How many of you read Dr. Seuss to your children. Oh, I’m looking at a sea of hands out there.
Do you remember Horton Hatches the Egg? Horton, an elephant, is conned into hatching the egg of a lazy bird named Maysie who wants it back many days later when it begins to hatch. Horton, in the meantime has spent all this time thinking: “I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful one-hundred percent.” So Horton, hungry and exhausted, hasn’t wavered in 51 weeks of egg sitting. (If you don’t know how the story ends, by all means buy the book.*)
Back when I was reading Horton to my children, I had no idea that birds sometimes really do lay their eggs in an unsuspecting bird’s nest–and not always birds of their own species–so that someone else will rear their young. I don’t know if the new mothers feels duped, or if they’re delighted to have a fuller nest and more offspring. I think it’s likely they don’t notice. But when I did learn this, I knew I had to use this fact in a novel. The Swallow’s Nest was the result.
Nesting birds fascinate many of us. My writer friend Diane Chamberlain beguiles us on her Readers Facebook Page with tales of the cardinals nesting outside her office window. We were all dismayed when Daddy Cardinal disappeared, and we had harsh words for the wandering male. When he returned to help as the eggs began to hatch, all was forgiven. Diane, forbearing soul, did not ask where he’d been.
As I was working on The Swallow’s Nest, I asked my friend Judy Schattner, a talented nature photographer, if she had any photos of nesting birds I could share with you. Judy’s specialty is water birds since, she lives near me on a Florida pond with lots of active wildlife.
I doubt that any of these bird parents were duped and sat on someone else’s nest for 51 weeks, but we can see they are enthusiastic no matter how the eggs arrived. The nestlings are all in good hands. Or rather wings.
Job well done.
Many thanks to Judy Schattner for sharing these with us today.