That Is Not My Baby
by Jim Kelly
(Monticello, Ga., USA)
One day a couple years ago, my daughter called me in a panic. She had found a baby bird that had fallen out of a nest and her cats were trying to eat it.
She said she looked everywhere to find the nest the bird had fallen from, but had no luck. "Daddy, you've got to do something!"
As all Daddy's know, those are the words that put us in high gear.
A few weeks earlier, I had befriended a Wren that was building a nest in my shop by providing shavings from a wood working project I was doing.
I placed the shavings in front of the box she was building in, and as soon as I would move away, she would take each shaving and line her nest with them along with various pieces of string and straw.
She eventually laid her eggs and hatched three babies. She flew constantly back and forth bringing them food and removing feces. She never exhibited any fear of me or my presence as she went about her tasks, even when I would peek in to see the progress of her babies.
Early each morning, when I would come into the shop, she would fly out of her box, light on a rafter above my work bench, look directly at me, chirp several times and then fly off to the tasks of the day, namely feeding the growing babies. I really felt she was saying "Good morning" in her own way.
When my daughter called with her found baby bird problem, I wondered if my Wren friend would take on one more mouth to feed?
I asked my daughter what kind of bird was it she found? She had no idea. Since the fallen baby birds predicament looked pretty grim, I decided to see if Mother Wren just might take on this addition.
I drove over, picked up the baby bird my daughter had wrapped in a towel and took it back to my shop.
Mother Wren was out and about when I got there, so I put the fallen baby bird in her nest with her three babies. Immediately, I saw a problem that would probably complicate this adoption attempt further than I had expected.
The fallen baby bird was twice as big as Mother Wrens babies and was definitely not of the same species!
I stepped back, sat on a stool by my work bench and nervously awaited the return of Mother Wren. What would I do with it if she pushed it out of her nest?
Take it back to the hungry cats where it had come from? Try to feed it myself?
As a thousand 'What ifs' flew through my mind, Mother Wren returned.
She lit on the edge of the nest and was apparently stunned at what she saw. She flew away and back to the nest again for another look.
She peered deep in her nest apparently counting heads, flew to the rafter over my work bench, looked at me and chirped loudly, and flew away.
Oh No! I thought. She's abandoning the nest!
I'll have four baby birds to try to take care of without much chance of success!
After what seemed like an eternity, she came back, lit on the edge of her nest, AND FED THE NEW BABY BIRD!
I was ecstatic! I called my daughter to tell her the good news and she wept with joy. Men aren't supposed to cry but I'll have to admit I was a little misty myself.
Mother Wren continued to feed and care for all FOUR of her babies until they were big enough to leave the nest.
The next year about the same time Mother Wren returned to my shop to apparently build another nest. She lit on my work bench for the first time within two feet of me.
She looked up at me and chirped several times and flew to the box where she had nested the year before.
I got out my wood plane and a nice piece of wood and started cutting shavings.