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Bird Town


We used to have a colony of feral cats in the backyard at my building, or so I’m told. Over the past few years, the feral cat population has been gradually dying off, or leaving town, without being replaced. There is only one cat who has come by this year – I’ve seen him twice now – and he is a huge grey and brown cat, who looks like he may have swallowed one of the local raccoons. I tried to take his picture, but he faded into the background so well that all I could see were his eyes flashing back at me through the camera. As a result of the decreasing cat population, though, the local bird population has been exploding.

We have two, very loud, bird families living adjacent to our apartment: one under the air conditioner in Mom’s bedroom, and one under the air conditioner in the living room. Mom says they chose those spots because of how the air conditioners are set up, with a piece of wood on the window ledge, allowing for a hidden nest. But I think she was just looking for a nice way to explain why there was no bird family under MY air conditioner. The fact is, Mom likes to feed the birds – there was a frenzy over the bowl of poppy seeds she put out a few months ago, and the leftover Passover matzo was a big hit – so I’m pretty sure that she’s the draw.

A few weeks ago, we started to hear the baby birds squawking in their hidden nests, their voices gradually lowering each day, but still crying out for food, hour after hour, when their parents went out to hunt and gather. For Mother’s day, Mom shared her chocolate crepes with the bird family in her bedroom window, and in exchange, the parents agreed to pose for pictures.

mommy sparrow

Mommy Sparrow

daddy sparrow

Daddy Sparrow

There’s something about all of that squawking and singing that brightens the air around the apartment – though Cricket finds the babies’ voices a bit hard to get used to, and she really doesn’t understand why they get to eat chocolate crepes and she doesn’t.



There’s another bird family in the back yard. In one of the Rhododendron bushes, just below eye level, a Robin made herself a nest. At first it seemed like a strange place to choose, but as the flowers have blossomed and the leaves have spread, the Robin and her nest have become very well hidden. I have to bend down to get to eye level with her, and it’s almost impossible to get a good picture of her, through the leaves and flowers. Once her nest was finished, she proceeded to deliver four beautiful blue eggs, one each day, and then she sat herself down to wait.


Really, she’s in there.

robin's eggs 4

And so are they!

I stopped by to say hello to her a few times a day, when I took the dogs out for their walks, and I made sure to ask her how she was doing, and how the eggs were coming. I even put some of Butterfly’s kibble down near the nest, but not too close, in case she didn’t appreciate sharing a dog’s food. I had the strongest impulse to grab one of those blue eggs one day, and had to clench my fists and walk it off. I decided to manage the pull I felt towards that nest by stealing pictures of the babies, instead of risking the temptation to steal the babies themselves.

As I left for work on Tuesday morning, I checked the Mama robin as usual, and she was standing instead of sitting on the nest, and I wondered why (and asked her). That’s when I saw two baby bird beaks lifting into the air. I went back inside to tell Mom that the babies had arrived, and to get my camera. I got a picture of side eye from the Mama Robin before she flew off, and then a few images of blurry pink shapes with white hair puffs here and there, because the babies were sleeping in a tangle and hard to distinguish from one another.


Mama Robin gives good side-eye


Blurry Robin babies

I try not to check on the babies more than once a day, but it is fascinating to watch them as they separate into identifiable individuals. Mama Robin keeps flying away when I arrive, landing in a nearby tree and squawking at me from a distance. She seems to have recognized that I that I’m not a danger to her babies; at least I hope she knows that. I choose to believe that she’s just running away because she’s worried that I’ll catch a picture of her on a bad feather day.

Even mommies can be vain.


Robin babies on Day Two


Robin Babies on Day Three


Robin babies day 4


About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

117 responses »

  1. Great! Thanks for sharing the pictures.

  2. Incredible photos! Great blog. Thank you for sharing. God bless.

  3. Rachel,

    Those photos! Just wow.

  4. As always, beautiful images. Our local family has a sort of yin-yang relationship with birds and their two cats. The kids feed the birds that come in flocks. Then one of their two cats brings the remains of one of the feathered mob as a back-door offering. A common situation, I’m sure. Liked your post a lot.

  5. We have a lot of cats (non-feral) around here, but we also have a large bird population high in the trees. I have only ever seen one nest and that was well up in a tree. Lovely photographs, Rachel. You must have a lot of patience.

  6. Your photos made me gasp … wow.
    Those eggs, so blue, and those hungry mouths in the nest!

  7. You made the simple acts of nature extraordinary and interesting. Very observant and insightful. I enjoyed Birdtown.

  8. Great photos. It’s so exciting to watch as the babies grow. I just posted about Robins; if you check it out, you’ll see our baby Robins… We had triplets. 🙋🐦😃

  9. Your Robin is not ours – homesick English, Scottish or Irish settlers saw a red-breasted bird and called it Robin. Ours is much smaller. Yours is more like our Blackbird in size and behaviour. But your other nesting birds look very much like European House Sparrows (introduced to North America). Again the names are confusing: these are not related to all the small birds called Sparrow in North America, which are closer to Eurasian Buntings.

    DNA studies have turned up all sorts of fascinating oddities: for example, while the hawks, falcons, eagles and owls of Eurasia and the Americas are related to their counterparts across the Atlantic or Pacific (and some are actually the same species), the vultures of the Americas are not at all related to Eurasian and African vultures (except that they’re birds, of course) and are modified Storks.


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