It literally fell from the sky. The perfectly-made straw nest, no bigger than five inches in circumference, stood at our feet after we exited our car. Little did we know, it was the beginning of some interesting lessons for us for the next five days.
Day 1, Lesson #1 – Every life is precious
We have seen bird nests like this at our hill-top neighbourhood. Most of the time, they were empty, having fallen from the many tall palm trees that dotted our apartment’s car park area.
There was a severe storm the night before, so no surprise then. What was a surprise was the sight of two dark tiny baby birds greeting us as we peered inside the nest. They were alive!
We quickly carried them into our apartment and tried to figure out what to do next. We had absolutely no experience caring for birds, much less tiny, traumatised baby birds that had fallen some 20 feet from a palm tree.
Quick calls to the neighbourhood vet, a friend that dealt with pet supplies and the wildlife department proved futile.
First, the vet told us to send it to the zoo! Then the friend said to leave the nest where we found it so that the mama bird could find them. Sounded logical but the many stray cats that roamed the carpark made that option a no-no. Lastly, the wildlife department was apathetic. They asked for and we Whatsapp-ed them a picture of the birds and there was silence.
Nevertheless, the wife and I decided that we would try our best to nurture the baby birds back to health.
A succession of food offerings were declined by the weak but picky eaters – a freshly-dug worm, cat biscuits mashed with cereals (recommended by a YouTube video), a portion of ripe banana, a sweet, juicy mulberry and softened chia seeds.
So, the wife decided to force-feed them with a sugar solution and the following day, an isotonic solution from a dripper to keep them hydrated. Thankfully, that worked pretty well.
A shoe box, kept within a bigger box complete with a perch, was converted into temporary housing to replace the straw nest that had a bit too much dried bird poo. The tiny birds slept through the night.
Day 2, Lesson #2 – Miracles do happen
The next morning, we decided to leave the baby birds in the box on the balcony for some fresh air and that was when we witnessed the miracle unfold.
The chirping of the hungry baby birds somehow attracted the attention of a pair of adult scaly breasted munias (a word of thanks to avid bird photographer friend, Teoh Teik Hoong, for helping us identify them). They flew to our balcony to check out the source. There were other birds of the same kind busy building their nests on the palm tree nearby but were oblivious to the chirping.
The baby birds had found their parents! Or rather, the parents found their babies!
Day 3, Lesson #3 – God’s creations, both birds and humans, are amazing
From then on, for the next three days, the parents came visiting every time we put the box out, rain or shine. The mama bird would be waiting on the railing in the morning and the papa bird would stand guard on the nearby palm tree frond. The mama bird would nervously fly closer and then away before finally jumping into the box to feed the babies!
That, plus an ‘exercise’ regime prescribed by the wife, saw the baby birds grow stronger. At night, when we had to keep them inside because of rain and strong winds, she would encourage them to perch on the box and then hop onto her outstretched hands. In the morning, a few gentle strokes on their backs would elicit busy chirping that would almost instantly attract the parents, if they were not already there!
The workouts designed by the surrogate mom and regular feeding by the mama bird soon saw the babies grow from strength to strength. We were preparing them for the flights of their lives.
Day 4, Lesson #4 – If you fail at first, do it until you get it right
The first flight was a comical disaster. Mama bird came by to give some flying lessons. She flew onto the table top, flew off and came back to encourage the little ones. The stronger and feistier of the two babies took a leap from the edge of the table top and promptly crashed into a flower pot stand.
Later, another test-flight by the feisty one saw it crashing down one floor onto the carpark and was promptly rescued. The weaker one was much less adventurous, preferring to stay in the box most of the time. The furthest it leapt was onto the pot of mint near the railings.
After a few rounds of practice flights, we decided to let the exhausted baby birds rest and gather their strength. Somehow, we knew the time was near for them to be set free.
Day 5, Lesson #5 – Never underestimate the weak
On day five, we set the box out on the balcony early. The parents soon came and perched themselves on the tree right in front, calling out to the babies.
We helped the baby birds up onto the edge of the box. One by one, they leapt onto the pot of mint.
The feisty one climbed onto the railings, chirped loudly and flew off to land on a palm frond in front of mama bird. They then flew a few feet together onto the nearby roof of our apartment entrance before taking off to the nearby jungle.
We were ecstatic with the successful flight.
It was now the turn of the less adventurous sibling. We had to lift it onto the railings from the comfort of being nestled among the mint leaves. It called loudly for papa bird and when he swooped in, it just took flight. With dad alongside, it headed straight for the Bodhi tree across the carpark, some 30 feet away!
We were amazed at how far the seemingly weaker baby bird had flown.
It was an emotional moment for the both of us and what a privilege it was to witness the birds’ flights of freedom. The five amazing days with them taught us lessons that we would treasure forever.
The two scaly breasted munia babies perched on their temporary home
Feeding one of the babies with sugar solution with a dripper
The stronger of the two babies
The nest that fell from the sky
Picky eater didn’t like worms
The parents came visiting daily after we put the babies out on the balcony
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