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For the Birds

Blog Post #7

As long as I can remember, I have awakened to a concert of birdsong, which has mostly been taken for granted. Gradually, my mind has awakened from an oblivious stupor, and taken notice, realizing how much their trills and whistles are a part of my life—how devoid of joy the rustle of leaves in the breeze would seem without the accent of their sweet music.   

Mourning Dove

The first welcome greeting of the day is always the low and melancholy cooing of the mourning dove. Aptly named, her subtle tones, soft and sad, transport me to a time long gone—a time lost to time—the time of my youth. As I listen, I am sixteen again—up early, the window slightly ajar, listening—the dove reminding me that each day is like the next. Nothing will change. But everything does.  I am not a child anymore. My nest, once full, is now empty. I stand where my sixteen-year-old self stood, by the same open window, listening. The dove is still there—ageless. I can’t imagine beginning a day without her gentle warblings. So accustomed to her soothing tones am I, that they speak comfort and peace to my heart, and pledge a vow of constancy amid the inevitability of change. How ironic that the dove—the symbolic bird of peace—bodes both loss and comfort.

One tweet leads to another…. Another bird song comes to mind, one that disappeared with the passage of time, as the neighborhood grew and developed. The elusive singers of the abrupt and scratchy ballpark cry of Chi-ca-go! Chi-ca-go! were most often heard and not seen. 

California Quail

When leaving for elementary school early in the morning, sometimes I had the rare treat of meeting a family of quail in front of our house. I whispered a greeting to the little family, but the mother scurried off with her little covey of four or five chicks, their curled plumes pointing the way as they swiftly followed on quick, tiny feet to find cover in the large pine and gazanias that once occupied the west side of the driveway.

As a child, I was less fond of the ominous, scavenging crows—always watching from their perch on the power lines—peering out of those beady black eyes, ready to swoop down for carrion and crumbs as they cawed their warning cry. Now, I think of them as old pals, still watching from a distance, but in a friendlier way.


 After decades away, we have returned to my childhood home to care for my aging father. The birds are still here—same ones, and some less familiar to me. My husband has become particularly annoyed with a mockingbird that lives up to its reputation, for mock he does! He purposely made his home outside our bedroom window, and like a long-running Broadway musical repeatedly performs his repertoire of calls with show time beginning at five o’clock every morning. I think he does it just because he knows how much it irritates Brad, who has always been a light sleeper.


A favorite of mine is the meadowlark. His cheerful, melodic song beckons me outdoors, “Open the window!” he says. “Come outside, and enjoy the sunshine! Be happy! It’s a beautiful new day!” And when I do, I’m not disappointed.
Brad takes care of our tiny friends, the hummingbirds, inviting them to sip sweet nectar outside our windows so we can enjoy their aerial antics and their beauty. The only sound I’ve ever heard from them is the bee-like buzzing of their wings, as they zoom like flying aces in and around the feeder with their sword-beaks drawn to defend their territorial rights. Their iridescently colored vests flash like brilliantly painted shields in the sun.


Not long after we moved back to my father’s home, I heard a loud squawking coming from the trees out front. Unfamiliar with the sound, I rushed out to see what it was. Brilliant flashes of chartreuse and vermillion perched on limbs and branches and fluttered from tree to tree. Hundreds of wild Yellow Head Amazon parrots decorated the silk and pepper trees in our front yard like tropical Christmas tree ornaments. The “Pasadena Parrots,” purportedly escaping fire in a bird shop in the 1950s or 60s, have developed a following in Southern California, as they move from town to town parading their vibrant plumage and filling the air with their dissonant tones. 

Amazon Yellow Head Parrot

The contrast between these new and transient feathered neighbors and the settled presence of the doves, mockingbirds and crows punctuate the current dynamics of our neighborhood.
Over the fifty-plus years since my parents purchased their dream home, we’ve seen all our neighbors either move away, or pass away. At ninety-one, my father is the last original owner on the street. Changes in lifestyle have also affected our neighborhood. With the exception of the dog-walkers and school kids, we see but little of our neighbors. So many pull out of their garages in the morning, and pull back into them at night. We wave, and peer at them from a distance like the crows on the line, wondering if we can snatch a morsel of friendship before one or the other of us swoops away again.
Many neighbors are shy and anxious acquaintances—wary, like the quail—sharing a parcel of earth for a short time, until they up and leave without a good-bye.
Others, like the hummingbirds, we see speed up and down the street on brightly colored “wings.” They’re in too much of a hurry for conversation; the only noticeable sound is the humming of their engines as they disappear down the street and around the corner.
The bright spots in the neighborhood are those who talk to us, and to each other. We see them at work in their yards, then flit from home to home, sharing the bounty of their fruit trees and gardens, and a few cheery words along their way. Like the meadowlark, they understand the meaning of the words “neighbor” and “friend;” they sing songs of joy, encouraging others to “come out into the sun, and enjoy the beautiful day!”

But of all the birds, the doves have nested in my heart. They soothe me with their motherly lullabies each morning, calming me with a sense of security and constancy, and assuring me that some things remain the same in an ever-changing world.

© Copyright May 27, 2014