Another crisis averted

Dark Eyed JuncoOn Sunday, July 31, we had a baby bird crisis on our hands.

I live next door to my parents, who are both in their 80s. Dad had hired a man, Phil, to refinish their log home.  Phil first had to power wash the exterior walls, which he set about doing on Sunday. He started by taking down the big, grape-vine wreath that has been decorating the front for years. Apparently there was a bird nest among the vines that he didn’t notice. Several hours later, as I was coming over from next door, I saw a couple of juncos hopping around the lawn in what seemed an odd manner. I looked closely and saw a baby bird huddled among the blades of grass. I then spotted a second one. I wondered what I could do. The mother bird tried to lure me away, pretending to have an injured wing. When I didn’t fall for this, she flew into the row of spruce trees that separates our home from mom and dad’s. She wasn’t abandoning her chicks. Nor was the father, as the second junco stayed close by as well.

Dad came home from golf about this time and we huddled, trying to decide what to do. I got a box, put the two chicks inside, then noticed a third baby in the grass. Inside the box, the chicks would tilt their heads skyward, yellow beaks wide open, whenever one of us would hover over. They didn’t seem any worse for the tumble they must have taken when their home was accidentally destroyed. Maybe, I thought, we could rebuild the nest inside a small container, hang it from a tree, and hope the parents would just keep on doing what parents do. A long shot, but there seemed no other solution.

From the garage dad brought out a small basket, which I lined with the remains of the nest scavenged from the wreath. We then put the chicks inside, hung it from a nail on a spruce branch, and stood back to watch. The parent birds both went to the lawn and quickly grabbed up worms. But instead of going to the nest, they continued to hop around on the lawn, as if they were still expecting to find their chicks there. Suddenly, a little head poked up from out of the grass as its mother fed it the worm — there was a fourth chick we had missed. I gathered him up and added him to the cozy, crowded basket. After a few minutes both adult juncos inspected the basket in the tree, and then started coming and going, bringing food for the chicks.

That was two days ago. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that this will work out, but it seems to be. The parent juncos continued attending to the babies yesterday, and I will be looking closely this morning to see if that remains the case.

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