Last year a western kingbird built a nest on top of the screen in our balcony. When the window washers came, I asked them to save the nest. They did, but they moved it down onto the floor. We put the nest back up, but wondered if birds would use it after it was moved.
This year, the kingbirds came back, refurbished the nest, and have been sitting on eggs. We could tell there were eggs in the nest, because the mama bird always rolled them over when she sat down. Poppa bird took his turns on the nest, too.
The entire time she sat upon the eggs, mamma bird would cheep. When she returned from her break, she would greet poppa, who wasted no time in flying off, and then she would perch on the edge of the nest. She would examine the eggs carefully, uttering a trilling chirp we never heard at any other time. Was she talking to the eggs? Perhaps she could hear the babies moving.
The inspections and egg rolling went on day after day. We were getting almost as impatient as the birds. Would they never hatch?
Then one day we noticed that the birds were excited. Mama bird kept getting out of the nest and doing her inspection and trill. Poppa was flying up and down, sitting on the rail, up and down, much like any expectant father. Suddenly both birds flew off, and we could see tiny beaks sticking up from the nest. The eggs had hatched!
We were amazed at how fast the little birds grew. We could see them moving around by the next day, and by the day after that, they were sitting up and looking out. The parent birds were working their feathers off bringing bugs for the babies to eat.
The first bug they brought was some kind of large thing with wings, and it seemed to be a bit too large. The poppa bird had to figure out a way to share it around. After that, the parents would pause on the railing and eat most of the bug, then take a tiny bit up to the ravenous babies. One of the bird parents would bring food every 5 minutes or so, all day. No matter how often they came, it wasn't often enough for the gluttons. But they were growing fast, and we could soon see that there were four little birds in that small nest.
With four babies in there, it was a very tight fit! The little birds seemed to doze off between bugs, usually stacked up on top of each other. There was a feeding frenzy when each bug arrived, and a riot evry time the gluttons realized that was all for the moment. Their wheezy squeaks were loud and indignant when they heard mama bird chirp farewell.
Our sympathies were with the mamma and poppa birds, who continued to work without rest. Once a moth landed on the glass pane in the door to the balcony. Bad move! That moth lasted about three seconds, before poppa snapped him up. That saved one flying trip to the grocery!
Here the babies are five days old. They look very peaceful sleeping there, don't they? But as soon as mamma bird arrives, the struggle begins anew. There's only one bug per trip, and whoever misses out is plenty mad about it!
But they hop around in the nest enough that they all get a turn. I've noticed that the parents are bringing bigger bugs now, and that helps keep the peace.
We've enjoyed having the kingbirds on our balcony. Unfortunately, we'll be gone for a month. I'm sure by the time we return the babies will be in college! Last summer, mamma bird came back to sleep in the nest every night, so perhaps we won't be completely without our kingbird family.
If you want to see the whole bird-brained family in action, click and watch "Kingbirds: The Video". The Glutton Gang gets quiet for a bit once mamma flies off. But keep watching! Once they munch up that bug, they will go into the post-feeding riot. Good thing that nest is deep!