Friday, August 20, 2010

a bird in the hand...

The focus of this blog posting is not a plant, but rather a precious animal that came into our lives this week. Freddie, as we have come to call him, is a baby blue bird that I found outside the back door Tuesday night. He was on his back and thrashing about just steps from where I park my car in the driveway. (It should be noted that we aren’t quite sure what this bird’s sex is, but he looked like a Freddie to me so we just went with it).

It took me a few seconds to realize he was a baby bird, because he didn’t even have all his feathers yet. Once I turned him over on to his belly (I was wearing gloves), he immediately fell back on his side, and started making the sweetest chirping sounds I’ve ever heard. Evidently, this little guy could barely even walk. I cradled him in my hands and he rested there, silent and exhausted. I have no idea how long he had been struggling.

I placed him, gloves and all inside the mesh fencing that surrounds the tomatoes, thinking he would at least be safe from most predators until I could figure out what to do. I called Walden’s Puddle*, a fabulous resource for injured and orphaned wild animals in middle Tennessee, and left a message.

Their outgoing message had some extremely helpful information. As per their instructions I looked for a nest but couldn’t find one. (It was getting dark, and there are not many tree branches that could be easily reached.) They recommend bringing nestlings inside overnight, and keeping them in a small box with rags.

When Whit got home, we went to work making an appropriate box/shelter for him and relocating him inside. It’s really important not to handle baby birds very much, they are so fragile. I was surprised at how involved Whit wanted to be with helping this baby bird. I could tell Freddie had gotten to Whit too, and we were both going to do what we could to help this little guy.

[It’s important to differentiate nestlings from fledglings, since fledglings should be left alone. Nestlings are baby birds without all their feathers that spend all of their time in the nest being fed and staying warm. Fledglings are baby bids that are fully feathered and experimenting with flight, while being watched from afar by their parents.]

Have you ever heard that momma birds will abandon their young because of the scent of a human? This is a myth! The only time a mother might abandon her young because of human interference is if she sees her eggs have been tampered with, because this means a predator may be nearby.

I could tell Freddie was hungry; Nestlings are usually fed once an hour. So as per Walden’s Puddle’s instructions, we attempted to feed Freddie soggy dog food. In this way, as Whit pointed out, even Cooper was helping our foster bird child. We put a small amount on the tips of our fingers and Freddie sucked away. Feeding Freddie was one of the sweetest things I’ve ever been a part of, Whit even got a little misty-eyed.

The next challenge was keeping him warm. Walden’s Puddle suggests placing a heating pad under the box, but we didn’t have one available. My electric range top stays warm when the oven is on, so we kept the oven on low all night and set Freddie’s box on top of the electric range. (Whenever I start to tell this part of Freddie's story, people always have the most horrified look on their face when I mention the word oven.)

On Wednesday morning, Freddie awoke with even more energy than the night before. It was surreal to hear a bird chirping in the kitchen. I was thrilled that he had made it through the night. We fed him some more, and I decided to work from home until Walden’s Puddle called me back and I could drop him off there.

But I was still determined to figure out where this little guy had come from, and set out to find the nest once more. Low and behold, I found it! It was in a flower pot about halfway up the Baker’s rack I keep on my deck by the back door. There in the back of the pot was a nest made out of moss, and three baby birds that looked just like Freddie!

This would mean that Freddie fell out of the nest (several feet down), somehow got to the edge of the deck (about 6’ away), and then fell another few feet down to get to where I found him. I was skeptical that he could do all this maneuvering but this had to be his nest! I called Whit at work to let him know and set about reuniting Freddie with his family.

I took a few last pictures of Freddie and then placed him back in the nest with his siblings. I peeked out the window a few hours later and saw what I presume to be the momma bird, worm in mouth, making her way to the nest. I wish the nest was positioned in such a way that we could watch the goings on from inside, but alas we cannot.

A few hours later, Whit asked me how Freddie was doing and I looked out the window to see a little baby bird trying to stand up on the deck floor. I’m pretty sure Freddie had fallen out of the nest again. I quickly picked him up and put him back in his nest and started fretting about whether that had been the right nest, whether his siblings/mom had rejected him.

On Thursday, Whit counted FOUR baby birds in the nest and I was so relieved. Come to find out, blue birds often build their nests about 4’ off the ground. Also, they can have several broods a season and the older siblings typically help care for the new babies. It makes me feel better imagining an extended of family of birds watching over these 4 precious babies.

I’m hopeful Freddie and all the nestlings stay in the nest until they have more feathers and/or start to practice flying under the tutelage of their bird parents. I'm excited and nervous about watching Freddie and his siblings practice flight. I definitely feel like I have a vested interest in this brood and their well-being, and I look forward to updating everyone on their status.

A big ‘thank you’ to Walden’s Puddle* for providing us with the information necessary to help Freddie. It is such a wonderful non-profit organization, which like many these days is struggling to make ends meet. They are actually having a fundraiser this weekend, tickets and information can be found here.

*Walden’s Puddle is a non-profit organization dedicated to the rehabilitation of wildlife by providing treatment and care for sick, injured, and orphaned wildlife, as well as encouraging education which promotes a greater understanding and appreciation for wildlife and its habitat. Walden’s Puddle is unique in being the only professionally staffed non-profit organization and wildlife rehabilitation facility in Middle Tennessee.

Walden’s Puddle is properly chartered as a charitable non-profit corporation by the State of Tennessee and is approved by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3 organization. All donations are tax deductible. 615-299-9938 / P.O. Box 641 Joelton, TN 37080


  1. What a great story Madelene! I'm glad to hear he was doing better. It really warms your heart to help a defenseless little animal in trouble. I hope he stays in the neighborhood when he grows up!

  2. Thanks, MA! I hope Freddie and his sibs hang out in the 'hood too :-)