Our Robin Red Breast
Robins aren't too bright
A robin's nest in our tree. How interesting. Until the baby robin fell out. We weren't sure what to do with it, put it back or leave it alone. It was too young to leave on the ground, it wouldn't survive. So, we picked it up and put it back in the nest in the tree. Later the same day the same baby bird was lying on the ground. We picked it up one more time and put it in the nest. Albert Einstein said, " Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." So, the third time we found the robin on the ground we decided NOT to put it back in the nest at the risk of being thought insane! But, what to do with it? I now became baby robin's mother.
We found a large box to keep it in. I knew it had to eat and be kept warm. We brought the box in the house and I began feeding it wet bread with a tweezer. I knew giving it water would choke it. Baby birds can't handle straight water. They are used to their mother feeding them regurgitated food. I'm a good mother but I wasn't about to regurgitate anything. Tiny pieces of wet bread seemed to do the trick, but robins grow surprisingly fast and I knew it was getting hungry. We couldn't keep calling it "the robin" so we decided to find a name. The baby robin did a lot of scratching so we called it "Bugsy."
I started feeding Bugsy chopped up worms and bugs which I dug up in my backyard. I wasn't too thrilled about this task but it was still better than regurgitation. I would find small bugs and worms and chop them up. Once in small pieces I would feed them to Bugsy with a tweezer.
It was incredible how fast Bugsy grew. The box was no longer able to contain him so we put him in a large cage. Don't ask how we happened to have a large cage, that's another story altogether. Soon it was obvious I no longer needed to chop Bugsy's food. He was able to eat whole bugs and small worms. He had started drinking water out of the dish in his cage so we knew we were on the way. His feathers were mottled and growing in day by day.
He was a friendly bird and we talked to him and whistled at him. I no longer had to hold him while I fed him. As soon as I came near the cage with the tweezer he knew it was time to eat and would sit patiently with his mouth open waiting for me to feed him, not unlike my children.
In no time at all he was the size of a full grown robin. He still didn't have the smooth appearance of a grown bird but all his feathers were in, no more bare spots. We knew it was cruel to keep a wild bird in a cage and he was surely large enough to fly and eating well so we decided to take him outside to acclimate him to the weather again. He'd been in the house about three weeks. We sat the cage outside and I began feeding him there. He was eating two to three times a day now so I thought we could try bigger worms. He consumed a nightcrawler in the time it took me to hold it over his mouth! We have sandy soil so my worm supply was limited. I now had to begin buying worms. I still supplemented with the occasional bug but they disappeared in his beak so fast it was like a hiccup. One or two nightcrawlers led to three or four. In no time he was eating a dozen nightcrawlers a day. Who knew robins consumed so much food!
Again we realized it was time to let Bugsy learn how to fly. I opened the cage door so he could come out and explore. He was timid at first, having adjusted well to his new home, but curiosity got the best of him. He hopped out and hopped around the picnic table but it seemed flight was not yet on his agenda. We repeated this process for two or three days and all of a sudden Bugsy began to fly. He didn't fly far or high the first couple of tries and he always returned to me. I then put him back in the cage. On the third or fourth day he took flight. Up into the air, circling around he flew stretching his wings. I watched and thought this is when he leaves our nest but that was not to be the case. When he tired he returned to his cage. If we wanted him back before he was ready we whistled "When the Red, Red Robin comes bob, bob bobbin along." It turned out to be his favorite song!
Flying and Returning
Flying came easy now, but so did returning to his "nest." We let Bugsy out inside the house now too. He had no fear of people or animals. In the house he would often land on our dog's back and hitch a ride. Fortunately our dog was an agreeable guy at the time.
I used to whistle "When the Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobbin Along" to get his attention. I know, corny but it worked. Whenever we were outside we let Bugsy roam. He'd fly around our backyard and over our house into the clouds. I'd whistle my robin song and he'd come back and land on my shoulder. When I was gardening in the yard he'd often just sit on my back while I worked. My husband would sit on the pool deck to read the morning papers and Bugsy would go up and sit on the deck next to him.
We knew he had to return to the wild, he was a robin after all. However, he kept coming back to us and answering my whistle. We'd let him out all day long and just bring him in at night. One evening we were going out. He was flying around and it was dusky. We whistled for him to come in but he didn't return so we left him out. When we did return I whistled for him, but no Bugsy. The next day I walked around the neighborhood whistling, like a fool, but no Bugsy. He had decided it was time and finally left the nest.
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