brood patch

Just last night, I was reading to my children a book about songbirds.  We learned all about how they sing, why they sing, and how elaborate some of their songs are.  Then we turned the page and discovered, quite by accident, one of the most beautiful things in the world:  a brood patch.

Have you ever heard of a brood patch?

When a mommy bird (and sometimes daddies too!) are getting ready to have babies, the feathers on their tummies get loose and in some species fall out.  In other species, such as ducks and geese, the birds themselves actually pull these feathers out and use them to insulate the nest.

The result is a brood patch, an oval of bare, tender skin on the underside of the bird, all wrinkled with purple and pink folds.

Why do they do this?  It turns out that those tummy feathers, otherwise used to keep the bird’s body heat in, become barriers that keep that heat away from their young.  And so, during breeding season, the better to conduct warmth to speckled eggs and then to newborns, songbirds develop a brood patch.  They lose their feathers for the sake of intimacy and new life.  They wiggle down into their nest and bring their young in close and warm, right up alongside their purple and pink skin.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Jesus says in the book of Matthew.  How often I long to gather your children together, as a mother hen gathers her chicks under her wings, as a songbird gathers her eggs under her tender, warm, purple and pink belly.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, God says to all of us, even now, I will make myself vulnerable to you, so you might be close and warm, so you might live - and most of all, so you might sing.


A big thank you to Rich Mooney for these sweet eggs so full of hope!