“In the wild, there is no credo nor hideous disbelief. The songbirds never are assertive of the truth, the bliss or the grief.” -Kahlil Gibran
I arrived at 2 O’clock on the dot. I should have come earlier. Linda, who I was relieving, was not expecting a newbie. “You’ve done this before?”, she said. It wasn’t so much a question as a statement she hoped was true. “Nope”, I said with a smile. I had a little experience feeding raptors, but not so much with the songbirds and certainly not this many at once. I glanced around at the 15 cages and carriers on the screened porch, each holding 3-4 birds, and prepared myself for the condensed tutorial on keeping them alive for the next four hours.
The truth was, the birds did most of the work. The babies instinctively gaped when they saw the food coming. One tweezer full of chopped mealworms at a time and the birds were being fed. Most of the birds were on a 15-minute feeding schedule and it took about 13 minutes to make the rounds, so there was about 2 minutes between feedings. Add in the birds on the 45-60- minute schedule and you essentially have a non-stop job feeding these birds.
A knock on the door. Nope. Just one of the juvenile Downy Woodpeckers rapping on the porch railing. Time to feed again. The young Blue jays are among the most assertive about being fed. They are so much larger than the other birds that there’s sort of a feeling that they don’t so much need be hand fed, but that they just like to be, but their enthusiasm is adorable, so they get fed. At some point, Jeff had brought in two more babies and I had hardly noticed. Just add them to the rotation and keep moving.
My four hours go by quickly, but I’m exhausted. On the drive home, it really began to sink in how much work goes into caring for all these birds. 12 hours a day, seven days a week, its literally two full time jobs and that’s just the feeding. I did not even have to concern myself with the medication, leg wraps, cage cleaning and intake. It is a huge undertaking and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to help even if only for a few hours.