sounds once unnoticed

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a cracked knuckle / a body shifting in a chair

     In the morning, I watch birds from my kitchen table as they eat their own breakfasts of mealworms and suet. They sing and chirp endlessly. When children learn of birds, they learn of chirping — the kind we repeat with cute mouths puckered into tiny circles — but not the trills, mechanical clicks, shuffles, hollow notes that make the hair on my arms stand up. It wasn't until I started watching birds that I realized how noisy they are

     It's amazing. I love it. I love all of these birdsounds. I wonder if they speak to different species or just amongst themselves. The Cowbird's squeak is anxious and urgent. Cowbirds are parasites that lay their eggs in other birds' nests and watch from afar as their chicks are fostered and raised by strangers. They destroy the homes of any birds who refuse to cooperate. At first I thought this merciless: rapid, systematic reproduction. Shifting the burden of child-rearing to others. But the wavering call of the Cowbird is tinged with fear. They're trying to protect their babies, I think. In the middle of the night, Cowbirds reunite secretly with their children to teach them all the skills they need for survival. Teach them how to be a Cowbird. Even as it feeds from the mouth of a stranger, the young Cowbird hears the distant call of her family and knows she isn't alone.