Last year I became a “certified wildlife rehabilitator.” This meant I went through 2 days worth of classes that included tube-feeding baby possums (yes, I did this) and practicing subcutaneous injections on frozen dead rodents (did this one too, gag).
I learned so much in those two days about all sorts of animals, except birds. Birds require an FDA license to handle and rehab, which is lengthier and more expensive to obtain. I was a little sad about this because I have a weird attraction to ducks and imagined keeping some in my bathtub – so long to that dream. We did learn a little bit about birds though.
In the spring, several sparrows built a nest on the inner roof of our front porch. We were not surprised, as the previous 2 springs birds had built nests in the little tree in our front yard. We could see the nest from inside the house and we all eagerly waited for the arrival of baby birds.
And one morning there they were – noisy, scrawny little bird heads popped up over the edge of the nest. When we’d open the front door, they would stop making noise and slowly lower their heads. In only a few weeks, the babies were fully feathered and hopping around the nest. They continued the pattern of getting quiet and ducking down into the nest when we would come out the door.
One day, I was spying on the birds from inside the house. There 4 of them, fully feathered and looking nearly full-grown. I gathered the family around to watch them and we talked about how soon they would be flying off. Not long after, my husband walked out front to tend to the yardwork, and I guess he surprised the babies because they all launched out of the nest in a flurry of flapping wings. All but one flew off. The other one must have gotten knocked out of the nest in the excitement. This one was not quite flying and kept hopping around the grass.
I watched, concerned, but decided that we needed to leave it alone as the parents were probably keeping an eye on it from somewhere nearby. However, within minutes my husband was asking me to locate a box for him to catch the baby. When I stuck my head outside to ask why, he pointed up at the lurking blue jays. Blue jays regularly kill other birds, and there were about 3 flying dangerously close to the baby.
As I turned to come back inside, I saw – no joke – a snake pop out of the top of one of our shrubs. Like a puppet, it stretched up and looked over where all the birds were.
Yes, my front yard had become a scene of wild nature carnage.
No more questions, I quickly located a small box and my husband scooped the baby bird into it. Carefully he tipped the box over the nest until the baby slid back into its home, landing with a gentle plop.
Later that day the baby had left the nest. We chose to believe he had taken flight like his siblings, and did not end up in the jaws of the snake.
The snake, well, we didn’t look for it again.
But we did move.