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The bird in the balcony

The art and science of avian behaviour is lost on me. Hence, one summer afternoon this year, when we found a pigeon hatching an egg in a cosy corner of our balcony, we were knocked down with a feather. Her partner was flitting around nearby. The bird had chosen a comfortable maternity seat — a flattish bag of loose soil behind the external air-conditioner unit, away from the April sun and predators.

The way the parents dedicatedly took turns to incubate the egg set major parenting goals even for humans. Our eager anticipation kept mounting until we caught the first glimpse of the chick —a scraggly mess of dark purple and black feathers coiled into a tiny fluff ball. Our joy knew no bounds, and we named him Popo.

Popo gradually blossomed into a fine young bird, taking his first clumsy, cautious, curious steps on our balcony floor with trepidation and daring. He picked up the art of flapping his small wings, preening himself, and letting out sweet chirrups. After a few days of relentless practice, Popo took his first short flight as my heart skipped a beat and I muttered a silent prayer. His parents would hover around but would not accompany him anymore. Birds had their own way of weaning, we surmised.

Gathering storm

One evening, it started raining very heavily. We looked out for Popo — he was not there. As we craned our necks out of the balcony, we spotted him precariously perched on the terrace wall of a vacant house next door. The blinding rain made it impossible for him to spot us or fly back to safety. After a disturbed and seemingly endless night, I got up at the crack of dawn and ran out to look for Popo. He had disappeared. But after about an hour, a feeble, familiar twitter suddenly broke my grief. Sitting on the grille was Popo — wet, sheepish, shaken but certainly not stirred.

Popo has graduated to solo flying and comes with a flock of birds. They hop, skip and jump all over the balcony, playing around my feet, scooping up grain. Whoever coined the idioms “eat like a bird” or “have a bird-brain” had not met Popo and company.

For us, each day with Popo brings new joys as we watch in wondrous delight how a tiny egg metamorphosed itself into a living, breathing creature and taught us life lessons in aiming high.

urmichakravorty@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2021 5:00:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/the-bird-in-the-balcony/article33150713.ece

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