
“Well, can I move her nest?” I asked.
Not a chance. It turns out that Mama Mockingbird and other songstresses are protected. It would be against the law for me to touch her nest. I suddenly felt sorry for pigeons. These second-class bird citizens were considered a nuisance and could be “taken care of.”
The Animal Control operator snickered. “Besides, if you get close to that nest, she’ll really come after you.”
I see. Animal Control has jokes. I’m not laughing though.
I hung up the phone in defeat, but only for a minute. I reminded myself that I was no birdbrain. I would figure it out.
For the next two weeks, I parked alongside the curb. Every day after surveying the landscape, I’d run to the door, as far away from the tree as I could, covering my boys’ heads with whatever I had in my hands. I had children to protect too. But she never attacked my husband or my children. It was a mom thing. I understood.
And then one day, Mama Mockingbird wasn’t on the rooftop glaring at me. I inched closer to the tree. No sound. Instead of breaking into song and dance, I was surprisingly disappointed. I guess I expected to be informed of the lift-off as if it was a celebratory event, like babies’ first steps. How could she have left me out of something so important? She lured me in. I got to know more about her, and then she left without a trace.
The next spring, I looked for her family, somehow expecting to recognize the young who grew up in the womb of my tree; expecting her children to nest and give flight to her grandchildren. But I looked in my neighbors’ trees because my tree – well, I had it cut down.
I closed my door feeling somewhat justified in straddling environmental correctness. But something caught my eye.
What IS that? I strained to see.
Perched on the top of the porch column were four — no five — little furry bird heads.