It was the strangest thing, and has been quietly haunting me ever since it happened.
We were on our way out the door to surprise a friend on his birthday, saying goodbye to a guest who had spent the night and was now on his way to Colorado, by bicycle. Tom had taken the first load of things out to the car, when he called me, and pointed out a small baby bird, still slightly downy, hopping and cheeping on our walkway. It didn’t seem able to fly yet, and could only manage a few feet in a flutter.
That was interesting, and I thought maybe I’d go out and take a picture. I sat down on the sidewalk, and started taking pictures, and the little guy (girl?) started hopping toward me. I held still, delighted to be getting a close-up view, and trying not to frighten it away. I shouldn’t have worried about that. It hopped straight up to me, and cuddled in next to my leg. When I moved away, it followed me and settled in again. It seemed cold (in spite of the down coat?), and desperately cute.
The only explanation for this one being out on its own, that I could think of, was that he’d been kicked out of his nest by a stronger sibling or something, and left without help from his parents, hopping and peeping as it was, it was probably going to end up as a coyote snack, if it didn’t die of exposure or starvation first.
Normally, I can be fairly stoic when it comes to natural selection. In nature, sometimes even the really cute little guys get killed and eaten, but then the cute little guys rarely make a personal plea. They rarely come right up and ask for a little warmth. It had snuggled up to me. It had started a Relationship.
I know nothing about how to care for a young bird. I didn’t know what kind of bird it was, or what it would normally eat. If we fed it, would it still learn to forage for itself eventually? Even more of an issue, we were leaving for a 3 day weekend in San Diego. We couldn’t take it with us, or care for it while it was here. so, we settled for leaving an old fleece jacket on the sidewalk with the little bird, and continued packing the car. Almost immediately, the bird settled into the jacket and I was able to pick up jacket and bird and move it to a more sheltered location. Then we left.
Tom wondered aloud whether we’d really done it a favor or not. Starving to death doesn’t sound like a good way to go. Maybe it would have been better for it to have been left more exposed, to die more quickly from a predator.
We’ll never know. When we got back, the little bird was gone.
I learned later, that sometimes when a young bird is first learning to fly, it spends some time hopping and flapping furtively on the ground, with the mother bird nearby, before getting itself straightened out and getting on with its life. I choose to believe that is what happened to my little bird.
Of all the birds in Yosemite, this little brown bird is my new favorite kind of bird… or would be if someone can tell me what kind of bird it is.