Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Won't You Be My Nieghbor?

The most surprising addition to our neighborhood was not a young couple moving in near the house, it was a young couple moving in on the house. Specifically, a pair of Eastern Phoebes built a nest on top of a remnant piece of a mud dauber nest, high up on the outside garage wall, but within a few feet of our kitchen window.

The nest is within a few inches of the ceiling making it impossible
to check the eggs. She's incubating, so we know they're in there!

Too keep disturbance to a minimum we use the garage door as little as possible, but we do stare out the kitchen window periodically to watch the female incubate. In fact, if you look carefully in the above image you'll see one of our household is watching. Here's an inside shot of the voyeur.

Tazzie, short for "Tasmanian Devil," which barely begins to
describe him, spends the bulk of his time monitoring the nest. As an
indoor cat, this is the closest he'll get to actually earning his dinner.

The phoebe parents let us know how they feel if we do use the garage door. They let us know how they feel a lot. The only time I brought a ladder over to photograph the nestlings one of the parents nicked the back of my head with a wing. I took a couple quick shots and I haven't been back, why stress them more than necessary? OK, to be honest, I thought it would be a bit embarrassing to explain to the doctor a bird weighing less than 20 grams knocked me off a ladder.

"I swear, doc, first I kept hearing their incessant chipping . . .

. . . then it got quiet, too quiet. When I looked over my shoulder I saw I was getting the avian version of the stink eye . . .

. . . and that's when they attacked! Just like the Hitchcock film, for sure!"

I didn't get footage of them attacking me, but here's a typical scene when opening the garage door. We've yielded use of our outdoor furniture to them for now, but we're hoping we can resume eating outside soon.

And here's what it's all about: the young-un's. This was taken a couple of days before they fledged, they're probably about 14 days old here. I couldn't tell you how many were in there, but my best estimate is four. They fledged last week, either the 10th or 11th, and haven't seen them since. We've seen the parents a couple of times in the yard, but no sign of the fledgies.

Interestingly, one of the parents has been returning to the nest this week, as though it left something behind. The nest is empty, I checked shortly after they fledged and there's not even an unhatched egg in there.

Phoebes are typically double-brooded, and maybe it's not too early to be thinking about a second nest already. It turns out they will reuse an existing nest; one study showed more than half of old phoebe nests (those present before the nesting season started) were used. The jury is still out on why, perhaps the energy savings in building a new one transfers into larger clutches (as postulated by some researchers), though another study challenged this idea as "reworked" nests did not yield more offspring.

Regardless of why, they seem to be gearing up for round two. I guess we won't be getting our patio back for another month or more, though it's worth the sacrifice!



John said...

The phoebe seems to be daring someone to fight it.

mon@rch said...

I miss my Phoebes and really enjoyed reading/seeing this post! Maybe once again my birds will return!

slybird said...

Great two posts on your neighbors! It looks like you've got a busy neighborhood and a nice place.

noflickster said...

John - Given my encounter with them, I lay odds on the phoebes (especially against Tazzie: he's actually the epitome of a "fraidy cat.").

mon@rch - Based on what I read phoebes will initiate second or replacement clutches until late June or earl July (there seems to be a cutoff). There's still time!

slybird - Thanks! While we chose a more rural location for the peace and quiet, it's anything but peaceful and quiet, at least on the ecological level. Just the way like it.

Anonymous said...

Tazzie, short for "Tasmanian Devil" Haha. What a great name.

noflickster said...

Hi ScienceGuy288 - the name is more fitting than what initially meets the eye. When we first rescued him he had a broken leg, which was fixed by the vet. For the first week he had a splint, which was longer than his other leg, he could only get from point A to point B by spinning in circles, just like the cartoon version.

As he grew older his behavior aligned with the rest of the character: shredding stuff, eating everything in site. Weird how that worked out!

djbrown said...

I appreciate that you and your family have the patience and sensitivity to tiptoe around the nest!

noflickster said...

djbrown - I have to admit, the first go 'round was exciting and we (mostly) happily left that side of the house alone. But when they started their second brood we got a bit antsy about not doing any of the projects that required us to use that area. They've toughed it out quite well, she's still sitting on the eggs and doesn't seem to mind us eating dinner 15 feet away.

Locations of visitors to this page