It’s an exciting time for a momma bird. Naked, needy hatchlings have emerged from speckled eggs kept warm in a nest of weeds and twigs. Suddenly, bellies need to be filled and bird parents stay busy feeding multiple babies. Only fresh worms and insects will do.
I wonder if momma bird is blessed with sleepers, but at 5 a.m. when I hear the chirp of birds everywhere, I know.
Parenthood is a whirlwind of constant feedings and early mornings for these birds. Before they know it, they’ll need to give those babies a nudge out of the nest to take flight and that nest will be empty.
Several years ago, my kids and I witnessed a brood of birds leaving their nest. My then four-year-old son watched in wonder as six fledglings perched on our neighbor’s tree branch and awkwardly plummeted to the grass below. They looked like fuzzy brown pom-poms scattered on the lawn, hopping about and chirping like children who’d just been let outside for recess. One by one, they tested their wings, flying a little farther each time. We watched as each bird flew around the tree, up to its branches, and within the safety of the yard.
We quietly watched them for an hour until it was time for dinner. But one bird still hadn’t figured out how to work its wings. It still hopped around the yard, not knowing how to fly while its chittering siblings flew around each other and explored the great big world. My daughter was only a year old and would have put the jumping pom-poms in her mouth if she could. But my son began to worry for the bird. I think he would have stayed there all night to make sure that bird learned to fly and made it back to its tree.
We went in to eat dinner. I didn’t know what would happen to the bird and decided my son couldn’t worry about it anymore. But he did. He hardly ate and sat through our meal near tears. Afterward, we checked on the bird and didn’t find it. They were all gone. I told him they all found their wings and they were okay; sometimes it takes some birds longer to learn. Maybe he could relate.
Momma bird’s work, though in far less time than us humans, still required lots of effort: keeping the eggs safe and warm, the many feedings, keeping the babies safe from predators—and making sure her offspring all got out of the nest when they were supposed to.
My son still talks about that little bird. Every spring. I wonder if he still hopes it made it to safety, or maybe he just remembers how cool it was seeing nature in action. Regardless, it made an impact on his young life. In time, he’ll leave my nest and I have to give him a push, show him how to fly, and hope he’s safe.
There are many differences between a momma bird and me. But the biggest of all? When momma bird’s nest is empty, she gets to do it all over again.