As I approached my car to go shopping one day three years ago, I saw a tiny bird fluttering, as a hummingbird might do, in front of a wing-mirror. The little thing wasn’t fazed at all by how close I was. Every now and then it would cling to the mirror’s rim and chirp away to itself. Sometimes it hung upside down from one leg.
That was just too good to ignore, so the next day I drove to Navua to purchase four 6 by 4 inch mirrors. My husband attached three to the courtyard fence, and one to a fence post beside the master bedroom and visible from the living room patio. Below the bottom of each mirror he nailed a 6 inch nail to make a perch.
Then I waited. It took about 4 weeks for ‘Little Bird’ to discover the first mirror; the one placed beneath an odd looking plant that bears red flowers. I’d noticed that it was particularly fond of red flowers. Just a week later it found the bedroom mirror and its chirruping would call me to lurk behind the curtain and watch its antics just eight feet away.
A Google search informed that it was a myzomela, or orange-breasted honey-eater, and endemic to Fiji. It’s approximately 4 inches long, with a black back, some red on its tail, a creamy breast tinged with yellow rather than orange, and a black head on which the male sports a round red cap, just like my ‘Little Bird’. Happily it is far from endangered.
One day, when I was watching it from the patio, I looked up from my book and there it was, hanging motionless. My heart sank as I stood and very slowly walked towards it. I was not five feet away when it suddenly took off into the air chirping like crazy. This became a favourite trick, hanging like a dead thing from its perch, and it was always un-nerving.
Occasionally, Little Bird would fly into the house and perform before the mirror above the dining room buffet, often landing on the fan blades or perching on a light fitting or beam, chirruping away.
Little Bird soon found a Mrs Little Bird and they provided much amusement when they chased each other, flying in their dipping fashion and perching in the neighbour’s orange tree. They are rarely still, these little birds, unless they are hanging upside down, that is. Up in the tree’s branches they were always in constant motion, jumping this way and that and keeping up a high pitched tweeting.
Then they vanished, and I assumed that Mrs Little Bird was producing a Baby Little Bird. It was about 6 weeks before I heard their characteristic cheeps, looked up, and there they were – three Little Birds! But they didn’t stay together for very long. Soon, Little Bird was on his own again and entertaining me with his antics. Then he was gone again, this time for almost three months.
It was on a very hot morning that I heard an exceedingly loud cheep that seemed to come from high up in our beamed ceiling. And sure enough, there was a very tiny Myzomela, all fluffed up, sitting on the cross beam. It cheeped again, and repeated its loud cheep at about 5 second intervals. This bird was clearly not Little Bird.
Shortly before noon it began to fly down every now and then, to a fan-blade to sit, cheep, and fly up again. By lunch-time we were very hot indeed but we couldn’t turn on the fans in case the bird flew into it. So we retired to the patio to sit it out. Wattled honey-eaters fly into the house every now and then. Unlike minahs and bulbuls, which find their way out quickly, they are not street smart and have to be ignored until dusk, when invariably they find their way out. We hoped this would be how this tiny creature would leave, too.
But mid-afternoon, with our ears ringing from the echoing cheeps, we heard an answering cheep from a garden opposite. Two myzomelas were having a conversation. All at once, there was a flurry of feathers and we watched in amazement as what was certainly Little Bird flew directly into the house – up to the beam and fed his little one.
He flew out of the house and back several times to feed the baby; then he changed tactics. He flew in without food, winging up to the baby and down again – out through to the patio, then back up; and we realised that he was trying to get the baby to follow him outside. Eventually it did move down to a fan-blade, and Little Bird left it there and flew off for more food.
The feeding continued until dusk was approaching, so we decided to open all the doors and windows wide, placed two jardinière stands beside each set of double doors to make them look invitingly gardenish, and vacated the living area. Half an hour later, with darkness falling, we returned to find that the birds had flown.
We never saw Little Bird again. But Baby Little Bird has found the mirrors and is now a frequent visitor. It still prefers to sing single cheeps and he is not nearly so entertaining as his daddy. He simply contents himself hopping left and right on the perches and I have yet to catch him hanging upside down. He is also a little shorter and fatter than his daddy, and his beak is not quite so long.
Baby Little Bird is a part of the household now, along with the mongoose family that lives beneath the patio – the skink that lives under the living room chairs – and the pair of minah birds that walk through the house several times a day.
So if you would like to attract myzomelas into your garden or onto your balcony, a mirror will do the trick. I thought that inexpensive plastic-framed mirrors would become crazed and dull in no time if left out in the weather, but they are lasting very well indeed. Such a lot of joy for so very little.