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17 July 2005

My little chickadees
they don't look that small to me
posted by dodgygeezer 17 July | 11:09
As I was sitting in my usual morning stupor on the back porch, I saw the two little chickadee kids get kicked out the birdhouse. Things had been getting kinda noisy in there over the last week. Teenagers, you know.

Well, Mombird finally had it with them this morning and booted them from the nest. It was pretty funny, they shot out of the hole like little feathered helicopters, flailing away like mad. Finally, they gained a couple of feet of altitude and got to the ridge of the garage roof.

I could practically see their little tongues hanging out. I imagined them saying things like, "Holy crap! It's really BIG out here!! *pant, pant, pant*"

The audience of cats sitting just under the birdhouse were very attentive, but ultimately disappointed. Very disappointed.

In no time at all, they were making little short hopping flights around the back yard. Mom is sitting on the powerlines, keeping a watchful eye on them, the cats, thinking about a vacation or something. The kids haven't quite figured out the glide / soar thing yet, but they are starting to get the idea. They're flying less like frantic little eggbeaters with each attempt.

How the hell do they know how to do the right thing the very first time? I mean, they aren't very good at it, but they're doing it.
posted by warbaby 17 July | 11:14
How the hell do they know how to do the right thing the very first time?
who teaches human babies to breathe?
posted by quonsar 17 July | 12:06
Baby Jesus?
posted by loquacious 17 July | 12:14
The act of breathing is innate, reflexive. Not soooo sure it's the same as flying. If you don't breathe you die. Not flying isn't of itself so definitely disasterous.

The act of flying is more like walking I think. The chicks have been flapping their wings for ages no doubt, building up strength like babies crawling around and using their leg muscles to stand holding onto something at first. They also see their parents do it.

Pushing the birds out of the birdhouse is either like holding a kid's hands while they're standing such that they start taking steps, or else I suppose the sensation of falling to the birds does trigger an innate flying instinct.

So I suspect they 'know how do the right thing the very first time' both because they have the requisite machinery, they've been exercising and because they've been watching what their parents do.

And/or I'm overanalyzing. Please insert baby jesus wherever he can fit into this scenario. Or was your question rhetorical? I'm so gullible sometimes.
posted by peacay 17 July | 12:46
Well, it was pretty cool to be sitting there just as it happened. The little birds are now flying just like adults -- not doing the flappity flap thing at all.

Being a Unitarian who's lapsed into Deism, I'll pass on the Baby Jesus explanation, but I still have to wonder about Nature's God, the Creator mentioned in the Declaration of Independence.

I've always thought that the World was a book written by the Creator for us to read. It's written in code and being continually re-written. Some parts of it are hidden, but not inaccessible.

*thinks deep thoughts*
posted by warbaby 17 July | 13:08
Oh, and the audience of attentive cats really made this a natural selection sort of thingy.

*goes back to glassy-eyed meditative contemplation*
posted by warbaby 17 July | 13:10
For the past few months, I've had a pair of Cooper's hawks nesting in a pine tree in the driveway. Started hearing their kids about a month ago.

Last week I woke up early in the morning because it sounded like someone was walking on my gravel roof. I knew that the landlord wouldn't have scheduled repairs without telling me first, and the neighborhood cats just don't sound that big. Went out to check, and there was one of the babies -- it was already as big as the adults. Mom was about 15 feet away, looking on from a tree.

Anyway, the baby knew it needed to flap its wings and knew it needed to run, but it couldn't quite coordinate the two activities. I watched it for a while. It considered eating a hummingbird. Then it finally got its shit together and flew in to a tree.

The next day it was in the street, playing in a mud puddle.

Hard to believe these cute little things will be disembowling wabbits in a few weeks.
posted by mudpuppie 17 July | 14:23
Heh. Nice story. My only encounter with birds are with these lovely noisy buggers - cockatoos - who squawk really loudly as they fly in flocks of 20 or more at sundown when they head to the local bay to take up roosting positions in the gum trees. Sometimes they stop for a fossicking visit but no babies.

If you are a loud blathering talker here, it's possible you'll be referred to as a galah, the nickname of the cocky. (we've got all bush behind our place, leading down to the water)

Oh and then there's the kookaburras who are also noisy as all get up, but their nickname gives a better indication of their sound - laughing jackass. I've seen some youngsters out the back but not fledglings.
posted by peacay 17 July | 15:21
kookaburra laugh (very short and very very mild - they often get raucous)
posted by peacay 17 July | 15:39
And see, here I thought it was going to be a W.C. Fields thread. ;)

Also, pictures. We need pictures.
posted by PsychoKitty 17 July | 15:57
The "Baby Jesus" thing was a joke. A bad one.

Give me wings, feathers, lightweight bones and some proper aerodynamics and I'll be flying within the day.

I think it's pretty much like that for birds as well. Why do we walk upright instead of scrabbling around on all fours? Evolution aside, it's because for our structure it's more comfortable and effecient.

Given wings and bird anatomy and useless little legs, you couldn't help but to fly.

Robotics/AI/Evolutionary theory metaphor: There was some software experiment in locomotion. Probably at MIT Media Lab. In the software, given a self-teaching model of quadraped or otherwise four-limbed biped that also has a head and a neck-stalk, unless otherwise specified not to it would invariably end up using it's head-pod-stalk as a foot for locomotion over terrain flat or textured.

Why? Because it was there, and it could move it and leverage with it.

To us it's pretty intuitive not to use your head as a foot. Because it hurts, generally, and it's where all the goodies are stored. But watch a pre-toddler or post-newborn. They use their heads all the time for locomotion. Because they can't stand up yet, and their form factor (Stubby legs, big heavy heads) makes it more effecient.

Look at amputees or people without the usual number of limbs. Or even animals without the usual number of limbs. You just adapt to what you have, and what works, and what's the easiest to do.

The moral of the story? Laziness is an evolutionary imperitive. The lazier you are able to be, the more evolved you've become. :)

posted by loquacious 17 July | 16:20
I aspire to be more evolved. Sorry no pictures, no camera handy when the deal went down.

*takes nap*
posted by warbaby 17 July | 16:32
Hummingbird birth - there's 5 pages.
posted by peacay 18 July | 06:41
Found. || Dog day afternoon.