An Avian Creche, Page 3

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The bobolinks were a particular challenge to my assistant. They always weave their heads back and forth when food is offered. It seemed that, when the food stick was poised to pop a mouthful in, that mouth was suddenly elsewhere. However, Vee seemed to sense where the mouth was going to be and snapped the food in. Bonnie had no trouble, either, although she was much more gentle about it.

Of course, I helped these two foster mothers. It was too big a task for only two of them. Yet Vee and Bonnie took their responsibilities differently. To Vee it was serious business, an insistent urge to carry through a pre-ordained duty. She was on the go all day. If I were careless and let a food jar become empty, she would run to me and look up at me reprovingly. To Bonnie it was fun. She would rest often, although she was no slacker.


Vee's rough and jerky feeding methods with the nestling orioles was finally too much for them. After a few days they refused her offerings, and she seemed to have hurt their throats. So I took them away and carefully fed them by hand, finishing rearing them myself. Vee and Bonnie continued with the others. When the babies were nearly a month old they seemed to notice where the food was coming from. They began to peck, and then began to feed themselves.

Vee could now rest from her labors, feeding the young less and less, although they continued to coax. By now the delightful "pnk, pnk" call of the adult bobolink came from the throat of the oldest of this trio. The oldest wood thrush gave the evening call. The work of my birds and their human assistant was about over. They could now "wean" the youngsters themselves. So all were moved back into the aviary.

There they found shrubs and branches to climb. A thirty-foot flight was possible. Baths could be taken in the big water pan – a new delight. Food cups and seed trays abounded, and the nestling diet lost its former attractiveness. Babyhood lingered with some, but when the youngsters were all about five weeks old they were on their own. Vee and Bonnie had finished their task of foster parenthood. And so had I.

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