The fledgling

Simply walking down the street
found a fledgling at my feet.
Tiny baby on the hot asphalt
from where’d you fall? By whose fault?
What left you in the middle
of my street
wobbling on your new, new feet?
Yellow beak wide in a silent cry
flailing wings so small to fly.
Should I touch you?
Dare I try?
Baby bird, what can I do
to keep harm from befalling you?
How long could you last
if I just walk past?
Wait—I think I’m hearing
—yes, your mother nearing
and your father, too,
—they’re both here, calling you.
They won’t come very near

as long as I am here.
How wretched it is to back away
my wrenched heart will break—it may
—but from back here I see them land
see you hop-hop toward them, and
—you’re not too steady
—don’t know if you’re ready.
But to think I know more than a bird
about what’s best for birds, is absurd.
So I turn and walk, fighting my fears,
fighting my instincts, fighting my tears
—it’s a hard, hard thing, just walking on
praying, Baby, you’re soon up and gon
e.


*****

I have seldom felt so helpless or torn as I did on encountering this baby bird one late afternoon. Although tall trees line the street (a quiet cul-de-sac), I couldn’t possibly guess which one held the nest, if I could even reach it, for returning the bird. I thought about my Aunt Jack, who found a baby blue jay when I was very little; she took the foundling home and raised it to adulthood (he was never caged, had free rein in her house, and here’s a post if you’d like to read about him: Kilroy). I wondered: Should I take my fledgling (I think it’s a finch) home, too? Could I raise it? Or would I be tempting fate, tampering with nature when nature knows far better than I about taking care of itself? How long had the baby been struggling here on the road when I (heaven help me) nearly stepped on it as it flailed? Should I scoop it up carefully and put it by the side of the road in the grass… where there are cats… and snakes… then, the frantic parents showed: Which side did THEY want their baby on?

I walked back and forth a while, not too close to the scene, until the parents and their baby were gone. Where, I do not know. I didn’t see. Seems I could hear their voices somewhere in the lush pines… all I know is that, after a bit, there was no trace of birds on the street any more.

Yet I remained distressed. I had done nothing to help the baby bird. It was so tiny, so frail. Was it really so helpless? Was I? Had I been wrong? I had to face the truth, even it if it was ugly… so, later on my phone, I searched things like What to do if I find a baby bird and Should I touch a baby bird? National Geographic had an interesting take: “It depends on how cute it is.” Meaning that a mostly featherless pink baby bird not capable of hopping or flitting is a nestling and should be returned to the nest. A fledgling has feathers, can hop, and is “generally adorable and fluffy with a tiny stub of a tail.” National Geographic (bless them) says “It’s not a good idea to put a fledgling back in the nest—it will hop right back out.”

I can rest a little easier. I guess. I do marvel at the parents both coming to rescue their baby, both of them chirping and hopping, looking back to see if the baby was, too. Which it was, in its zig-zaggy way.

—They better be giving that baby some quality flying lessons now.

*******

Special thanks to Catherine Flynn who’s hosting Poetry Friday Roundup at Reading to the Core. Drop by to check out her wonderful post and the many other poetic offerings.

12 thoughts on “The fledgling

  1. I love this final line, “They better be giving that baby some quality flying lessons now.” Ha! Bless you for feeling so deeply (and through your poem and backstory allow me to feel so deeply) about this baby bird. I love that you Googled advice (exactly what I would do) and NG let you know cuteness matters. Love this post, start to finish. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, my goodness! There’s a wonderful suspense built into your poem. I was reading to the end to find out what happened and I’m so glad the mama and daddy bird showed up. These situations tear at my heart too. The other day, my husband got a turtle out of the road and there was a plastic flower pot nearby. I carried that poor terrified turtle a quarter mile or so to a stream, away from the road. Now, I can’t walk past the spot without looking for that turtle. Being a mom really makes your heart love so much, doesn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve had this same dilemma. It’s hard to know what to do and so sad to think about the peril they are in. I love how you used rhyme in your poem. I think you did the right thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a dilemma! Baby birds, baby bunnies… we find these things and wonder what to do! Nature knows best, and you absolutely did the right thing. As much as we want to help, we can’t fix everything. Great post, it engaged me immediately! Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Fran, now your gift of storytelling is in poetic form and I love it. You should add this as a link in your next slice to share your aptitude for switching genre forms when writing. I remember when I was a little girl and found a baby bird on the sidewalk of my back yard. I was aghast at its formation and cried for its life. I can imagine how you felt when encountering the little thing but it is exciting that the mother and father birds came back for their baby. Thank you for sharing, Fran.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I was on the edge of my seat reading this and could feel your worry/anguish. It’s so hard to know what to do and walking away, even when it’s the right thing, is SO hard! I was so relieved that those parents came to usher their little one away. Also, I love the clever rhyming throughout your poem. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I wondered what you would do! I love the mystery poem your dilemma created.
    And I love your heart ,on display.

    We regularly read feature stories in our local newspaper from the regional non-profit wildlife rescue group, which is quite beloved, locally.

    Actually we have so many critters in this area of North Florida, there are two wild animal rescue groups.

    These articles from professionals, including wild animal veterinarians, about animal rescue, especially for the babies, follow advice just as you did, to wait, out of site, a long time if possible to see a member of the species helps. So many areas now have listings for wildlife rehabilitation centers, who will give free phone advice & come, also for free, only if absolutely the best for the animal.

    What an amazing moment. Appreciations for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love your poem and you rocked the rhyme! I felt the dilemma you were in and was so relieved that Mama and Daddy bird appeared on the scene. Love your last line about those quality flying lessons. Amazing how we go to the internet with all our concerns anymore. Good old NG dispensing sage advice.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a story! Your poem is full of the drama and tension of the moment. I think we are always inclined to rescue other creatures in distress. I’m so glad this fledgling’s parent arrived to guide her back to safety and that your mind was made easier from the advice you found online. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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