Working together

I don’t slow down very often. I’d like to, but I am pathologically busy. Today, however, I took a break for a little while. And I saw something.

I was lying in a hammock (which is the first time I’ve done that in a very long time) below a bird house at the edge of our property. I started watching a pair of house wrens feed a demanding group of babies in their nest inside.

First one would fly to the babies, who would squawk and scream with excitement. The second one waited on a nearby fencepost, ready with the next course. When it was time for the second course, the second bird would fly into the nest. And the babies would yell.


It’s clearly hard work, being a small bird and a parent. Both mom and dad flew back and forth many times, bearing very small bugs, ducking inside, feeding those loud baby birds, then flying off for the next round.

Then I saw something that puzzled me. One of them, carrying a good-sized bug, waited on the fencepost. Its mate was nowhere in sight. Seconds turned to minutes, and the parent on the fencepost burbled and warbled, but didn’t eat the bug. Nor did it feed it to the babies. It just waited.

Finally, the other bird flew by, directly to the nest, and the babies yelled happily. When the second bird emerged from the nest, it didn’t fly off as it had all the other times I’d watched the routine. Instead, he or she landed next to its mate, took that bug that had been on standby for so long, and went back to the nest to feed it to the babies.

The bird who’d been patiently waiting then flew off to find more bugs.

First of all, that’s some excellent parental altruism right there. I’m betting both mom and dad were working up a pretty good appetite. But despite the long wait, that tasty (to them, I’m sure) bug was saved for the babies.

And it’s also a pretty impressive display of teamwork.

Working together and sacrificing for the good of someone else. What a concept.

Read more installments of Village Voices by Susan Barnett.