After the last big storm we had a couple of weeks ago, we noticed the maple tree, that sits behind a swing set and shades the front of our screened in porch, was leaning badly. Hubby looked a little closer and realized that the whole back part of the tree was rotted and full of ants. He decided that tree needed to come down before it fell on the swing or crashed into the roof of the porch, so he and our oldest son made that their big project yesterday. Hubby could barely walk last night and today after felling that medium sized maple tree.
When it finally came down, I went outside to make sure everyone was okay and that no one’s limbs had been amputated by the chain saw. My husband informed me that I might want to say a little prayer. He said they realized after the tree fell that they had discovered four baby birds, who had been nesting in a rotted out stump of a limb in the very tip top of the tree. It came crashing down to the ground. One of baby birds died in the fall but the other three still remained in the stump breathing quite hard. He took me to the now upright stump and showed me. There was no nest in the stump or laying around on the ground that we could find, just four little partly bald chicks. We left them there in the stump until dark but no mother or father bird ever returned.
I told hubby they would surely freeze if left in that stump all night, and so low to the ground, our nightly raccoon visitors, or possums, or skunks, or a chicken snake would surely find them and devour them for a snack. We were also predicted to get heavy rains last night so I felt we had no choice but to bring them in and attempt to save them. I donned a latex glove and carefully removed them from the rotted moist tree stump. I laid the dead baby (which surprisingly was already green and decomposing and smelling to high heaven) on a concrete paver beside the stump.
The remaining three babies were cold and lifeless so I quickly went to work warming them up. I put an old tee shirt in a small box and put them in our small bathroom and turned a portable heater on them. Within an hour the bathroom was nice and toasty and the babies were moving around more. I attempted to feed them but they showed no interest in opening their mouths and they made no sounds. “Not a good sign,” I told hubby.
I set my alarm for 5:50 am (ugh) because our weather site said our sunrise was at 6 am and I figure that is when mommy and daddy birds get busy feeding. I cautiously pulled back the flap of tee shirt I had covered them in, not knowing if I would find three dead baby birds or three gaping yellow mouths. The babies were alive, warm, and active, but still would not open their little mouths for me. I somehow managed to force their little beaks open and get some canned pate chicken cat food mush down their tiny throats until their little crops pooched. Finally, by the third feeding, they started understanding the routine, accepted that I was their new “mommy,” and started gaping wide. I went outside to check by the stump where I had laid the dead baby bird but it was nowhere to be found. Something had gotten it during the night.
I have no idea what kind of birds they are, but today there was a male and female cardinal hanging around the swing set where the tree used to be and they were squawking loudly. When I went outside, the female swooped low in front of me. My guess is they are baby cardinals but you’d sure never know by looking at them would you? The sun was shining a little so I went in and bought the box of babies out and put them by the stump and left them out there for half an hour. I watched quietly from inside the house from a window, but the parents would not come near. It was quite cool out as the sun had gone in and the skies were dark and starting to mist rain, so I bought the babies back in to the warmth of the bathroom (just in the nick of time before a heavy downpour came). If they are indeed cardinals, I should start seeing some brown feather growth in just another few days. Baby cardinals are more brownish in the juvenile stages like the mother cardinal instead of red like the male.
Their last feeding was around 7 pm tonight and I was greeted by my new charges like this:
I hard-boiled an egg, mashed up the egg yolk and made a mush of it by adding warm water. They loved it and I was happy.
Today, it was eat, poop, sleep, eat, poop, sleep, repeat.
I hope they are cardinals, but mostly, I hope these little guys (or gals) survive. I’ve been down this road before, and I’ve learned that raising baby birds is quite a challenge. I’ve had successes and failures both, and I can say with all certainty, that I definitely have my work cut out for me.