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Archives, 2005

Home Birds archives

Egg laying record

DateEggsNotes on mating, etc.
Aug. 17, 20003Goldie (no mate)
~Oct. 1, 20003Goldie (no mate)
~Dec. 1, 20003Goldie (no mate)
~Jan. 30, 20013Goldie; George not "ready"
~Feb. 28, 20014Goldie; mating with George
May 10, 20014Princess; leg injury
June 8, 20012?Princess
July 1, 20013Princess
Oct. 14, 20013Princess
Nov. 17, 20013?Princess; EGG BINDING!
Jan. 27, 20023Princess
Feb. 27, 20024Princess
Mar. 28, 20021Princess
Apr. 28, 20023Princess
May 20, 20023.5Princess; 4th egg lacked shell
June 5, 20024Princess
July 1, 20023Princess
July 26, 20024Princess
Sept. 20, 20021Princess
Sept. 29, 20023Princess
Oct. 24, 20024Princess
~Nov. 28, 20023Princess
Dec. 11, 20023Princess
Jan. 5, 20033Princess
Feb 1, 20033Princess
Mar. 14, 20034Princess
Apr. 14, 20033Princess
May 3, 20034Princess; hasty, less window "flirting"
May 28, 20034Princess
June 20, 20033Princess; quarrelling and "kissing." George sings loud!
July 13, 20034Princess; quarrelling and flirting
Aug. 14, 20033Princess; Tweety moved in.
Oct. 6, 20033Princess; George molting, not singing.
Nov. 4, 20033Princess; Tweety died Nov. 9
Dec. 3, 20033Princess
Dec. 25, 20034Princess; George resumed singing!
Feb. 1, 20043Princess; new nest on spider plant
Feb. 29, 20043Princess; our trip to Peru!
Mar. 23, 20044Princess; George sings loud!
Apr. 16, 20044Princess; George sings loud!
May 8, 20044Princess
May 31, 20044Princess; George sings loud!
June 27, 20044Princess; Adopted baby died. George molting, not singing
Oct. 8, 20043Princess; some molting, some singing
Nov. 25?, 20043*Princess; One egg broke. Hawks! Some singing.
Dec. 30, 20043Princess; George sings some, mischief "exploring."
Feb. 5, 20053Princess; trip to Costa Rica.
Mar. 7, 20054Princess; new nest in spider plant.
~ Apr. 3, 20053Princess; George sings more.
May 14, 20053Princess (hurt leg); new nest on shelf.
June 25, 20053Princess
Mar. 17, 20062.5Princess; 3rd egg lacked shell
Apr. 14, 20062.5Princess; 3rd egg lacked shell
May 13, 20063Princess
June 16, 20063Princess, in 4 days. George sings loudly.
Nov. 26, 20062Princess; one broke. George more subdued.

Total eggs laid: 158½
None of the eggs have hatched. In almost every case, Goldie and Princess laid one egg each on the successive days following the first date listed above. A few times they skipped one or two days. Some of the numbers of eggs are guesstimates; "~" means approximate date.

December 24, 2005 [LINK]

Handsome George

I took this photo of George back in October, and had forgotten to post it. Princess continues intermittent nest-building, window flirting, and seductive chirping to attract George, but there has been no egg laying as of yet.

(Click on this photo to see last year's "canary Christmas" photo.)


Merry Christmas to All!

from the Clem family

December 14, 2005 [LINK]

Br-r-r-r! Goldfinch takes refuge

Goldfinch, Princess, George A Sharp-shinned hawk was swooping about in the back yard today, and I soon noticed a Goldfinch that seemed to be ailing, just sitting on the ground with its feathers all puffed up. Wild birds are especially vulnerable to injuries when it is so cold outside, and I thought this one might be in shock. It remained surprisingly calm as I approached it and brought him inside to examine it. Princess and George only grudgingly came to accept their temporary house guest (on the left in this photo), which we will release tomorrow, assuming all is well. Its appetite is certainly healthy. The rule of thumb is to let sick or injured wild animals be, or else take them to a certified treatment center; "Don't try this at home."

