Of Birds and Benevolence

The house wren has returned and fills the back yard with her cheering song, reminding me again of my mother. She was always so pleased when a wren nested in the little bird house in our front yard. One summer when a barn cat climbed up a tree to the house and ate the wren, we were all so distraught Mom had my dad go find the culprit and shoot it. I learned early to value songbirds over marauding cats. Could I be called a birdist? I could proudly display a sign that says, “Birds’ Lives Matter.”

Yesterday afternoon, after returning from walking trails off the Skyline Drive, I found a baby robin in our back yard. First it was hopping after other birds in the grass, and then it flew to a lower branch on a cedar tree. The neighbors’ little boy was curious and went under the tree to look closely at the robin. In a flash, a catbird landed on a higher branch and scolded the boy severely. Then the catbird, feeling threatened, flew to the clothesline nearby and continued screeching until I persuaded the boy he had better back off and leave the birds in peace.

A while later, I saw the baby robin sitting on the back of a patio chair very near our back door. Soon a cardinal flew up on the chair beside the baby, cocking his head at the robin as if trying to understand why the mother didn’t come and feed her child. The cardinal then hopped towards me, watching inside the door, as if to ask “Why don’t you do something?” The catbird also came and sat on the patio floor below as if concerned.

The birds had all disappeared by morning, but I thought that in this time of pandemic and civil unrest over police brutality, we could all learn from the birds who look beyond their own kind to care about the well-being of fellow creatures.

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