For the last four weeks, I've had a front row seat to the laying, hatching and rearing of four baby birds, whose parents decided that the lamppost outside my window would make a great foundation for a nest.
I've watched carefully, and sometimes ducked discreetly from behind the glass, as a witness to the beginnings of their awe-filled life cycle. I've heard the chirps get louder as faithful parents alternate the feeding of four featherless chicks and their quiet moments of sleep, huddled in a sturdy nest — cleverly away from any predators that could reach them.
I've left my camera charged and waiting by the window sill to capture their progress, and used alternative ways of getting out of the house to not disturb them. Their nest, their lives, seemed so fragile to me.
Friends who came over were cautiously told to use the backdoor to get in.
“We've got baby birds and I don't want to disturb them!” I would say.
I conducted keyword searches online fit for a kindergartner, trying to figure out what kind of birds they could be.
“Small birds in Los Angeles,” or “Orange-colored head bird,” I would type, until I came across results that satisfied me. I had stumbled upon perhaps the most common bird in the U.S. — the House Finch, which according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, was originally a bird of the Western U.S. and Mexico and made its way eastward when a small number of finches were turned loosed in Long Island, New York, “after failed attempts to sell them as cage birds (Hollywood finches).”
Their population across North America reaches into the billions.
Clearly, I am not even a novice bird watcher, but this little family that had taken up residence near me and in the process gave me the privilege of watching their lives unfold. It consumed my thoughts. I was completely “Keeping Up with the Finches.”
Sometimes it was too hard to watch. They would wriggle vigorously and I was sure the nest would plummet to the ground. Other times, their parents would disappear for hours and my anxiety would set in. I began preparing for the worst.
How would I take care of these birds if their parents were somehow taken down by the fierce feral cats roaming around in my neighborhood? What would I feed them? Did they need to be kept warm? What was I going to do?
After more Internet research and the triumphant return of the Finches, I discovered it was best to stop worrying — as helpless as they may have looked — and leave birds and their nests alone for the most part.
This week, they began to leave the nest. Their development, under my watch, made me feel invested in their lives, especially since I later learned from Cornell that only 30% of young songbirds survive their first year of life.
My interaction with the Finches made me think of the delicate balance between humans and their Earthly counterparts and, of course, our own local “celebearty,” whose presence on Twitter (@TheGlendaleBear) has attracted more than 20,000 followers and added pressure on those in charge of protecting us from him, and vice versa.
Improperly maintained trash cans, combined with a penchant for what’s in them, are strong draws for this bear.
According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the American black bear is a “generalist, opportunist and omnivore,” consuming fleshy fruits, nuts, fish, mammals and, of course, human food. Their varied diet has “enabled them to persist not only in a diversity of habitat types, but also in highly fragmented forest areas in proximity to humans.”
We chose to live here, and sharing our territory, with bears or otherwise, is a consequence of that. But we also need to think about how to responsibly coexist and make their own environment a place they want to and can be.
Besides, all that sedating can't be healthy. “After all these tranquilizer shots, they may need to drop me off at Celebrity Rehab,” Glen Bearian tweeted recently.
There’s always Dr. Drew Pinsky's Pasadena Recovery Center.
LIANA AGHAJANIAN is a Los Angeles-based journalist whose work has appeared in L.A. Weekly, Paste magazine, New America Media, Eurasianet and The Atlantic. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.