For several days we watched the two fledglings fidget in their nest.
The last brood, hatched in the nest on our front porch, consisted of 4 Robins. This one? Only 2.
The mother Robin was easy to pick out when she was off the nest – she had what appeared to be a feather crest on the top of her head…or a Mohawk, and stood out from the others that hunted bugs and worms in our front yard.
I remember the day I first noticed her on the nest – and the day she settled onto the nest to incubate her eggs. It’s hard to believe that was a month ago. She had rebuilt a nest used late this Spring.
Her eggs hatched a few days later than I anticipated and assumed it had something to do with the hot dry weather we’d had. They hatched with the first rains.
Mother and Father birds fed the babies. With only two hungry mouths in the nest, the babies ate twice as much as the brood before and grew quickly – surprisingly fast.
I noticed the father stopped dropping by the nest late last week. And, the mother’s visits became more sporadic – sometimes with food for them…sometimes not. Sometimes she dropped by as if to see if the baby birds were still there, or to inquire as to why they had not yet taken wing.
Last Friday night, the baby birds spent the night in the nest alone. That probably wasn’t their first night alone, but it was the first I noted. Saturday, I did not see Momma bird at the nest at all.
The fledgling birds grew restless as the sun climbed higher and the day grew warmer. Easily startled, they jumped at the slightest noise.
Hubby had been cutting grass in the front yard and paused to rest on the step of the porch, just below the nest. When he rose to stand, the little birds freaked and with great squawking and flapping of wings they fluttered from the nest into the center of the front yard.
I was not here to witness it, but he shared his surprise and felt sorry that he had frightened the little birds out of the safety of their nest.
In truth, the nest was no longer a safe place for them. They were exposed to the eyes of hawks and Blue Jays…Mom was no longer there to protect them. And, she had stopped bringing them food. Her job was done. It was time for the nest to be abandoned. The baby birds were ready to fly away from the nest she had prepared for them.
They were on their own.
As realization set in, the little birds became jumpy, unsure, afraid. And, it was that flightiness that prompted them to allow instinct to drive them from the nest and take flight on the air their wings were created to beat.
It’s been 6 days since we last saw the baby birds. The last one to set eyes on them was Hubby – and that was as they touched down in the grass.
I can’t help but wonder – if the momma bird continued to feed and protect her babies, would they ever leave the nest apart from being pushed out by siblings or tumbling from the edge? The nest, built with twigs, is intended for temporary use only.
I also can’t help but wonder if we do our own children a disservice by encouraging them to become safe and secure in the home we’ve made for them. Children are born to grow up, to move out, to embrace their own lives. Like baby birds, they should take flight. We humans should look to our bird friends for instruction in raising our young. The secure nest is temporarily built, the care and provision lasts only as long as they are unable to secure it for themselves. As the young grown, the nest becomes smaller, more uncomfortable…less a fit for them and less fit as well.
Now, I’m sure that when the little birds (that weren’t so little any more) fluttered from the nest Momma Robin was nearby watching. And, I’m sure she answered their calls and guided them to safety. She didn’t fly off and leave them without hope or direction. Birds have better sense than that. Her goal was independence for her babies.
I wonder…what is our goal for our babies? And, what steps are we taking from the moment they are born to prepare them and ourselves for the fulfillment of that goal?