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Downtown San Francisco enjoyed a rare avian treat during the Spring of 2009. The trees, bushes and flowers in the Financial District, plus lawns and fountains in such places as the Embarcadero and Yerba Buena Center, provide sufficient food and water for some birds, such as Brewer's Blackbirds, to breed -- albeit in small numbers.
On one busy street in the Financial District, a pair of Brewer's Blackbirds set up housekeeping in a tree. While the female was busy laying eggs and incubating them, the male's activities were generally confined to guarding the nest (when not taking a short break to forage for food to feed himself, his mate and the chicks).
The male became a world famous media sensation for his dive-bombing of people walking past the tree which held first the eggs, then the nestlings. Thus he became known as "Swoops."
For Swoops, guarding the nest holding his mate and those little bundles of joy became a real challenge. Normally nesting in less populated areas, breeding in an area densely populated by humans, such as the Financial District of San Francisco, proved to be a full time job.
Lesser beings might have just given up what must have seemed a nightmare at times, being so distracted by the human world. But Swoops was dauntless and seemingly untiring in the performance of his parental responsibilities.
Swoops was especially watchful of people with light blond or gray hair. Perhaps he felt people with hair the color of his feathers were less of a threat to his family than people with hair of another color. Such light haired people were subject to his sharp claws and pointed beak which, on heads with not much hair, could break the skin. At any rate, we took note of how Swoops, for the most part, avoided people with black hair.
Once the eggs (3-5) are laid, the grayish brown female incubates the eggs until, after 12-14 days, they hatch. The young leave the nest about two weeks after they hatch. If all of the chicks are healthy, they will be able to take flight the moment they leave the nest. If any of the chicks are deemed unhealthy by the parents, they are abandoned.
By the first day of Summer the chicks would start testing their wings. Soon thereafter, the Swoops Family would join other Brewer's Blackbird families. They would be joined by Starlings, Cowbirds and others; and, with their young, they would form a cloudlike mass in the sky, swooping in a seemingly random manner, but with close precision which might challenge our most advanced computers, and with a mixture of unique sounds -- creating yet another media sensation.
City Birds love the City's Brewer's Blackbirds and we invite you to type the word "blackbird" in our Site Search Box to see pictures of these friendly birds we have taken in various parts of San Francisco.
These photos were first published June 15, 2009 by City Birds.
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