I tried to save the birds

Derrick Knutson

Derrick Knutson

There used to be a time when I didn’t really care much about birds. I acknowledged their existence and got slightly perturbed when they’d tweet incessantly as soon as the sun came up shortly after 5 a.m., waking me up.

But now my perception of them has changed. I find enjoyment in watching them flit between the trees in our backyard while I’m eating breakfast most mornings and seeing them land on a corner section of decorative fence we put in a couple of weeks ago.

I’ll admit, I actually got a little excited when I was out watering those trees and spotted a nest filled with three blue, speckled eggs and one larger light brown one.

Curious about the origins of this interloper egg, I posted it online, which elicited a comment from one of my sister’s friends who has a birding background. He informed me the egg was from a brown-headed cowbird, and that egg would be born first and the hatchling cowbird would likely push the other eggs out of the nest.

The bird that had laid those eggs would then take care of the brown-headed cowbird offspring, thinking it was her own.

I don’t normally mess with nature, but I made the decision I was going to “save” the three eggs at the cost of the one. I removed it with a spoon and placed it in the yard.

The mother bird then came back — I think it was a wren — and stayed atop those eggs for a couple of weeks until they hatched.

When the mother bird would leave her nest, I’d peek into the tree and see the baby birds moving slightly, pretty much just a combined ball of gray fluff and little beaks.

If they sensed some movement in the tree, they’d peek their little heads up and open their beaks, which I assumed was the “feed me!” gesture.

They only stayed in the nest a couple of days.

After we got a deluge of rain one night, I looked in the tree the next day, and they were all gone. I thought maybe the water and hit the tree too hard, and they had fallen out.

My wife spotted all three of them on the ground. At first, I thought they were dead, but when I crouched down, I could see they were all moving. So my wife got me a spoon, and I transferred all of the birds back into the nest.

Again, I felt like I had “saved” them, and the mother bird would surely come back and take care of her offspring.

The following day, I peeked into the nest, and only one remained. It opened its beak as soon as I spread the branches apart, so I assumed it was OK.

I checked again the next day, and the remaining one had disappeared, too.

At first, I thought the mother bird might have tossed them out of the nest because I had touched them with a spoon and the new smell caused the bird to not recognize her offspring, but according to multiple websites, birds have a poor sense of smell and wouldn’t notice if you touched their young.

The more likely explanation was a predator had found the nest and dispatched the three helpless birds.

Now I’m kind of sad that I won’t get to see the little birds grow into adults.

Maybe next time I find a bird nest in one of the trees, I’ll just leave it completely alone and let nature take its course.

Or I’ll sit next to the tree in a lawn chair with a pellet gun and keep watch for any potential predators until the birds are big enough to fly away from the nest.

That wouldn’t get me labeled by my neighbors as “Crazy Bird Man,” would it?

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