CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- One of the most wonderful pets my family ever had was Bammy, a blue jay that my brother brought home after finding the baby bird in the street near our house. The mostly bald baby Bammy was covered with mites, which was likely why he'd been tossed from the nest.
At the time, my mom was also raising two warblers whose parents had been killed by a car right in front of our house. Those babies, more developed than the jay, had become so hungry they'd likely left the nest seeking food, even though they weren't yet able to fly.
Raising one baby bird is a chore. Raising three is exhausting. The high metabolic rate of baby birds means they can't go long without a meal. A bird so young its eyes are still closed and it doesn't yet have feathers must be fed every 15 to 20 minutes from sunrise to sunset. After their eyes are open and feathers have begun to appear, they need to be fed only every 30 to 45 minutes.
The schedule makes one admire the parenting moxie of birds.
When the warblers were full grown, we set them free. The male left, but the female, Goldie, chose to stay. As, a few months later, did the jay.
There was something damaged about Goldie. She wouldn't have survived in the wild and seemed to be missing whatever birds have that normally prompts such natural bird activities as grooming. And flying. Goldie preferred to walk.
A few years after Goldie and Bammy had declared their intentions to live at our house permanently, a baby cowbird fell from its nest onto my parent's brick patio, breaking its leg. Squeaky's leg didn't heal correctly, and although he could eventually fly, he couldn't land without toppling, so he, too, chose to walk. Or hop.