(Roll mouse over image to see closeup; click on it to revert.)

I have separated the "blog" [posts, links, and special lists from] the more-or-less permanent portions of the Wild birds page; the latter have been moved to the new Wild birds introductory page.

December 4, 2005 [LINK]

Canary middle age?

George, electric clock George flew into our bedroom to join me in watching a football game this afternoon, so I grabbed the camera. He has been singing vigorously every day ever since September, whereas he was quite subdued for most of the summer, which had us worried for a while. For her part, Princess remains active in flirting at the window, demanding George's attention if he is gone too long. Even though she built a nest in late October, she has not laid any eggs in it yet. It has been over five months since the last time she last laid any eggs, so this may be a sign that she has entered "menopause," having exhausted her ovaries. I guess laying about 150 eggs over the course of her lifetime is probably enough already. At least they are both healthy, energetic, and about as content as any birds could be.

UPDATE: This afternoon I received an e-mail inquiry from a woman named Barbara whose male canary hurt his leg, and she wants to know what to do. I told her that birds usually know best how to take care of themselves when they suffer minor injuries, and that well-meaning veterinarians can accidentally compound the injuries suffered by small birds, because they are so delicate. That is what happened to Princess four and a half years ago. I do not pretend to be an expert, but unless the pet bird is in obvious pain or distress, it is usually best to let nature take its course for a couple days.

October 25, 2005 [LINK]

Back to nest building

Princess pulling sofa After an extended period of "flirting" with the goldfinches outside her window, Princess is now focusing her attention on courtship rituals with George. She has built a new nest, for the first time in several months, and we expect her to start laying eggs any day now. She will stop at nothing, even pulling threads from the corner of our sofa, to get the necessary construction materials. Now that's determination!

October 5, 2005 [LINK]

Princess resumes flirting

Princess, goldfinches Another sign of Princess's progress toward full recovery from the wing injury she suffered in early August: She's starting to chirp and flap her wings on the perch in front of the window whenever the goldfinches show up at the thistle seed feeder. She sometimes pulls at loose threads, as if contemplating building a new nest. Not having a nest, she has no regular place to sleep at night, and being lame, she has difficulty sleeping on a perch. Meanwhile, George is singing more loudly and frequently than he has in more than a year.

We have had as many as 15 or 20 goldfinches in our back yard, but the numbers of cardinals, titmice, and chickadees has declined, as a result of the construction-related "defoliation." I did see a male Downy woodpecker out back today, and a phoebe yesterday.

September 15, 2005 [LINK]

Princess gets around

Princess & George on wedding photo 2005 On the way to full recovery, Princess is flying more and more every day, and yesterday flew into our living room for the first time in nearly two months. She (on the right) and George "posed" on our wedding photo, making demonstrative chirps and gestures of courtship. Love is in the air!

That young skunk continues to forage in our back yard, apparently looking for insects, rather than seeds scattered by birds as I had thought. Princess and George have noticed the new neighbor outside, but don't seem unduly alarmed about it. Perhaps that is because birds generally have little or no sense of smell.

September 6, 2005 [LINK]

(Re)Learning to fly

About a month ago, our female canary named Princess suffered an accidental wing injury, after which she was unable to fly. For several days her right wing drooped noticeably, and we feared that it might have been broken, in which case she would never have flown again. (Medical intervention to repair broken or dislocated bones in small birds is generally futile, as we discovered when a veterinarian inadvertently compounded the leg injury Princess suffered just after we bought her four years ago.) In her flightless condition, she was literally "grounded," and we had to make sure that all the food and water she needed was accessible to her while we were away. This happens to be molting season for them, so their energy level right now is below average anyway. One good sign was that she maintained a good appetite, especially when we brought her treats like basil flowers or fresh spinach leaves. Mm-mm good! Thankfully, she gradually recuperated, spending many long days in semi-dormant rest while the delicate tendons and muscles healed. George, our male canary, stayed close by her side for nearly this entire period, only leaving their room on a few occasions. He was clearly very worried about Princess, and it was quite touching. About two weeks ago, Princess started flapping her wings on occasion, as if to rebuild her wings' muscle tone, and she even flew a few feet every few days. It was very awkward at first, and she bumped into objects several times as she gradually regained control of her flight. For some odd reason, she always became more active in these practice sessions in the evening, when it was time for lights out.

