Cat blog about my life with many, many cats.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

I never meant to fall in love, really, I didn't.

I simply couldn't help myself. I'm sure you can relate.

I was sitting at the computer one evening and found my key tapping interupted by Earl, our huge white meatloaf of a cat, making his proud trilling sounds. He likes to announce his arrrivals and departures, and he loves to be fussed over.

I went over to call him "Baby Cat" and chuck him under the chin like usual. (He likes to be coddled like a kitten, even though he's a 16 pound bounder.) But before I could reach him, I heard what sounded like the squawking of a chicken being stepped on.

"Uh oh, this can't be good," I'm thinking.

Sure enough, Earl had brought in a baby bird. Not just any baby bird. A fledgling little yellow thing with just a few tufts of baby feathers scattered about the head which gave him an Einstein, mad-scientist, look.

The bird was complaining so loudly and fluttering about so frantically that my first guess was that maybe he hadn't been completely mauled by the cat. . . just yet. Smoky, our pretty grey female who has a hankerin' for live food, was about to make a dash for Baby Bird, as she probably thought Earl, her paramour, had brought it for her. (Earl's always trying to impress her.)

I made a quick dash and scooped up Baby Bird. It was like holding tufts of air.

And then it happened. I fell in love.

I'm usually not big on birds. I enjoy the occasional stunning flyover of our local hawks. I boo at buzzards (since they're supposed to be bad luck,) and I appreciate the cute baby ducks and geese who litter our riverbanks in springtime. But I don't get close to any of them. (Good thing, too, as those mother geese would probably pluck out my eyeballs, given the chance.)

But this plucky little thing, squawking in my hands, opening his mouth big as you please in expectation of food - well, who could resist his charms?

He wasn't one of those ugly, wrinkly, baby birds. either. He appeared fully mature, completely feathered (except for those tiny Einstein tufts around the temples), and was flapping his wings pretty well. I could tell he hadn't quite mastered the flying thing, though.

I figured that he had made his first swoop down from his natal nest and landed somewhere where Earl was able to nab him.

T. and I tried to determine if Baby Bird was damaged. He didn't appear to be in pain as we gently touched him, and he seemed in good spirits, once he recovered from his fright.

T. fed him some watered down cat kibble with an eyedropper. (Later we did some research, and it turns out that this was actually a smart thing to do. Don't ever feed a baby bird straight water out of an eyedropper, because they can drown! They have these little holes at the back of the throat, and if they fill up with water, they choke. When they are born, they get all of their liquids from the regurgitated food that their mother brings them.)

(Yum, right? I'm glad I didn't have to rely on my mum feeding me chucked up Whoppers when I was a fledgeling.)

Baby Bird was put inside a cat carrier for the night and locked in our enclosed side porch. As we stepped back into the house, there were a bunch of cats with their noses pressed up against the door, looking guilty. "What, we don't want no bird, nope, not us, we weren't eavesdropping on all of those loud squawks."

The next day, Baby Bird seemed okay, and we didn't know what to do. He was definitely at fledgling age and needed to either be returned to his mother or sent off to become a grown up bird. Because we weren't sure if he was injured or not, we decided to take him up to one part of our roof upstairs, an area where you can walk out on. This would give him room to flop around a little, test his wings, but he would be near his mom. (We figured she was somewhere nearby and that she might even hear him squawking.)

I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it, but pretty soon, Baby Bird was exploring a little on the porch, squawking, and his mother came and fed him a worm! She was a beautiful yellow flicker. Ahh, that's why Baby Bird had such a cute yellow tummy.

Mother Bird kept coming back to feed Baby Bird throughout the day, and since it was nice and sunny, we left Baby Bird out there and hoped that nature would take its course. Either Mother Bird would keep feeding him, or he'd fly off on his own, or both, we figured.

At one point, we watched Baby Bird flap his way off the roof, but he didn't fly all that well. He gently glided down into our bushes. We hurriedly scooped him up again as Roman, one of our yearling kittens, (the adorable orange guy) prepared to snatch him up in his jaws.

Baby Bird went back up to the roof. Mama Bird returned to pop some juicy bugs into his mouth.

We had to go out for a while, but we were torn. Would Baby Bird make it down from the roof again, only do a little better with the flying?

Wild birds don't get second chances, generally speaking. Once they leave the nest, they either take off or don't make it.

We didn't think we should try to keep him as a pet, not with seven cats in the house. This would not be good. We'd never be able to ensure his safety.

And he was definitely at the age where he should leave the nest. Last year, a barn swallow had a nest on our porch with three babies in it. The babies had these wobbly heads and unfocused gazes until, one day, they magically looked peppy and alert, more mature. Within a day of them looking this way, all three of them were gone. They'd taken off successfully, making their way out into the wild. It was an amazing thing to observe, actually, how they were just mature all of a sudden.

We didn't think that coddling Baby Bird was going to help him.

Again, we hoped that Nature would take its course, and everything would be okay.

Later, we came home, and there was no sign of Baby Bird. We scoured the property, located each of the seven cats and grilled them. "What, I didn't eat no bird," was the concensus.

Yay! Baby Bird must have taken off on his own.

I felt like a host on The Nature Channel or something. We'd witnessed our own, wonderful cycle of life.

Our spirits were light until, later that night, Smoky came in with. . .

You guessed it.

Baby Bird in her mouth. No signs of life this time.

He must have made another go of the flying thing, only he didn't get too far.

He looked like he was sleeping, just a pretty little bird laying down for a nap.


T. and I were heartbroken. Had we done all of the wrong things? We had to put Baby Bird outside, because his mom was still coming to feed him, and she never would have been able to feed him if he'd been kept indoors.

Sometimes, when Nature takes its course, you simply don't want to watch.

Moral of the story? I don't know. I do know that I went through the whole cycle of love and loss, all in 24 hours' time.

I feel richer for it, though. Baby Bird was a special, beautiful visitor to our lives. I won't forget him.


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