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Flying the Bird


My wife was in the front yard yesterday, edging the lawn. I was upstairs reading. I looked out the window to say hi, when I saw something small and brown fall from the neighbor’s roof onto the concrete driveway. I said something had fallen, so she went over to see what it was. But we both knew it was a baby starling.

I went outside and she handed the little bird to me. It was still alive. But there was no way we could get it back into its nest, 30 feet up. It was too heavy for its parents to pick it up. If we left it in the grass or in the bushes, one of the neighborhood cats would kill it.

So I held it for a while.

What do you do with a baby starling? We don’t like starlings. They nest in the eaves of our house, get into the attic, make noise at night, and who knows how much damage they’ve inflicted up there? They poo everywhere, too, as the baby starling demonstrated several times.

We tried to give it a worm, but it was not interested in eating.

I told the kids this was circle of life stuff. When we were done admiring this thing’s cuteness, I was going to set it down and walk away. Nature would take its course. Baby birds leaving the nest too soon pretty much always die.

Our small black cat chittered in the window behind me as I held the bird in the porch glider. Guinan has killed several starlings, chickadees and mice in her time. This one was no different to her. She would have been happy to bite its neck, bat it around a bit, and then bring it to Daddy as a trophy.

My wife went into the house as the kids and I stayed with the baby starling. They took a lot of pictures. We watched the adult starlings get more and more agitated. They have this high-pitched caw when they’re angry. It sounds like a crow on helium. I assume it was the momma starling who flew right up to my face as I held the baby out to her. She screamed at me and flew away. There was nothing she could do and she felt helpless.

In a few hours her baby would be dead.

I set the baby bird down in the grass and stepped back. The momma bird flew up to the baby and cawed once. She tried another time to pick the baby up on the fly, but only managed to bean it on the head. At one point there were six starlings flying around cawing, offering the baby food, screaming at me.

The baby headed for the street, so I picked it up and put it back in the grass. Then it headed for the flower garden for some shelter. But that’s where our little black cat takes her afternoon naps.

There’s a reason birds have wings, and a reason baby birds stay in the nest until they can fly. Walking birds are really just snacks for cats.

My wife came out of the house with an address and phone number written on a piece of paper. She had a small box with an old pillow case in it. She wanted to take the baby bird to a wildlife refuge south of town.

I put the bird in the box. She could live without the 50 starlings in our neighborhood. But not without this one.

We drove to the refuge and they were happy to take care of the little birdy. They said they had several others, too.

This morning the momma starling is cawing at me through the window, wanting to know where her baby is. My cat is watching her, hoping I’ll remove the window screen so she can catch another trophy. But that baby starling is far away in a better place, probably eating birdy bon bons and making new friends. And my wife didn’t have to watch  it die.



2 thoughts on “Flying the Bird

  1. Love this. So many emotions going at once. And the photo of the bird looking up at someone’s face (yours?) is amazing. The chittering of a cat. Mine does the same. Perfect word to describe that noise they make.

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