Last night, Princess became alarmed when I was vacuuming their room and flew to the top of the plant shelf. She stayed up there, and it was the first time since her injury that she had slept in an elevated spot! You could tell she was excited by this accomplishment, and George was too: Romantic chirping between them was a sure sign that the healing process was nearly complete. Today she flew around their room several times, and Jacqueline took some video clips of the happy landmark occasion. Princess will probably need a few more days or weeks before she can fly as confidently as she used to, but we are now hugely relieved that her full recovery is all but guaranteed.

July 17, 2005 [LINK]

Basil flower: Mm-mm good!

George, Princess, basil The basil plants on our back porch are growing rapidly, and some have begun to sprout flower heads. That is one of Princess and George's favorite treats, so we picked the first one this morning, which they immediately feasted upon. George has started to molt, and has been singing less often lately. Princess has been brooding in her nest for almost three solid weeks, and will probably give up on her latest three eggs any day now.

June 30, 2005 [LINK]

Peak breeding season

This is the time of year when wild birds are busily feeding their newly hatched or fledged offspring, and Princess and George have seen a number of young House sparrows and Carolina wrens being fed by their parents outside their window. Princess laid three more eggs this week, after taking a little longer rest between brooding sessions than usual. After a lot of flirting and flying around together for several days, Princess and George are now back to their usual routine: She on the nest, he on the living room shelf, singing every once in a while. I found George under the dining room table a few days ago; that used to be his favorite resting place until a few months ago. Yesterday they were both eating contentedly at the window sill, just a few inches from a Mourning dove doing likewise outside. What must the birds on either side of the window think about the ones on the other side?

May 18, 2005 [LINK]

Princess lays a gross!

George visits RFK Stadium After spending a full extra week beyond the normal two-week incubation period last month, Princess took a correspondingly longer break between egg-laying sessions. Somehow, she bumped her lame leg recently and was in pain for a few days, but has now recovered. She has left the spider plant nest site and has gone back to the nest basket on the shelf, and has laid three eggs. According to my calculations, that makes 148 eggs she has laid during the four years she has been with us, just over a gross (twelve dozen). Truly prodigious output.

George visits RFK!

George flew into my office for the first time in quite a while today, and really sang up a storm. I took this photo of him in front of the RFK Stadium poster that came free with the Washington Post on May 1. I took a similar photo of him last year when I had a poster of Fenway Park on that wall.

Andrew Clem Archives

March 10, 2005 [LINK]

Four more eggs: You go, girl!

four eggs Princess has done it again: Less than five weeks since her last clutch of eggs, she just laid four more in her new nest she just built in one of our spider plants. This marks the first time she has laid that many in almost a year. As is her routine prior to egg-laying, she went through some of the standard flirting rituals in the window in the last few days. George has been singing a bit more often, but we haven't noticed much "amorous" activity between them since we returned from our trip to Costa Rica. Our neighbors Therese and Ron took good care of them while we were gone, and we appreciated it tremendously. Princess and George were quite upset when a Sharp-shinned hawk bumped right into their window the other day, but they apparently got over the trauma.

This week will mark the fourth anniversary of the passing of Goldie, our first canary. Beware the Ides of March...

Andrew Clem Archives

February 13, 2005 [LINK]

Happy Valentine's Day!

