Did You Say "Feed Me?'

Thanks, Two Writing Teachers (or more) for hosting the Tuesday Slice of Life.  This slice of life is a bit from earlier this summer, last week and when I was a child.  It's like a slice of three layer cake (gluten free, for me, of course).
Don't know who this bird is looking at the babies.  Sometimes wrens will come to steal a nest.
About 8 years ago, a phoebe built a nest on our porch.  We watched her sit on the nest and later feed her 4 babies.  We watched as they grew too large for the nest.  And one day, when my husband got too close, they just exploded out of the nest, never to be seen again that summer!  When they are ready to fly, they just up and leave.

We had a nest of phoebes on our porch again this year.  A phoebe came and made four starts that amounted to four small piles of stuff between porch rafters.  Reading about their habits, I learned that the male typically starts nests before the female arrives, and she decides which one will be "Home, Sweet Home" to her babies.   She must have selected "Door Number 3", for finally, after a little bit of time went by, the third one down the line "took" and was completed and eggs were deposited.

Not long before the four young phoebes departed their nest (I missed it - they left sometime during the day when I was gone), I saw the momma bird sitting on the railing with a moth in her mouth.  It was in head first with wings spread out on either side of her bill.  It looked like she was smiling or had a mustache.

Pheed Me

"Hurry mother,
need another!"
A bug refill
In momma's bill -
Moth wings spread wide
From side to side -
Her mustached grin 
Will soon drop in
That nested peak
Of lifted beaks.
"Next could we try
Some dragonfly?" 
©Donna JT Smith, 2015, all rights reserved

I am still disappointed in the sound of a phoebe.  When I was a little girl, my mother had told me that a phoebe says "phoebe".  For years when I heard phoebes calling, I was thrilled to hear them!  I love that sound!

While listening to the birds, occasionally I would hear what seemed like a broken phoebe.  It's voice was harsh, and almost sounded like a phoebe with laryngitis... it was more like it was saying "feed me" than "phoebe".  And there was definitely no polite "please" involved.  I felt bad for the poor phoebe who couldn't sing!

Then one day I was looking at those Audubon birds that you squeeze and they make the bird's sound.  I picked up a black capped chickadee, Maine's state bird, and gave it a squeeze, expecting to hear it's "chick-a-dee-dee-dee", but instead I heard "phoebe"....
Well, certainly this must have been a mistake.  Someone put the wrong voice box in this chickadee!  Phoebe's say "phoebe" and chickadees say "chick-a-dee", right?

After a bit of research online on various bird web sites, I discovered that the hoarse, throaty "feed-me" was actually the true phoebe sound, and the chickadee said both its name and the phoebe's name.  And, to add insult to injury, it said "phoebe" much more clearly, musically and politely than a phoebe ever could.

I wonder if Mom ever knew that, or if I just heard the chickadee once and assumed it was a phoebe saying it, and didn't ask about it.  I'm adjusting to the new association of sound and bird.

I was visiting with my sister last week I heard a phoebe call and asked her if she knew that chickadees said "phoebe".  No, she did not.   She was as disappointed as I.  Hopefully, she will get used to the new voice of the phoebes and chickadees, too.

Just when you think you couldn't possibly hold another morsel - your brain calls out "Feed me!".

Morsels to feed you -

Here's a YouTube with all the calls of a Chickadee:

This one below starts out with a chickadee image but then goes to the phoebe that the person recording notices.  The phoebe's call is then recorded instead of the chickadee's.


  1. Such a fun slice! Love the poem. I was struck with how the babies just leave when they are ready... They know it's time. Wonder if the Mama has any sadness when they go or is relieved she can just eat her own moths already? My almost 5 year old son is showing more signs of independence, less signs of needing me as much. It's the way it should be but it does make me a little sad. Not for long because my 2 year old daughter is still in the stage of needing me all the time! I'm appreciating that a bit more now that I know soon she won't be needing me as much either.

    1. Can you imagine letting your kids go the day they learn to walk? Crazy to think that one minute a bird is in a nest, dependent, and the next they are flying and on their own. I like that we take it a bit slower!

  2. Every year we have robins that build a nest on our patio roof supports. It is really neat watching her tend the nest and take care of the babies when the arrive. Watching her feed and encourage them to fly when the time is right is something to see. Mama bird, however, got quite vocal if I was out doing yard work and got too close to the nest.

    1. Oh, they do get vocal! I accidentally disturbed a bunch of sandpiper chicks out for a stroll on the beach a couple of weeks ago. I didn't know they were even there until the mother started scolding and chasing after me - they blend in with the sand very well!

  3. I don't think we have phoebes here at all, but chickadees, yes. I'm going to have to search the sounds now, too, because I always thought they called their name, too, Donna. Your story of "stories" passed down through time reminds me of those "truths" that get told, and eventually no one knows why, they just "are". I love your poem, especially that "moth mustache". I think it must be so hard for birds to take care of their babies & themselves.

    1. I added clips of the two calls. I watch the osprey around here taking care of their young, feeding them fish all day and wonder how they keep up their own strength!

    2. I don't remember hearing a phoebe at all, but somewhere in my brain is the knowledge that they "call" their name. Isn't YouTube wonderful? Thanks for this extra!

    3. I guess they do kind of say their name, but it just isn't as clear and nice as the chickadee says it! I didn't know I was listening to the chickadee all this time. I can easily discern them now. Wish mom was around to ask her if she had them confused too!

  4. Donna, I love this slice. Got some facts and a fun poem and also got to hear bird sounds...on top of it a slice of what it is like on your porch as you observe the choosing of a nest. Your poem reminds me of the poems in a book of poems that will soon be coming out by Amy VanDerwater entitled Birds. I think you will enjoy this...I believe it will be published next year. (Also, thank you for your feedback--it was great!)

  5. Donna, thank you SO much for the feedback you gave to me. It addresses exactly the areas in the poem that I was pondering. Would it be possible for me to send you the poem with the revisions we discussed. What would be the best way. Please feel free to email me (debbussewitz@gmail.com) with contact info if that is something that you would let happen. Thanks.

    1. I've sent you an email. I'd love to read it!

  6. Well, I'vecertainly learned a lot about birds and their calls visiting your post, Donna. I just love the name, Phoebe, though.

    1. I, too, like the name Phoebe. I remember being amazed the first time I saw it written!

  7. Great poem and I loved listening to the sounds of the birds! I didn't know anything about the Phoebes before today...

  8. Couldn't resist tweeting the real tweeters you share here on twitter.
    This post Phfed me Donna.

  9. I love that poem! The sounds & the rhythm are beautiful, so like baby birds & their demands. What a lovely slice of your life to share :)


Post a Comment

Drop some breadcrumbs! Let me know you were here!

Popular posts from this blog

Pink Sky at Night

Poetry Friday! Yay!

Tree's Valentine