Monday, October 15

One Lucky Bird

We have always had a lot of pets. Cats, dogs, rats, fish, rabbits. It’s always something. Right now we have two dogs, Penny and Scrappy (the love of my life) and five cats, Little Bear Bubbo Brown, Groaner, Julia, Snaps and Gabish. All our pets have given us something: love, amusement and, in the case of a blind guinea pig, scars. But I think the animal that touched my heart in the most amazing way was Lucky Bird.

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.


Erica Orloff said...

I love this post. We have three dogs--all of them disobedient. Right now, we are foster parenting two 2-week old kittens whose mom was hit by a car. The kittens arrived from the vet who asked us to take them . . . bedraggled and scrawny, and now bottle-fed every three hours or so, they are perking up. We have a parrot, a lovebird, three fish . . . and a python named Lydia (for the record, I hate the python; she belongs to my son). I have loved all my animals--and have had rabbits and ferrets, hamsters and mice, too. But birds hold a special place in my heart, and I have raised finches before. I love hearing their sweet little chirping.

Gerb said...

When we were in Japan, my daughter was the student in charge of the 'vivarium' at school. They had a flock of finches, but the numbers were dwindling. Baby birds were not thriving. Jenna took it upon herself to hand raise five little baby finches until they were strong enough to live with the group. They were the cutest things, and came to us when we whistled and held out our fingers. They were just a few of the many things very hard to leave when we returned to the States...


Amanda Ashby said...

My dad was an avid bird watcher and I was surprised at how much I liked reading all the native bird books he collected.

And I've just got to say, Erica - a python? Eeeeek! Btw, have you read Brenda Royce Scott's monkey books? They are hilarious and have lots of animal antics going on!!!!

Jessica Burkhart said...

What a great post! :) I (illegally) kept a baby squirrel that I found last year for a couple of hours before I released it. I wanted to keep it because it was sooo adorable, but he/she wasn't hurt and needed to get back into squirrel world. :)

Sara Hantz said...

When we lived in the UK my husband found a parrot on the steps of the building he worked at. So, he borrowed a cage and bought it home - not wanting to leave it wandering. We stood the cage on top of a wall unit and when we got up in the morning the bird had pecked all along the wooden rail that went around the wall!!! Lucky for the parrot we found the owner and returned it!!

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