Princess laid more three eggs last week, but one of them fell out of her nest and broke. After a couple weeks of restless flying around and "flirting" in the window, she is back on her nest again. They will be under the good care of our neighbor Therese while we are away. This 96-second movie (in Apple QuickTime format) is an appropriate way to mark Valentine's Day. Here are the brief "scenes," which were shot between Christmas Day and early February:

  • Bathing -- Princess gets spiffed up and ready for romance.
  • Flirting -- Princess "shows her stuff" in the window, as George warily observes.
  • George gets bored -- Keeping watch over Princess takes a lot of energy!
  • Princess gets excited -- The quavering tone of her chirps suggest emotion.
  • Mutual affection -- Princess and George share intimate moments.
  • George sings, Princess chirps -- Love is in the air!

Andrew Clem Archives

February 3, 2005 [LINK]

Birds' brains

An article in Tuesday's Washington Post explains why George ought to get more respect for his intellectual abilities than most people give him. (!) Research scientists have recently discovered that the brains of birds, though small in absolute terms, are actually more complex than was once thought, so they have begun to revamp the system used to describe the various parts of the avian brain.

The new system, which draws upon many of the words used to describe the human brain and has broad support among scientists, acknowledges the now overwhelming evidence that avian and mammalian brains are remarkably similar -- a fact that explains why many kinds of bird are not just twitchily resourceful but able to design and manufacture tools, solve mathematical problems and, in many cases, use language in ways that even chimpanzees and other primates cannot.

In particular, it reflects a new recognition that the bulk of a bird's brain is not, as scientists once thought, mere "basal ganglia" -- the part of the brain that simply coordinates instincts. Rather, fully 75 percent of a bird's brain is an intricately wired mass that processes information in much the same way as the vaunted human cerebral cortex.

Any pet bird owner or wild bird watcher would probably not be surprised at all by this news. Our canaries, Princess and George, certainly seem to have advanced cognitive abilities, as well as complex social behavior patterns and emotional states. Frankly, I've always had the impression that pigeons and doves had below-average smarts, but the article suggests otherwise. On the very same day, coincidentally, our copy of Wild Bird magazine arrived, and it had an article on the same subject.

More snow, fewer birds

The white stuff was coming down pretty heavy for several hours today, but most of it had melted away. A Carolina wren belted out a LOUD song on our back patio, making George rather anxious, but otherwise there have been no signs of courtship behavior in the avian world. In a normal (mild) winter, we would expect to see crocuses by now. Grumble... Aside from the regular Cardinals, Titmice, Juncos, etc., there's not been much birding activity to report. I saw several Green-winged teals, Coots, and (probably) some Ring-necked ducks on Bell's Lane last week, and spotted a flock of 15 or so Meadowlarks in a field. Yesterday Jacqueline and I saw a Pileated woodpecker for the first time since October 24. Still no Yellow-rumped warblers since last November 11; they have been uncommonly scarce this winter.

Andrew Clem Archives

January 20, 2005 [LINK]

Four years with George!

George in spotlight Not coincidentally, since the President is his namesake, today marks the fourth full year that our canary George has been with us. It was a cold, snowy day when we bought him (on January 20, 2001, of course), and he had to spend a long time cooped up in the cardboard box before we returned home that evening.

"That's George in the spotlight." Since he's such a skilled and accomplished singer, this pose is quite appropriate. I took this picture of him recently, using a mirror reflecting the afternoon sunlight in an unlit room. Princess recently gave up on her latest clutch of eggs, after spending four days beyond the normal three-week gestation period. Extra effort or off-timed biological clock? She and George are now flying "como loquitos" all around the apartment. Duck!

Andrew Clem archives

January 4, 2005 [LINK]

A new year of egg-laying

After taking a three-week break from nesting duties, Princess has laid three more eggs, the last of which came on New Year's Day. During her respite in December she joined George in flying all over the place. Because of the heavy aerial traffic, I put up a sign in our hallway. Princess now is back to her incessant chirping routine every morning, which has prompted George into singing out loud for the first time in a few weeks.

Now that Princess has resumed a sendentary lifestyle, George is once again on his own while wandering around. Today he paid a visit to my office, nibbling on the succulent plants in the window sill.