Sunday, July 31, 2011

Taking Care of the Baby Bird

I found a baby robin on the ground outside of our cabin this morning.  It had obviously fallen from a nearby tree, although I couldn’t see the nest.  While the baby was older (it had splotches of orange on his breast), he was clearly not feathered out, nowhere near flying age, and should not have been out of the nest. 

As I approached him and bent down, he opened his mouth in that huge baby bird fashion, looking for a meal.  As I reached down to pick him up in order to judge his state, he instantly panicked and moved to run away as best as his new legs could carry him -my effort to help only adding to his predicament by causing a lot of anxiety.  I looked around for a mother bird and found none, but felt my only recourse was to move along anyway.  There was nothing I could do for the bird – he needed pre-digested food, and would only be terrorized in my presence.  His only hope would be to leave him alone and hopefully he would be supported by his mother.  

I felt lousy doing this.  Just lousy, and it sat poorly with me.  Note that I am a hunter and have spent hours in the woods.  I know how Mother Nature works, and know she can be a cold-hearted bitch.  Life is tough, and the weak and the mistake-prone must be weeded out for the sake of those that are left and those that need to go on.  That mother bird likely built a poor nest, and should this offspring survive, he may very well do the same.  Hell, exactly because of things like that, the life expectancy of a hatched robin had to be less than six months, on average.  To my core, I knew this.  But I still felt like crap. 

I stopped back later in the day and found the chick had moved along the base of the cabin, staying out of the direct sunlight.  I also found a lot of fresh bird droppings next to him, so that meant somebody must be attending to him.  While that made me feel better, I also knew that with sundown would come a whole new set of challenges, and that the little guy would likely not make the morning.  There are too many owls, raccoons, fox, skunks, and other predators that would be set to pounce upon this easy mark.  In fact after coming in from fishing tonight I put on my headlight to see if he had made it even a couple of hours.  I found him, and he did, but he’s in for a long, long night. 

In all of this, I’ve kept asking myself why I feel so bad about this.  I’ve taken the lives of animals with my own hands likely a thousand times, and while I’ve never been flippant with the act, it’s not bothered me, either.  Sure, there are times when I’ve made a poor shot and the kill is not as clean as I’d want (the goal if every hunter is one shot, one clean and painless kill), but you do what you can to mitigate those circumstances.  But here was this baby bird, absolutely breaking my heart. 

And that’s when I understood my reaction. 

It was because this bird was screwed; he had absolutely no shot.  Through no fault of his own he found himself on the ground with few prospects for a tomorrow.  Fate dealt him a 16, he needed to take a hit and Mother Nature held a deck full of face cards.  It made me think about our own species.  What about all of those people that are born into a situation beyond their control; a situation where they have absolutely no chance?  As I sit here in my air conditioned cabin on the lake, surrounded by family that love me, with a full belly and not a care in the world other than catching a fish, I wonder about those that have no chance.  While I’m not equipped to save that baby bird, maybe I can do more than I previously have to help those that find themselves on the ground, staring into a long night fraught with danger and long, long odds.

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