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May 2, 2013

Swallow talk and bluebird vigilance

(Continued)

In my morning jaunts, and when working about the place, my interactions with bluebirds are rare and conducted at a safe distance. We eye one another with suspicious respect. If I could read father bluebird’s mind, I would like to think he appreciates our hospitality and values the extent to which we allow him to conduct his summer family life with as little interruption as possible. I also continue to be fascinated with bluebird courtship rituals, especially the male’s mate attraction practice of pretending to build a nest. It appears that no self-respecting female bluebird would allow a male the privilege of interior design. If she approves of his choice she then takes control of the space they will occupy for the sole purpose of raising their young. He helps with food gathering and stands guard over their territory. Otherwise, she is in charge.

It reminds me of a recent occurrence in our nest. I decided one morning to make our bed since it occurred to me I had been pretty neglectful of that particular morning ritual. About three weeks later I was informed that while my efforts were appreciated, I should cease and desist immediately. It turns out that I do not know how to make a “proper” bed. The details are unimportant. Having made my own bed for many years, I figured I had a handle on that chore. I realized after we disagreed on the correct way to make and tuck in a hospital corner that my bed making days were over. Who knows if there is a female bed-making gene. I never thought so. Now that I have watched so many different species of birds go about the business of setting up shop, it appears that females have the edge in that category. There are a few species that allow for male nest building, but they are rare. Who knows what evolutionary quirk kicked that into being.

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