Last weekend we watched local family drama play out in our backyard. Three robin chicks were leaving the nest. The first thing that clued us in was all the commotion in the trees, tweeting, chirping, squawking and the flurry of wings. Soon, we spied two chicks in our plum tree. Shortly afterwards, we saw chick number three hopping around on the ground near our fence.
The chicks were impossibly cute, round little balls of speckled feathers, bits of fluff still hanging on. No necks to speak of, just a big yellow beak that periodically opened as wide as the Grand Canyon to accept worms, berries and grubs Mama and Papa stuffed down their hungry gullets.
One chick found his way to the fencepost and we caught him doing deep knee bends, squatting down and then up on his spindly bird legs, as if to say, “I’ll be darned, look how these things work.” For the most part they sat, in relative safety, under the cover of foliage on the trees, just taking it all in.
Mama and Papa robin, on the other hand were as hard working as any two birds with a family of fledglings could be, racing through the sky this way and that to find food for their youngins,’ while fending off the cadre of cackling crows. They would team up in a moment’s notice and dive bomb the crows to keep them at bay. We were both pretty impressed that Papa robin pulled equal weight in the “kitchen.” Each parent took turns keeping watch on the rooftops surrounding our yard as the other went in search of snacks.
Big Papa and I were tuckered out from the flurry of activity after a couple hours. Later in the day when we ventured back out to check on our little flock, we saw that two of the three chicks were gone, hopefully off to greener pastures. One of the three chicks was still nestled into the crook of a branch on our apple tree.
Mama and Papa robin continued to keep an eye on him and feed him, but we were a bit worried when he was still there the next morning. Special needs chick? Our neighbor thought he was the runt and that his failure to “fly the coop” didn’t bode well for his future. We kept our fingers crossed that he just needed a bit more time to get himself together.
Monday morning he was still in the tree. Big Papa managed to catch a glimpse of him during a test flight from the tree to a ledge on the nearby apartment building. A few hours later, he was back in the tree. Wings, legs, and feet all seemed intact and in working order. Maybe he just liked our little oasis and was reluctant to strike out on his own. When I returned later in the afternoon, he was gone. I guess he was just a late bloomer, something I understand. The plum tree seems a bit lonelier without him and our backyard is certainly quieter.
I think about our own brood of one, who we’ll bring to nest with us in the Urban Cabin. When he fledges, I’ll be on the verge of seventy. Right now, from where we sit, the distance from the branch to the ledge seems impossibly far away. It’s hard to imagine a kiddo running around the house, much less leaving the roost a couple decades down the road. Still, like our backyard buddies, that day will come when he stretches his wings and takes flight.