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Birds, Blackbirds, Pliny, Robins

Further Adventures of the Fuzzy Five, or Exactly How Bald Can a Bird Get?

Erithacus rubecula Latin name for Robin (British, for the American
Robin an entirely different term,Turdus Migratorious–no sniggering in the back there!)

The Phantom’s bad side: Fuzzio surveying his domain at the sandbox (aka our decimated by blight raised beds). Photo by me! We finally got a digital camera!

sed hae tantae tamque artifices argutiae a XV diebus paulatim desinunt, nec ut fatigatas possis dicere aut satiatas. mox aestu aucto in totum alia vox fit, nec modulata aut varia; mutatur et color. postremo hieme ipsa non cernitur. linguis earum tenuitas illa prima non est quae ceteris avibus. pariunt vere primo, cum plurimum, sena ova.Alia ratio ficedulis, nam formam simul coloremque mutant. hoc nomen autumno habent, postea melancoryphi vocantur. sic et erithacus hieme, idem phoenicurus aestate. mutat et upupa, ut tradit Aeschylus poeta, obscena alias pastu avis, crista visenda plicatili, contrahens eam subrigensque per longitudinem capitis.        From Pliny’s Natural History Book Ten

A summary of the adventures for the last month of our resident ‘silverback’ robin (it was either Mel or Sue from the Great British Bake Off who referred to Paul Hollywood as such which made us laugh.  Of course, the mangling of the American Fruit Pie had the opposite effect).  Bee update next post, I promise.

The Fuzzy Five

All told there were five fuzzy babies around the yard, at various ages with three being the most recent and last clutch of the season.  And in babyhood they all resembled their mother whom I have been thinking of as foreign:  where Fuzz is short, dumpy, somewhat unkempt, Mrs Fuzz is trim with long legs.  The three youngest took after her in body shape, in long legs, and in the fact that they were not immensely fuzzy like the previous two babies had been.  Their baby feathers were quite trim and of a gold/brown color.

That was at the beginning of September.  However, heading into the end of the month, two of the babies have their adult feathers, and at least one of them I confuse with Fuzz on occasion.  For example, if it’s just sitting around on the edge of the raised bed, it assumes a fat, dumpy posture a la Fuzz.  The other baby and one of the older babies have kept the look of Mrs Fuzz into young adulthood:  sleek build, deep orange gold breasts, long legs.

I did think that one of them and even Fuzz had met with misadventure one day in August, as I caught them flat out on a rock in the garden, looking almost as if they had been crushed.  When I approached them, however, they promptly flew into the hedge.  This behavior and another, where I saw one of the babies pluck up some ants and seem to apply them to its body sent me straight for the research.  It seems this sunbathing is quite a common thing among birds.  I often catch not only Fuzz, but also Chuckles the blackbird sunning on top of the oil tank (see below why Chuckles probably needed some solar treatment).

The sun I can understand, but putting ants all over your body?  Still, fishy feet are popular in salons now.  Maybe ants will catch on.  (For a better explanation than I can give see Garden Birds in August:  the Summer Lull by Dominic Couzens in Discover Wildlife.com)

How Bald Can a Bird Get?

Our Fuzz has been a bit shy and retiring since the beginning of September.  You could say he’d earned a rest.  He worked his little claws (and they were pretty bony to begin with) to the bone with little help from Mrs Fuzz, feeding the fledglings, harrying me for worms, make sure I kept up the supplies, making sure they were all behaving themselves.

So once they could take care of themselves (or rather I could take care of them), he started skulking around the kitchen garden, rarely seen flying, just hopping back and forth to the food.  And is it any wonder?  He had started going a bit bald on top at the beginning of August and this male-bird pattern baldness (from neck to eyeballs) has continued well into September.

Fuzz Striking a Pose, Still Confident in the Face of His Male-Bird Pattern Baldness (Picture by Tony John) This photo was taken while there was a yard full of people. He didn’t care; he was watching over us from his command deck AKA the sun deck AKA the oil tank.

If you enlarge the photo to the right, you can more clearly see the indentation on his head where he was starting to lose feathers.  This loss would progress through the rest of the summer, and I really thought he would stay that way.  By the way, that’s his good side.

