As Monday morning rolls around all too quickly again, I find myself watching a little bird dotting around the garden – it doesn’t seem to have a care in the world – I think, with a touch of envy, that it doesn’t have to get onto that old 9-5 treadmill to earn its daily bread… it’s totally free to do whatever it feels like…but is that really true?
Whilst it might seem like our feathered friends can just while away the day doing nothing, they do have certain demands on their time. One of the top priorities is, of course, the search for food and water. Quite probably, our little bird will happily locate the nearest bird feeder and help itself to a few (or more) seeds;
but there are other birds out there whose daily bread requires more effort, especially as they prefer rather bizarre fare. The Kelp Gull, for example, will take a cheeky nip from a surfacing whale and help itself to a bit of live blubber! Eew!
The aptly named Bee Eater fearsomely tackles prey with quite literally a sting in the tail (not just bees, but wasps and hornets too).
Whilst these all sound odd, the most gruesome has to be the so-called Vampire Finch that lives on the remote Gallipolis islands – this grisly guzzler attacks unsuspecting seabirds, such as Boobies, pecking at them with its sharp beak to satisfy its thirst for blood.
So, no matter what they eat, a chunk of a bird’s day is taken up in the search for sustenance, but other than that, surely it has plenty of leisure time left over?
Well, the next thing on its ‘to do’ list is the search for a mate. Aside from food, this is a major priority for every living creature and our birdie here is no exception. In fact, some birds go to extreme lengths to find that special one. Take the exquisitely beautiful birds of paradise: the male birds put on a truly remarkable dance display, shimmying and shaking those stunningly iridescent feathers in the hope of winning the heart of a passing female (whilst you might think that would do the trick, you’d be surprised how choosey these girls can be!!)
Another bird that leaves quite literally no stone unturned in their quest to win the heart of another, is the Bower bird, who spends days creating, decorating and continually tidying his lovingly built bower, hoping that his heart’s desire will come to check out his efforts and if she does, he will put on a courtship display with a series of carefully choreographed moves, completed by presenting her with a little gift, such as a berry – sadly sometimes his hard work goes unrewarded by these hard to please females!
It seems some birds have to go to enormous efforts to find that certain someone – and even if they manage to accomplish this, well they can’t rest on their wingtips then, because their next duty is to set about constructing a nest, laying and incubating eggs and then feeding the ever demanding youngsters.
Keeping a young feathered family satisfied can be a full time job, so it’s hardly surprising that one wily bird gets others to do all the hard work for them – I’m referring to the infamous Cuckoo of course, who stealthily lays her egg in a host bird’s nest, mimicking the host’s egg pattern in the hope that the egg will be accepted by the unsuspecting surrogate parents; once hatched, the cuckoo chick will quickly dispatch the other chicks and eggs so that it alone gets all the food so tirelessly provided by the duped duo – maximum labour to rear another’s brood…
I’m beginning to see that maybe that little bird doesn’t have such a free and easy time of it…and what’s more, if it belongs to a social group, then it may have even more to cope with.
It’s well known that chickens have a pecking order – the unsavoury truth is that this is established quite literally by the birds pecking each other to determine which is the biggest, strongest and healthiest member, who will then become the leader of the gang. The leader’s duty is to protect the group by keeping a lookout for predators and finding sources of food. This can be quite a responsibility and is bound to be a weight upon the head honcho’s feathered shoulders; whilst the other members of the group have to constantly jostle for position and make sure they tow the party line…
OK, so maybe that little bird isn’t having quite such a lark after all….?