I wasn’t much of a bird person. Birds made pleasant songs, and gave our cats something to watch. My outlook changed one summer, when I had a close-up, personal experience with a wild bird.

During a walk, I glanced down just in time to avoid stepping on a baby bird. He lay in the gravel on the edge of the road. His eyes looked up and saw me, and the orange-tinted mouth opened in an appeal for food.

Still covered in downy feathers, he was too young to fly. I thought he must have fallen out of his nest. My quick decision was to take him home with me. He relaxed into my palm and chirped as I walked back to my house.

After researching online, I was disheartened to learn that my “abandoned” chick was, in fact, a fledgling robin that the parents were still feeding. I called a wildlife rehabilitator for advice, but was told, “You should have left him where you found him.”

At that point, I felt responsible to do my best to save the chick. Choking back my gag reflex, I dug up several squirming earthworms, and set about to feed my charge. He was famished by then, and nearly swallowed the tweezers along with the worms. His appetite sated, he shut his beak, closed his eyes, and was soon asleep.

He let me know when he was hungry, that’s for sure. He could emit an amazing volume of noise! He consumed worms, cat food, and blueberries with great delight.


He grew, and so did his feathers. He started to flap his wings. Soon, he flailed away with so much pent-up energy that it was clear he was ready to fly.

My husband and I brought him outside. He hopped across the deck table, leaped, and hit the side of the house. Undaunted, he tried again. Within the hour, he made his first flight. The next day, his flying practice continued. He made rapid improvement as he traveled from tree to tree. Still dependent on me for food, however, he came to me when I called him, eager to be fed.

I made the difficult decision to leave him outside. He’s a wild bird, I reminded myself, he can’t be caged forever. Let him fly free.

The next morning, I called. “Little Robin!”

Silence, and then a raucous, “Cheep!” He flew down and landed on my outstretched arm!

He stayed in our yard for several days. But the parting of our ways was near. I watched him one afternoon as he carried on a lively, back-and-forth conversation with an adult robin. It was a bittersweet moment.

He came less often for food. One morning he took a couple of worms and a blueberry, refused any more, and quickly flew away. We never saw him again. Did our young robin survive his first year? Did he leave any descendants who still inhabit our woods? We will never know, but because of him, I will never again take our backyard birds for granted.

— Special to the Telegram

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