No one thought Lucky Bird was going to live, including the folks at the Audubon Society. My children had found a nest knocked to the ground and brought the birds to me to save. I wasn't sure what to do and quickly ran them up to the Audubon Society. "Take them back," they told me.
"The parents won't take them back," my then six-year-old son informed them. "They have our scent on them now."
"Actually, that isn't true," the kind lady told him. "That's an old wives tale. The parenting instinct in them is so strong they will take them back no problem. You just have to get them back to the parents as quickly as possible."
My son glared at me -- the purveyor of this myth -- and I winced.
Lucky Bird didn't look very lucky that day. He wasn't huddled with the others in the corner of the box, but alone to one side. He was smaller and not as mature as the rest. "It will be more dangerous for the parents to raise them on the ground, but it can be done."
The parent birds led his siblings away and we became the family of a small and sickly bird. We raised him on a combination of dog food and egg. We watched as his feathers became glossy on the new diet and he made the children laugh with his imperious and demanding squawks. I learned what it was like to become the mother of a baby bird.
We knew he was a finch of some kind and in between feedings we poured over bird books trying to further identify this little creature that had taken over our home and stolen our hearts. Not only did we identify him as a house finch but learned to identify other birds as well. The Back Yard Bird Shop became our favorite store and we put up different types of bird feeders for all the different birds in our community. Watching him fly led us to books on flight and we became the avid collectors of feathers. One small bird left us with a big hunger for knowledge.
We were heartbroken when Lucky Bird was killed by a senseless accident, but he left us with an undying love for birds and the sure knowledge of the fragility of this particular species.
Just to let you all know, THIS IS ILLEGAL! I didn’t know that at the time and wouldn’t do it again. But the memory of my baby bird still causes a ping in my heart.