Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hornbill Days

While reading a science book with Strider, I found a description that sounded strikingly familiar...

"With their curved bills and black, white and gray feathers, the hornbills
in Africa would never be considered beautiful. However, these plain-looking
birds with long, strange bills have the unusual habit of locking themselves into
their nests. During mating season, the hornbill couple finds a hole in a tree
that is large for the mother's 17-inch-long body and for her chicks that will
soon come. When they find a suitable place to next, the hornbills fly to the
river bank to scoop up mud with their beaks. They then return to build a wall
that will cover the hole of their nest. When the new wall is almost finished,
the mother hornbill squeezes in as the father flies off for more mud. The two
work together to plaster the hole until there is only a narrow crack left.

When the wall is completed, the mother lays her eggs and sits and waits.
The father keeps himself busy hunting for food, which he gives to the mother by
inserting it through the crack with his beak. The mother hornbill will not leave
the walled-up nest until the babies hatch and grow so large that they need more
food than the father can provide alone. Only then will she break open the wall
and let herself out."

On days like this chilly February Tuesday, I feel like that hornbill, plastered into her nest with her young. There have been many days, even weeks, during the last 9 years when I never leave the house, and my mate is the only adult I see for long spans of time. Other than brisk jaunts around the neighborhood block, my only occasional outings are quick runs to Wal-Mart or the post office. Since our babies are growing large enough to need "more food," I do sometimes break open the wall to go out to work... but then straight back to the hole in the tree I come.

So here I am in my cozy nest, amidst my loud squawking chicks, taking occasional peeks at the world through this computer monitor, and awaiting my hornbill mate to come home tonight with whatever worms he's collected throughout the day.

The book continues a couple paragraphs later with what I assume will be a scene in my future...

"As the young birds fly from the nest, the parents encourage them from a branch
nearby with loud squawks. Before the family leaves the nest completely, the
mother checks to see that it is empty."

That's hard to imagine at this point... But I will try to enjoy my little, loud nest for now.

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