Wednesday, July 20, 2016


By Kate Collins

No rest for the weary postpartum mother bird
as she flies off to find another tiny morsel.
The two demanding mouths in the nest remind me of my own brood
Always hungry
Always needing something
Always chirping at me.
She designed her nest to fit in the comfortable space between the downspout and the red brick of our house.
Not too tight but secure
Safe from the rain
Safe from the wind 
and out of reach of predators - squirrel, cat and human alike.

My boys and I watched in early June as she flew back and forth 
hundreds of times
collecting bits of plants to weave together.
I love the long pieces of dried prairie grass that hang down from the nest
They blow in the wind just a bit.

The nest is high enough that we can't see in
The little boys and I speculate
One egg?
Two eggs?
Maybe more.

And then the back and forth stops.

She sits.

She wiggles down in the nest for the first test of patience 
and she waits.

Just when it seems that the eggs have won the stand off
she flies away
only to return with a tiny bit of a worm
dropped into the nest. 

And she sits some more.

The flights out and back become more and more frequent
and it seems to me that she is constantly on the hunt for food,
because she is.

Every time I step out the front door
I only have to wait for a moment to see two little tufted heads pop up
with their eyes squeezed shut
and mouths open almost 180 degrees.
It is as if their jaws aren't hinged.
They cheep and chirp when they sense their momma close.
Both babies (I imagine them to be boys - brothers) clamoring for more food, more attention.

I ask my own boys, "what do you think she is saying to them?"
My oldest answers, "she is telling them to take turns".
And it seems he is right. 
She feeds one and then flies off in search of more tidbits of food for the other
Back and forth.

We watch them get bigger each day.
More feathers
Bigger heads
Stretching up and out of the nest just a bit more than the day before.

And then one day while I am holding my own baby and watching his big brothers in the yard
one of the baby birds gets up over the edge of the nest.
He tumbles out and catches himself on the very edge of the downspout.
I watch him climb back into the nest,
apparently not quite ready to make the jump out into the unprotected world.
He shakes his head and ruffles up his feathers and settles back into his safe little home.

His mother didn't see this little daredevil make his first move,
or maybe she was watching from afar with her heart in her throat.
When she comes back, she drops a grub in his mouth
as if nothing has happened.

I feel solidarity with this momma robin,
The work of keeping our children safe and fed,
of helping them grow,
of giving them a safe place to try new things,
and the courage to eventually set out on their own.

And one day both little birds are gone. 
I haven't seen the momma return either.
The nest is quiet,
the grass is blowing.
The now adolescent birds are out testing their wings
and the mother is enjoying her success...
with a little sun on her back,
wind in her feathers,
and perhaps, 
her very own worm.