Lately, my Dad’s been experiencing the empty nest syndrome – and it has nothing to do with my brother and me. (We wouldn’t leave if pushed!) It’s the little family of red-vented bulbuls that had become part of our family for a few weeks that he misses.
It started with mamma bird and papa bird scouting the neighbourhood for the ideal spot for their home, however transient. And you know what they say about real estate – it’s all about location, location, location. Apparently, all the trees in the apartment complex weren’t as perfect as the curtain rods in my parents’ drawing room.
They didn’t seem afraid of us, and flew rather confidently into the room whenever they pleased. My Dad welcomed them in by leaving the balcony door open almost all the time. On the rare occasion that it was shut, they’d patiently wait outside. We also had to suffer the summer heat without the assistance of the ceiling fan, because we didn’t particularly want the birds sliced and diced.
One week, and a zillion trips later, flying in and out bearing twigs and pieces of string in their little beaks, the nest was finally ready. It was a rather attractive nest, expertly woven and brilliantly balanced. It was tied firmly to the curtain rods with string, impressing us greatly! Not such birdbrains after all!
Then, pretty soon, came the eggs, and the birds would take turns to sit over them constantly. When they hatched within two weeks, out popped two unrecognizable little red-vented bulbuls. I can’t say I thought very much of their appearance.
Mamma and Papa bulbul didn’t get much rest after the arrival of the baby bulbuls (not that they’d gotten much rest before that, what with all the location-scouting and nest-building). The hatchlings were sleepy and quiet at first, but as they grew, they got louder and progressively hungrier! The bulbuls would fly out in turns and return with various delicacies for the bird palate. There were fruits, fat worms, insects and even an unsuspecting gecko! A good old-fashioned buffet, of sorts.
The baby birds demanded and swallowed their meals with surprising urgency, like they’d been starved for weeks!
The hatchlings grew larger in a matter of days. From being featherless little blobs, they sprouted plumage and assumed character. The nest was becoming a tad crowded.
As in every other family, the feathered siblings shared a bond. They seemed to share private jokes and secrets too!
And soon, it was time for them to test their wings.
Mamma and papa birds flew to the dining table at the far end of the room and egged their little ones on to fly. My Dad describes their loud, persistent twittering that day as a cacophony. Of the two nestlings, the bigger, braver one stretched its wings, and flew, for the first time. And bravo! It was perfect! The fledgling headed straight to the table and joined its parents. The merry trio must have decided to migrate to greener pastures – or possibly head out for a celebratory meal – because within seconds, they had taken off and disappeared through the open balcony door.
And then there was one.
This little guy sat around and procrastinated for a while before trying the same. He didn’t have anyone to cheer him on though, in loud birdie chatter, and his first flight drew him in a downward trajectory to the kitchen floor. He sat there, seemingly bewildered, until my Dad offered it his palm. The little bird hopped onto it, and was carried back to the safety of its nest. But he did manage to successfully fly within a few hours, stopping for a few moments at the armchair before flying out into the great big world.
And then there were none.