By Keith Michael
It all started with a Sunday email from WestView’s own “Maggie B’s Quick Clicks” Berkvist, forwarding an earlier email from Left Bank’s maître d’ Danielle Marie: “Maggie, we’ve got a new friend at Left Bank. He’s been sitting in the [flower] pots all morning. Hoping you can forward this to Keith? The little bird doesn’t seem sick but also hasn’t flown at all. He hops between plants. I think he might be hungry!”
Having a reputation as “The Bird Man,” I do receive frequent avian questions. Already this week, as well as Maggie’s query, there have been ID requests for an odd-looking bird that turned out to be a House Sparrow with an unfortunately deformed bill, and for a fancy pigeon seen hobnobbing on the street in Queens. I don’t know fancy pigeon breeds but Google helped me out.
The photo sent of the Left Bank visitor was clearly, to me at least, a recently fledged baby American Robin, a rust-colored, spotted-breasted dumpling. The rest of the description didn’t worry me. Though young Robins just out of the nest do fly (remarkably, after only about two weeks from hatching,) they don’t fly well, so prefer to hop, and, yes, it was likely hungry! Baby birds are ALWAYS hungry. Their frequent, sometimes metronomically regular, “cheeps” are like a dedicated ring-tone so that Mom and Dad know where to find them for the next meal delivery. Perhaps this one had traveled far afield of its immediate backyard, which is why M & D weren’t finding their wayward chick. By the evening, the news was that it had fluttered into a tree further north on Greenwich Street—after briefly alighting on a brunch guest’s head.
The next morning, even before I was out of bed, I heard a Robin chick’s “cheep” somewhere high outside my street window. Yes, I heard it through a closed window, above the whir of the air conditioner, and amidst the clanging of yet another construction shed going up across the street. These kids have lungs! One of the many things that I continue to miss with the loss of my corgi partner-in-birding Millie, is our morning routine of going out early for her, uh, walk. It’s perfectly normal on a West Village street to endure an oblivious someone pacing up and down the block shouting into their phone about a business misunderstanding, but it’s uncanny how many side-eyes and distancing side-steps one gets if you’re standing still on the sidewalk staring up into a tree. Millie’s anxious indecision gave me the protection to stand around “with a purpose,” watching and listening for birds. Of course, I COULD still do this on my own, but I don’t.
After answering a barrage of work emails from home that took until lunch, I did finally get outside, with my camera. That “cheepster” was still at it, accompanied by three of its likely nestmates. Following the voices, I finally tracked down two of them in the White Ash tree, second tree west from the northwest corner of Perry and Greenwich Streets, nearly right across the street from Left Bank. One chick was on a branch to the right of the trunk, a sibling (likely a day or two younger) was still sitting on the nest to the left of the trunk, and two more were high in the Callery Pear tree to the west (heard but not seen.) Suddenly, the “cheeps” accelerated, I focused my camera, and in descended Mom Robin with a ripe White Mulberry, which disappeared in a blink. As did she.
White Mulberry? Hmm. The nearest White Mulberry tree that I know of in the neighborhood is along the Hudson River Park bike path at Gansevoort Street. I surely hope that there’s one closer in someone’s backyard. Otherwise, this Mom Robin flew 18 blocks round trip to provide this sweetmeat for Junior, and she was back in a minute with another one! After a rotation with the other three chicks for food deliveries, fifteen minutes later she brought a purple Juneberry to Chick #1—also, the closest Juneberry tree I know is in HRP at Charles Street. Mom’s work is never done. This chick knows how to sing for her supper.
It’s time for me to sing for MY supper (“Feed Me!”): “Hello, Left Bank? Danielle? Hi! I’m a little late, but I’m leaving now to stop by for my pick up order. See you shortly. Thanks.”
Visit www.keithmichaelnyc.com or follow @newyorkcitywild on Instagram.