Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Bird Lessons

Twice one Spring day I learned something from the birds.

In the morning, a young starling, fledged but just beginning to learn to feed him/herself, harassed its parent relentlessly. Its parent kept running away until the youngster persisted so strongly that they raised their voices. The youngling got the message. I've seen this with cats. When my daughter's cat had kittens and they were weaned, the mother would turn away to avoid the kitten that wanted to suckle. If the kitten got too persistent, she give him a swat or a swift kick. No hard feelings. Just clearly set limits.

Later in the day I had an even stronger lesson. I rushed outside when I heard the frantic shrieking of a baby robin, being snatched up by a crow. The parents set up quite a fuss. I was angry. I had a quick fantasy about getting a badminton racket and using one of the crows as the birdie. But then I stopped myself and just observed what was happening. It turns out I was the only one who had an opinion about the proceedings. The birds were fully in the moment. They were roused to action the second that they needed to be. The baby shrieked its terror. And in the aftermath, the parents spoke their distress loudly for several minutes before their voices settled and they could move on.

There's a purity to the responses of the robins in their loss. The loss is keenly felt, but nothing is added to it. There is a purity in the way that the starlings set their limits. None of it was about good parenting or bad parenting. None of it was about "This should not have happened." In their own clean and natural way, the animals and birds know exactly what to do.