Friday, April 24, 2009

The Reluctant Vegetarian

I am pretty sure that one is male, the other female.

Even at this time of year, when hormones and plumages are raging, it is hard to tell with birds whose only gender-distinguishing feature is a subtle difference in the reddishness of their breasts. A comparison made more difficult by the small amount of time these two birds have made themselves available for side-by-side sizing up.

But assuming that they are a he and a she, there being no other he's or she's on our property, then they are probably a pair as in "a mated couple of animals" rather than simply "two birds of the same denomination".

"The American Robin is a monogamous thrush. Mates stay together for the entire breeding season, but not for life...females look for mates who defend the best territory and resources...Extra-pair copulations do occur...Females actively seek EPC's with high quality males because females want the best genes for their offspring to survive."

This could explain their lack of cohabitation. While his scarlet woman is busily sleeping her way across the suburban landscape the hapless male robin, having built his personal best nest and expanded his tail feathers as wide as he can, spends the majority of his time in the company of doves and squirrels -- fretfully hopping among these less colorful creatures, and repeatedly pounding his little beak into the fallen seeds and discarded hulls under our bird feeder tree.

Mars and I have observed this little fellow for a couple of weeks and have yet to see even the tiniest piece of worm touch his lips. Initially I thought that it was a moral dietary decision, an ethical choice to eschew the ingestion of living, limbless, long invertebrate animals in favor of humanely harvested, free-range, plant reproduction units -- not an Ova Lacto vegetarian but an Oligochaeta Lumbricus one.

Now I think that he is just confused and panicky. He got here first (just like he was supposed to), established his territory (just like he was supposed to), shook his tail feathers (just like he was supposed to) and waited for the females to (so to speak) flock to his door. There was just one taker, and she seems to be commitment-phobic.

Now he is stuck.

The housing market is pretty bad in our area, so his chances of trading up to a bigger place are pretty much zero. It is totally a buyer's market and in this particular form of commerce all of the shoppers are finicky, fecund females.

This has got to be really tough for him to swallow. And it must make other things equally difficult to devour. As one version of the children's song says:

Nobody loves me, everybody hates me,
Sittin' in the garden eatin' worms.
First one went down easy,
Second one went down squeezy,
Third one stuck in my throat;
Fourth one choked me,
Fifth one poked me,
Sixth one got my goat!

I know it would be enough to make me go vegetarian.

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