A friend of mine happens to work in the same office as a wildlife rehabilitator. Through that channel, I’m told that wild bird fledgings peak around Father’s day. Well, the half-grown pigeon on my balcony certainly seems to be on the verge of it. And yesterday the last of three baby robins in a nest in a tree outside the West door of the library where I work made it out of the nest. My department had been watching the nest for days. We were worried by the report of a hawk hanging around. We had a lot of sympathy for the overworked parents bringing bugs to three increasingly demanding beaky little maws! It turns out that robin parents sit in a branch on the same tree or another tree and sweetly chirp to persuade a chick to take the plunge. Pigeon parents – judging by the example on my balcony – coo to the near-fledglings to encourage them to come and get food and finally take flight.
This time of year it’s easy to see that parenting is in the warp and woof of life. So, as a matter of fact, is surrogate parenting. The wildlife rehabilitator has been watching a wren in her back yard for years. This female wren annually lays eggs in a neat little nest. By the time the eggs hatch she lines up a second boyfriend, so the chicks have three adults feeding and fending for them.
The rehabilitator brings cheeping shoeboxes to work because chicks need feeding every three hours. Her colleagues take a lively interest in the contents of the shoebox. Presently the shoebox contains a baby shrike. Shrikes are technically songbirds – not that they act like it: they are carnivores. So what do you feed a baby shrike? It turns out that you can buy minced mouse from pet food suppliers (!) I visualize the rehabilitator carefully dropping bits of mouse meat into the baby birdy’s eager little beak. And the many other rehabilitators, women and men, boys and girls, being surrogate parents for a wildly different species: tending baby birds (and other creatures) this time of year in order to get the little things to the point where they can be grown-up birds that fly away. Happy Father’s Day to all of them!