The Sorrows of Young Werewolf (eyeteeth) wrote,
The Sorrows of Young Werewolf
eyeteeth

How is my sparrow chick like Walter Freeman?

The answer was going to be "I will talk your ear off about both of them because I'm obsessed," but then I realized there were other equally correct answers. For example, the chick also has a goatee:



This is not a great picture, but you can see his little bib emerging. You can also see his new roommate, a strapping hen given to me by the volunteers at the Wild Bird Fund on Saturday. The director palpated him and congratulated me on his good health: apparently he has good flesh around his keel bone. When weighed he tipped the scale at sixteen grams, just a little under the eighteen to twenty they like sparrows to be at before release. (Sixteen grams is about the weight of seven dimes, for reference. For my international readers, seven dimes is equal to about half a euro.) But when I opened the shoebox he flapped directly onto my head. "A little too friendly, huh?" said the director. Yes, yes he is. She also confirmed that he is male, and you know what that means:

I have a gentil cok,
Croweth me day;
He doth me risen erly,
My matins for to say.

I have a gentil cok,
Comen he is of gret;
His comb is of red corel,
His tail is of jet.

I have a gentil cok,
Comen he is of kinde;
His comb is of red corel,
His tail is of inde.

His legges ben of asor,
So gentil and so smale;
His spores arn of silver white,
Into the worte-wale.

His eynen arn of cristal,
Loken all in aumber;
And every night he percheth him
In min ladyes chaumber.

I looked, incidentally, and there's no special word for "male chick" for birds other than chickens; young chickens are cockerels or pullets, but as far as I can tell my sparrows are just a young cock and a young hen. So there's no way around jokes like this and evidently has not been since at least the fifteenth century, which is when that song dates from. Incidentally passer, the Latin word for sparrow, was also slang for the male member, which casts a new light on the species' scientific name, Passer domesticus.

Anyway, I was sent with my shoebox to retrieve a cage and a roommate or two from the director's nearby apartment, which was stuffed with baby birds. There were birds in cages and birds in cat carriers and a whole chaise longue of pigeons. (You know those "Five things I've done that you haven't" lists that people compile? Now I can put on mine "Seen a chaise longue of pigeons.") The volunteer who was not feeding the loudly complaining grackle chick reached into a cage of sparrows and grabbed a hen for me. When I returned home it was with my original chick, the new chick, a little cage, and lots of millet sprigs. I got them all set up so he could a) imprint on me less and b) learn important bird skills such as pecking and drinking water.

I don't know about the imprinting thing, but so far he does seem to be improving in his bird skills. As soon as he saw her pecking he started doing the same, and eventually even started pecking at the millet, which was the whole point of the exercise. The hen was already a champion, wrenching millet seeds free from the stalk and cracking each one with a tiny sound like the sound of a nail clipper; he's still not as skillful, but I think he's gotten to the point where he can actually swallow the seeds after getting them in his beak, which is huge. I've been feeding him less (though he certainly doth crow me day in the form of chirping earnestly for food starting at about seven o'clock), and now that he's in a cage I can feed him without touching him, which is less imprinty. I've been letting the two of them out in the bathroom for long stretches to practice fluttering at their leisure. The plan currently is to return them both to the Wild Bird Fund in a few more days, where they'll be taken for a soft release by a volunteer. (Before that happens perhaps I can prove them for a homeopathic remedy. Anyone been showing signs of sparrow recently?)

These birds have been making me think of a lot of poetry, not all of it sexually suggestive -- though some of it is, because sparrows used to have this reputation for lechery, of all things. Maybe it's because there are so many sparrows, but the idea occurs in Shakespeare ("Sparrows must not build in his house-eaves, because they are lecherous") and in Chaucer ("As hoot he was and lecherous as a sparwe"); the ancients associated the sparrow with Aphrodite, whose chariot, according to Sappho, was drawn by them. The first poem I thought of in connection with sparrows was also Chaucer:

And smale fowles maken melodye
That sleepen al the night with open yë--
(So priketh hem Nature in hir corages)--
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages...

It turns out Chaucer is absolutely right and smale fowles really do sleepen al the night with open yë -- at least, whenever I peek in at mine they are perched quietly, clearly resting, but with their eyes wide open. Why? Bela sleeps with open yë because he has no choice, but birds have eyelids! Why don't they use them? Chaucer's answer, though I may be misinterpreting the line, seems to be that they sleep restlessly because "nature pricks them in their hearts" -- in other words, like Beavis, they're so horny that they can't settle down. Well, I know the feeling. Also hrm-heh, you said "prick."

So maybe all the poetry I think of in connection with sparrows is sexually suggestive, I just didn't realize it at first. I also thought of that line about "To glad me with its soft black eye," but that turned out to be about a gazelle, not a sparrow. The sparrows do glad me with their soft black eyes, though. I mean, look at that picture. Doesn't that glad you?

In conclusion, that's the third way in which my sparrow chick is like Walter Freeman: it's lecherous.
Tags: animals, beavis, bela, geoffrey chaucer, poetry, thomas moore, urban wildlife, walter freeman, william shakespeare
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