One day in August, a juvenile Northern Mockingbird appeared on my deck. She came right up to me. Of course we exchanged pleasantries and introduced ourselves. Shortly after, she appears to be begging for food, just like she would do to her parents. I am sure she knew I was not her parent but why did she continue to beg ME? It occurred to me that she may have been raised by humans so I went and got some tweezers, a syringe, and made some “formula” for baby birds, then gathered a few blueberries and mealworms. I took the tweezers and offered her a blueberry. To my amazement she took it and swallowed it right up. I decided to give her some formula and as soon as I came towards her beak, she opened up as
wide as can be and allowed me to give her some formula. She ate as if she was extremely hungry. I gave her a few more syringes full of the thick, smelly paste and she began to seem satisfied. For desert, I served her a live mealworm. She was not as enthusiastic about that! Maybe later…
She continued to hang out on the deck all day and requested food every 30 minutes or so. Once dusk
began to set in, she became increasingly stressed. She acted as if he wanted to come inside the house. She pecked at the windows, flew around and chirped then landed on my head! I laced my finger in front of her feet and she stepped on. I placed her on the chair railing and she was calm for a few minutes. Then as it got darker, she began to get more nervous by doing the same thing time after time. Landing on my head, shoulder or lap and flying in a circle back to the same spot, ME! I found a cross bar on the bottom on a chair next to the deck that seemed to be safe. I placed her on and she stayed. She finally went to sleep.
The next morning, there she was, waiting for me and her formula and blueberries. I snuck in some live mealworms whenever possible so she would get some protein. I even found myself looking for bugs to capture so she could practice “hunting”. She really enjoyed that!
Each day she became more and more independent. She started to chase insects all by herself, on the deck and actually caught and ate most. (She liked bugs but not mealworms for some reason.)
I noticed she was getting a little sticky from the formula that “missed” her beak so I brought out a shallow dish filled with water. It took a while but she started to drink it. Next thing I noticed, she was standing inside the dish, bathing and splashing as if she was having the time of her life. Let me tell you, boy does a bird look funny right after a bath. Since she was so young she didn’t have all her adult feathers but her baby feathers were beginning to fall out or molt. She was suddenly so small and sick looking. She began to shiver so I offered her a towel which she gladly accepted. Once she was dry, she looked better than ever!
Every day was the same routine. After a while her curiosity took over and she would explore. First trees, close to the deck, then really tall trees each day going a bit farther and farther. She never seem to leave the yard. She was always in “hearing’ distance. I called out for her, CARLEY, CARLEY and she would show up and land on the deck railing. Oh, I decided to name her Carley Simon. She was a Mockingbird after all!
As the days progressed, so did she. In September, our community had a celebration for Labor Day with fireworks. I know fireworks really scare birds and most animals but the lights in the sky really scare birds. It confuses them as well. I decided to sit with her during all the pomp and
circumstance. Every night she would hunker down on a cross bar at the bottom of a chair. It was very close to the house and she must have felt safe there. This particular night, I sat down on the deck floor next to her and talked to her throughout the 30 minute extravaganza. I could tell my comments of reassurance especially helped on that scary night. I thought about where she came from and how her life was with her other human family. I wondered if she would ever make it in the world. There was so much to learn and I could not possibly teach her.
As time went on, she would stay in the trees longer periods of time and didn’t rely on me to feed her as much. She was learning… One day, I heard this beautiful song bird on the deck and I was worried it would scare her, as she didn’t want other birds on “her” deck. Looked out and it was her. She was learning to sing! The notes sounded like a form of graduation to me. She was growing up.
How could I tell she was a she? I couldn’t. Northern Mockingbird males and females look the same. I chose to identify her as a female. She did not seem to mind or I would have changed it to male. I wish this story had a happy ending. I wish she flew off one day and joined other Mockingbirds and made friends. That did not happen. Sadly, one morning I awoke and called and called her. She did not come. I went in
the house and waited a bit and tried again. Still, no Carley. I choose to believe she finally found a Mockingbird partner and flew away happily into the sunset. I think of her every time I see a Northern Mockingbird. I learned so much about their behavior, calls and poses over that month.
For more on Carley, including videos, go to our new YouTube Channel, Bird Watchers RVA.
Please do NOT try to not feed baby birds without consulting a Professional Wildlife Rehabilitator. It is illegal to cage and care for any native birds without a license. I work very closely with local wild bird rehabbers and have learned a lot over the years but I still have many limitations. Trust the professionals! If you find an injured bird, gently place it in a pet carrier or box and keep it in a dark quiet place and call your local rehabber. For the Richmond area, click on “REFERENCES” on the website for a list of several state and federally licensed Wildlife Rehabilitators.
Feed Birds ~ Enjoy Nature!
By, Lisa V.