Now, in mid September, the hair on his head is back, but as far as his face goes, there are no good sides. At one point, he had no tail feathers, no hair on his head, his wings feathers were looking precarious, and the white and orange parts of his breast looked moth eaten.  He was the most pathetic looking bird in the yard!  Mrs Fuzz did some molting–she was without tail feathers for a while and looked slightly moth eaten on her breast.  But nothing could compare to him.

As you can see from the photo above taken yesterday, the hair has returned, he’s got a lustrous (well, for him) coat front and back.  It’s just the face.  But that’s all to the good, because now that he’s got his mojo back, he’s boss of the yard again.  And that means those babies are on borrowed time.  The clicking, especially when I am in the conservatory in the morning, is driving me crazy.  For those of you who don’t have your own little resident dictator, communication between them mostly happens through clicking noises.  And in Fuzz’s case, it’s usually to communicate his displeasure and overall bossiness.  There is still one little baby left with the faint hint of the orange breast, and even it is being shown no mercy.  One of the older kids has taken to doing a bit of singing in the trees, which I’m thinking is a bit confrontational as Fuzz doesn’t seem to have started back with his singing yet.  Just the damn clicking.

It’s No Laughing Matter to Have a Face Full of Ticks, So We Call Her ‘Chuckles’

As I mentioned above, we have, or rather Fuzz has a new addition to his gang:  a fledgling blackbird.  Unfortunately, she came to our notice because she had two ticks on her face, surrounding the same eye.  The first tick was far advanced, and so her eye was pretty swollen, and she was very lethargic.  That tick must have fallen off, and for a day or two she seemed brighter.  But then the second tick got its claws in and as it grew her eye began to swell again.  Thankfully, that tick fell off a couple of weeks ago, and not only is she much healthier, but bolder as well.  She’s out with the robin gang in the morning, waiting for the food.  She even once ran right up to me while I was putting the worms out to grab her share.  We don’t have a picture of her yet, but if you are interested in blackbirds and ticks, this is a pretty good site.  Some of the photos are a bit disturbing looking.  We were disturbed and felt helpless watching her.  But what could we do?

As for the rest, the chaffinches, mostly males, have formed an annoying group.  The Twizzles are still with us, and we have three dunnocks.  I don’t know whether they include our original couple, Pinky and Twirly.  We have at least two wrens tripping around the garden, and the flying circus of long-tailed twits swoop down on the feeder and baths every once in a while.  In fact, a few weeks back during a warms spell, we had all at once, robins, twits, chuckles, and the wren vying for space at the two little bird bowls.  A bit of a sight!

And, of course, the magpies, jackdaws, pigeons, squirrels….

He’s a Ham. We wanted to take a photo of him at the cookout in July while he was stomping about on his command post. My friend clicked to get his attention and voila! (photo by Tony John)

Translation
And more than so, they chaunge their colour in processe of time: and last of all, when winter comes, be no more seene. Tongued they are not like other birds, with a thin tip before. They begin to breed with the first, in the prime of the spring, and commonly lay six egges.The Gnatsnapper, Ficedula, a bird somewhat like unto the Nightingale, doth otherwise: for at one time, it chaungeth both colour, forme, and song. They have not that name Ficedulæ properly but in the Autumne, as one would say, figge-feeders: for when that season is once past, they be called Melancoryphi, i. Black-heads.

In like sort, the bird which is named Erithacus, [i. Robin, or Redbreast] in winter; the same is Phœnicurus, [i. Red-taile] all summer long.

Discussion

6 thoughts on “Further Adventures of the Fuzzy Five, or Exactly How Bald Can a Bird Get?

  1. Hi There Latin Notebook, I really loved seeing these pictures of your Robin. Very different from those here in America (Thrushes really). Great post. Have a wonderful weekend!

    Posted by wildlifewatcher | September 22, 2012, 1:17 am
  2. Lovely photos and a very entertaining account of birdie activities. You certainly have a lively back yard. Great gathering place for your little friends.

    Posted by Nicole | September 22, 2012, 1:46 pm
  3. As robins go , yours are Dolce Gabbana, ours in CT are Walmart. I’m curious to read about dunnocks. Sounds like you have a garden party in full swing.
    Toni

    Posted by Words We Women Write | March 7, 2013, 11:11 pm

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