May 16, 2004

the nestling

A baby bird died today. They die every day; they fall out of nests or get caught by predators. Itís the way things go and you have to accept that. And I do. But this one matters to me.

Two days ago, Dan found it on the cement under the leaning Star Pine in our back yard. A nestling, so naked, so scrawny, so very young. Lying very still but breathing so heavily. We investigated online. We called wildlife rescue organizations for advice. We put it in a small takeout container with holes cut in the bottom and attached it to a branch as high as Dan could reach with the ladder, just a few branches under the nest. We watched and we hoped.

Every time his makeshift nest was jiggled, that tiny bird tilted his head up and opened his beak: ďFeed me! Oh, feed me!Ē And we wished we could have. I think thatís why this one bothers me so much. Itís that nurturing instinct, wanting to protect and comfort and give aid. But this baby needed its mommyís magical regurgitation brew. So we watched and waited and thought about bringing it in but theyíd said wait a few days, watch for the mother. And indeed a sleek mourning dove seemed to be around a lot, watching from the garage roof, swooping into the tree, chasing a squirrel out of the yard.

Yesterday I saw her feeding the baby. I did. I walked out onto the back porch and spotted her leaning over that black takeout container in a posture that could only mean one thing. And I felt so glad. So relieved. Giving life, a true mitzvah. But this morning when I climbed the ladder and jiggled the container, no baby head popped up. And when I looked inside, he was lying as if asleep, head stretched out. So restful. But not breathing.

We donít know what happened: if the night was too cold and our paper towel nest lining too thin, if mom didnít come back enough with food, if the baby was in fact fatally injured from that harsh fall. Ultimately, as with all these sorts of things, we canít second guess. We can only try to accept that we tried and failed. But I mourn that tiny bird. I canít help it.

Posted by Tamar at May 16, 2004 08:55 PM

Oh, that hurts. We have been there, my family and I. We are true birders so that makes it even worse. The nestlings are so frail, and you're right many of them don't even live to leave the nest of natural causes, but this one was special.
You tried your best to give her the chance. I can only say that if Dan didn't find her in the first place, she wouldn't have lived even those few more days.
Last year we had a fawn born in our field, we watched him for a week every day with his mom, one morning we awoke to Black-headed Vultures in the yard - seems something had gotten to "little guy" in the night, or perhaps he died of natural causes but for three days the mother deer came out of the woods every hour to the spot where my husband had removed the carcas. I can't tell you how this broke our hearts ... and to this day my 11-year-old daughter does not know what happened. She thinks the mom just took him to another field.
SIGH - sorry to go on and on here.
anyway, my heart goes out to you!

Posted by: Nancy at May 18, 2004 05:23 PM