Baby Birds

There are four of them, not three, as I thought. No wonder it takes two adults to feed and clean them. They crowd the nest and poke each other, their little yellow beaks piercing the air. Today they will begin to chirp nonstop, as they figure it will bring Mama with fat, juicy worms. Their eyes are still closed, their heads wobbly on skinny, unfeathered necks. They hear the beat of her wings and all mouths open wide for the gift that sustains them, grows them, powers their tiny hearts.

They are a miracle.

I see them easily from my kitchen window. By tomorrow I’ll be able to photograph them peering back at me. The adults will take a bit more time for themselves, leave the nest a touch longer, rest a little in the grass, preparing for the hours to come when they will coax and scold and nudge their children to leave the nest and fly. The process will take all day. One of them will refuse until dusk when siblings are gone and they are alone and fearful to obey the noisy scold that is their mother.

Those that launched will exhibit what clearly is robust joy to have found the world beyond the mess that has been their home. Out of the eggshell, feathers dried, eyes wide open, they will revel in freedom, safe beneath the watchful eyes of their parents. Dad will stalk and dive upon the resident cat who sees dinner vulnerable on the grass. Landing babies, practicing, are not fleet of anything as they struggle to master the purpose of wings. Flying down is less challenge than flying up. They will look perplexed to see they have power to command. It will take awhile, as they  discover Mama is always close, always watchful, always pushing exhaustion as she prepares her chicks for independence.

It is not unlike the daily care of newborns, needy and naked, helpless and dependent. The natural bonding of mothers to their babies displays the same intensity of purpose, to protect and nourish, following their instinct.

It just takes much longer to acclimate to the rhythm of life, though not as long as, say, elephants, whose gestation alone is fifteen months. Oy. To be followed by eating endless trees and bushes to provide the nourishment necessary to feed a full ton of baby. Ellies require the help of a whole herd of aunties to tend a toi toi. Such a baby needs sharp eyes and attentive care to keep the exuberance in check. And elephant milk. Lots of milk.

By the end of this month my bird babies will have flown the coop, moving ever farther afield, identified only by the proximity of two adult robins monitoring their progress until the day they are no longer needed for the basics.

Then I will turn my attention to the dishes in the sink and the rest of the mundane house chores.


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