Eating crow in birdland
Recently, Dear Richard upset me. Usually, it takes quite a bit to shove me over the edge, but he really got my feathers up.
He touched the robin’s egg.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about a giant robin who built her nest on the blade of our porch’s ceiling fan. The first big wind whipped the fan into action, and destroyed her nest. I felt so bad for her. Then I named her Xena because she was an Amazon-sized robin. Of course, once she had a name, she became a member of the family.
Xena’s initial bad decision forced her to rebuild. She took so long flitting about and reconstructing the nest that I kept wondering about chicks-to-be. Richard said he would check it out. Coming in from the porch, he said, “There’s an egg, just one.” I assumed he had seen it.
Xena had chosen the top shelf of the baker’s rack on the porch to rebuild her nursery. With the nest about the same height as Richard’s forehead, he couldn’t quite see into the bottom. So he groped it.
“You did what?” I said
“I felt around for it, and there’s only one.”
Knowing for an absolute, positive fact that a robin would abandon her nest since Richard had man-handled it, I was really hacked off. He shrugged his shoulders. “Nah — not a problem,” he offered.
I checked daily, and didn’t see Xena on her nest for a week. How was she keeping that baby’s shell warm? Then last weekend we were away overnight. When we arrived home, Richard came in with the news that there were now three eggs in the nest. I was very surprised – obviously Xena overcame his man-touch on her first egg.
“You’re kidding,” I said. “Did you see them?”
“No, I felt around in there and counted three eggs.” I was cleaning up from breakfast and he still has no idea how close he came to getting conked with a fry pan.
“You didn’t! I thought we already discussed this. You KNOW how I feel about that robin — especially after having to rebuild her nest. Now you’ve ruined everything.” He just shrugged and smiled.
I didn’t see Xena on her nest last Monday. Or Tuesday during the snow. Every time I ventured out to the porch, she wasn’t brooding. It got really cold overnight and I checked again Wednesday morning. No momma bird. I was really worried that she had abandoned those little blue eggs. Wednesday afternoon … Thursday morning … still no Xena – and it snowed again.
Friday morning, I was trying to decide if I should trade the marriage for three robin’s eggs. I mean, if he could disturb the nest a second time, knowing how much it annoyed me, what else is he capable of? Washing his black polo shirt with a white load? Overwatering my begonias? There’d be no end to his misdemeanors if I let this slide. I was going to give him proof that he had screwed up – big time.
I Googled “human touching robin eggs” and up popped an article from Scientific American: “According to folklore, birds will reject their eggs and young if humans have so much as laid a finger on them.”
Aha! I was right! He’s getting a peanut butter sandwich for supper. And then I continued reading: “This prevalent belief, however, is for the birds: it denies animal parents’ innate drive to nurture their broods.”
The article went on to state that the myth is derived from the belief that birds can detect human scent.
Birds actually have small, simple olfactory nerves which limit their sense of smell. I guess robins have big beaks that are all show and no blow.
Oh boy. This scientific discovery left me with egg on my face. When do I tell him what I’ve learned? I could wait until after a peanut butter dinner … or a coupla days maybe? Or not tell him at all?
I relented. I used my un-dented fry pan, cooked him a nice supper, and confessed that I was wrong. Come to think of it, if the whole story about touching the eggs is an old wives’ tale, then I’m not really guilty. It’s not my fault – I’m just an old wife.
Meanwhile, Xena is sitting on three lumpy eggs in 30-degree weather. Better her than me … we old wives only perch on the porch in the summer.
Marcy O’Brien lives in Warren with her husband, Richard, and Finian, their sleepy Maine Coon cat. Marcy can be reached at Moby.firstname.lastname@example.org