Poems & Essays

24 Feb

Some Facts About Baby Birds

General/Column One Response

Some baby birds leave the nest before they can fly.

He didn’t leave on good terms. We kicked him out, told him he couldn’t live with us anymore.

I only remember some details: slammed doors, yelling, my wife crying. Everything was ruby red like a robin’s breast.

Baby birds can be altricial, precocial, or something in between. Precocial baby birds are relatively mature and don’t need as much parental care.

He left to live with a friend about a mile away. The river between us calmed. Blue, blue, blue. This word can mean different things to different people.

Baby birds flutter and hop to strengthen their wings and legs. Sometimes people mistakenly believe they have been abandoned by their parents.

For the next two years, we see him here or there. At family events and birthday dinners or when we call and invite him over for tacos served alongside tall glass bottles of Coca-Cola. He is a pop of color. A yellow canary.

Young birds can behave unpredictably.

One day he messages us. He needs a new place to live.

We open our door. We crack open our hearts, which are buzzing fast like hummingbird wings.

Precocial birds have many mature feathers but look scruffy until they lose their down.

He is tall and skinny like a crane with long, wild brown hair he tames with dark flat brim ball caps and a shaggy beard that looks like the down of a baby bird. He wears jeans, wrinkled T-shirts, and sweatshirts frayed at the cuffs. He looks at me with his mother’s round brown eyes.

Young birds need good nesting material and foods that provide excellent nutrition.

We give him clean sheets for his bed and stock up on the foods he likes: whole milk, white bread, ranch dressing, sliced turkey, Pizza Rolls, peanut butter, Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

In some cases, family flocks remain together indefinitely.

His belongings are packed in neat bundles. He carries them two by two, one under each wing, up the stairs and into his old room on the third floor that looks out over our small town. 

He will build a new nest, bringing home things he finds outside. Rubber bands, empty lighters, broken pens. But mostly items that catch the sun like coins and nails and pieces of wire. He will sit tall and fat on his pile of treasures.

Until it’s time for him to fly again.

Rae Theodore is the author of My Mother Says Drums Are for Boys: True Stories for Gender Rebels and Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender. Her stories have appeared in numerous publications, including Our Happy Hours: LGBT Voices from the Gay Bars, Sister Wisdom and Nonbinary: Memoirs of Gender. Rae is immediate past president of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the Women’s National Book Association and lives in Royersford, Pennsylvania, with her wife, kids and cats.

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1 Comment

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  1. Karen+DeBonis

    February 25, 2020 at 2:53 pm

    Oh, the many difficult decisions parents have to make that they never read in a baby book. I love how you threaded baby bird behavior with your son’s – a beautiful way to tell your story.

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