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What To Do With Baby Birds

It was Friday afternoon a couple years ago; we were outside doing yard work in the back of the house... Ron was there pulling weeds, when he heard a "THUD" beside him. He looked down, and on the ground was a baby bird.

It had fallen from its nest, which was two stories above, in the rafters of our attic. He carefully picked up the bird, and handed it to me; then we went inside to show our daughter, and to find a box to put it in... We filled the box with dried grass, and laid the bird inside its makeshift nest.

When Ron went back outside, he found two more baby birds there on the ground among the grass and weeds. But they were dead. He called to our daughter again, so she could take those two and bury them.

Within an hour's time, another bird fell; so we put it in the box with the first bird. Then a little while later, another bird fell to the ground! THUD!

Three little baby birds, huddled together in our homemade nest; their tiny bodies, maybe a week old, were shaking, and breathing hard, as they probably wondered what had just happened to their safe and secure world. These helpless, orphaned creatures were now in our care. For some reason they had fallen, or were pushed out from their nest, and landed on the ground.

But, we couldn't just leave them there, could we? To lie on the cold, hard ground, to suffer silently and helplessly, for hours perhaps, until they starved to death, or simply quit breathing, because they no longer had the strength to live?

"These birds have no eternal value," I told myself. "They're just common, everyday birds"

Probably thousands of birds, every year, or tens of thousands of birds, fall to their death, unnoticed by any human. Yet, these three birds fell, literally, at our feet. And because I value life and live to honor the Creator of life, I spent the next three days fighting for their lives.

Between Ron's knowledge of pigeons, and my own maternal instincts, we put together something for them to eat, and started feeding them with an eye-dropper.

Every half hour or less, they demanded to be fed. All of my plans for the weekend were set aside, (whether I liked it or not), because they required constant care. We figured if they survived the first night, they would be alright. And then we'd have to figure out what to do with them permanently.

The next morning, one bird had died--the one whose breathing was the hardest--the one we didn't expect to live. So, that left two baby birds for me to take care of, until we could take them somewhere to get the type of care they really needed. This meant I needed to get serious about feeding them a proper bird diet. I made a couple phone calls, and looked through other resources to get the right information.

(Ron thought they were robins, so I looked up the diet for baby robins...) Ugh! Their diet is earthworms, and LOTS OF THEM! As in, two or three earthworms every hour!

Now, birds eat fruit, too. I know that, partly because I read it, and partly because every summer our grapevines produce grapes--grapes that we never get to enjoy, because all the birds in our little town beat us to them! But, earthworms are the most important part of a baby bird's diet, because it needs all that protein to build strong muscles, so it can fly. And that's what birds do best--fly. Especially in our neighborhood, because if a bird can't fly very well, it's going to get eaten by a cat, because we have lots of cats in our neighborhood, too. And I wasn't going to go to all the trouble of caring for those birds, only to have them crippled and hobbling around my front yard, to become cat food!

Which meant, of course, that I had to get busy and dig up some worms.

Now, I'm learning a lot about gardening, living here in the country, and as I work in our vegetable and flower beds, I've found quite a few earthworms. So, I knew where to look. But, you must understand something... I am not a tom-boy, or a farmer, or a cowgirl, or anything that has to do with getting dirty. I don't care for dirt, and I don't care for messes. My mother raised me to be a lady, and I happen to like it that way! I only appreciate earthworms in the dirt where they belong, doing what God created them to do, which is tunneling through the soil, to help my flowers and herbs and vegetables grow.

But on that following weekend, I spent the morning hours on my hands and knees, digging in my flower beds for earthworms, so that I could feed them to the two little baby birds who were depending on me for their very life.

Now, I thought there were a lot of bugs in the air and above the ground where I live, but there are MILLIONS of bugs and worms and other creeping things UNDER THE GROUND that the average human doesn't normally see!

So, I mashed a soft, ripe banana in a bowl, and added several small and skinny earthworms (NOT fat and juicy ones) to it. I mashed that mixture together, and poured in a little water to make it soupy enough for the eye dropper. (Eventually, I added some cooked egg yolks to provide the protein, as the whole earthworm thing was getting to me.)

Amazingly, this diet was working, because each day they were a little stronger than they had been the day before, and their feathers were growing, and their downy fluff was disappearing. And that was a big relief for all of us.

Another big relief--Thank You LORD!-- was that baby birds, unlike mammals, do not eat during the night. After spending all day feeding them, and cleaning up after them, (because their little tummies can only hold so much food, and just as quickly as I was putting food into their tiny bodies at the one end, they were expelling what had been previously eaten, at the other end...) So, when the sun went down, we carefully put the lid over the box, not quite all the way, and those two baby birds went right to sleep! For the whole night! Whew!

Each morning when the sun came up, and the birds outside started chirping and singing, our two baby birds would start chirping, too. Just quietly, and hesitantly, at first, there in the darkness, underneath the lid of that box, until we'd lift up the lid, and look in. And immediately they would look up, and their little mouths would open just as wide as they could, and the whole time, they were chirping, because they were hungry and ready to eat!

These baby birds had the biggest and widest little beaks I've ever seen! Half of their little faces were covered with beak! A bright yellow beak that lifted and opened so that I could fill it (and the long neck) with food. Within that short period of time, those two little birds had learned to become dependent upon me, because it was my face they saw leaning over that box, every time they got fed. Then, eventually they reached the point, where, if they saw me looking in, they would automatically open their mouths, even if they had just eaten a few minutes before.

And that's how I spent that one intense, yet memorable weekend...

First thing Monday morning I was on the phone again, to every veterinarian and wildlife organization I could find in the phone book.

"I have these birds that I cannot keep. Where can I take them?" I asked everyone I talked to. Finally I found a place in the valley.

"Well, we don't normally take in birds..." the voice said.

But I insisted, got the address, and took off.

When I arrived at the wildlife care center, and told the caretaker where they came from, still insisting that I was in no position to raise them myself, she opened the box and exclaimed, "Oh! They're Starlings! Starlings will eat anything!"