Going cuckoo

From my office window, the view was of the unkempt wall of the adjoining building, where two bricks had come loose, writes Arun Bhatia.

india Updated: Jan 16, 2007 01:46 IST

From my office window, the view was of the unkempt wall of the adjoining building, where two bricks had come loose. The resulting hollow in the wall was a perch for house sparrows and a pair had made it their nesting site.

The two worked furiously in the mornings, bringing grass, feathers, twigs, leaves and white slivers of spiders’ web used for attaching. A paper napkin was torn with beaks and feet to yield uneven strips and laid on the nest with twigs. Afternoons were for foraging or naps.

The cock bird, with his nifty white ‘apron’ would often bring offbeat nesting material like cellophane strips. He even had a go at the tough nylon twine that hung along my Venetian blinds, tugging at it, vigorously fluttering his wings, to no avail. He brought a rusty paper clip once, but she simply did not use it. He presented a shiny office pin, but that was ignored too.

When laid, the eggs must have been tiny and hidden in the bowl of the nest. The cock bird kept bringing nesting material even after the female sat incubating the eggs. She would not touch his offerings. The area became messy with moss, dried reed grass, used band-aid strips and matchsticks. One morning, the male bird found a hollow nearby. It was hardly the size of my teacup but he fashioned his own separate nest there, using rejected material. His nest was more loose, quite flimsy, hanging precariously. But he adorned it with that rusty office clip, and he even put in part of a broken spectacle frame. That new nest was for himself, a bachelor pad.

Hatching day was obvious in the hen’s nest: there were extra sparrow noises, more shrill and shorter.

Tiny pink heads, far from pretty, sometimes emerged with wide, open beaks. The mama was busy, whirring out, whirring in, with matronly warbles. That hatching day, the wind was up. I couldn’t see the male’s flimsy nest. The bachelor pad had blown away. A crumpled band-aid, however, was still stuck in the crag where his nest had been.

First Published: Jan 16, 2007 01:46 IST