Welcome to my zone 9 garden. My roots are deeply planted in the sandy soil of sub-tropical central Florida, where the summers are long and hot, but the rest of the year is paradise!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Four weeks ago our neighbor’s dog found a baby Blue Jay, who apparently had fallen out of the nest, sitting in the middle of our backyard. I quickly grabbed an old cat carrier, and placed her inside. She did not look injured and fortunately had not been discovered by a cat, snake or hawk. I made a quick telephone call to my sister (who works for a vet) to find out what to feed her, and the next thing we knew we were off on a 4-week bird-rearing adventure.

And, what a wonderful adventure it has been. We got the same reaction every time we approached her cage. She would stand on her toes, wings outstretched, beak wide open and squawk a continuous command to feed her. So down the hatch we placed dry cat food soaked in water. Next came some droplets of water. We repeated these feedings every couple of hours (except at night -I figured her mother doesn't go out for food after dark!) because she's always hungry.

Five days later she was flourishing and had changed dramatically in size. Her blue feathers had come in around her rump and the fuzzy feathers around her neck were replaced by flat gray and blue feathers. We expanded her diet to include mealworms and pieces of crickets -canned of course! I bet you didn't know you can purchase a Can-O-Crickets at the pet store. I know I didn't but I'm sure glad it's possible, since I did not want to go digging for worms in the yard.

She grew steadily, and each evening we would place her cage on the coffee table while we watched television. My husband would take her out, hold her in his hand and stroke the back of her head. She sat perfectly still, making soft churping sounds and eventually would tuck her head beneath her wing. It was so adorable. When he would try to place her back in the cage she would start squawking quite loudly.

It was a true delight to be this close to a wild bird, and to see her grow and flourish. She became a beloved member of our family. My daughter named her "Chirp" and we all fell in love with her. We dreaded the day we would have to set her free. But we hoped and prayed that this beautiful creature could somehow survive despite having had "weird parents" and no official outdoor training.

Our two indoor cats would sit by her cage for hours watching every move she made. They were thoroughly entranced by this little bit of the wild that somehow found its way into their home. When they got too close, Chirp would squawk a warning sign and they would back off.

Friends were amazed at the news that we were able to keep the bird alive. She took weekend trips with us to our other house, attended our Mother's Day celebration and even visited with the children in my daughter's class at school. They were smitten with her and asked 101 questions about her.

On Memorial Day at noon we set her free with our best advice and well wishes. She fluttered around the tree tops and seemed extremely happy and at home in her new environment. Everytime we called her name she chirped back in response.
Around 5 that evening she flew down to the deck and ate Cheez-its with my husband. Later at 7 she flew down and sat on the balcony railing and chatted with my daughter and me. The next morning we couldn't see her and she didn't answer when we called her name. But at noontime when I walked out on to the balcony she squawked at me, flew to the railing, spread her wings, opened her mouth and squawked for food. I told her that it wasn't my job anymore to stuff goodies down her throat. I laid a piece of bread on the railing, she grabbed it and flew to a branch to eat it. That was the last time I saw her.

I find myself worring constantly about her, especially when the rain showers roll in. I step outside often and call her name hoping that she'll fly in and squawk at me one more time. There was another Blue Jay fluttering around her, so perhaps she has gone with him - at least, that will be the ending that I choose for this adventure. I hope so, but I also hope that I see her one more time so that I know she has made it in the wild.


Anonymous said...

What a great, poignant, bittersweet story! I enjoyed this very much. You did a great job "raising her" as she looks very strong and beautiful. I'm sure she'll be fine. Well done!

Dani said...

What a wonderful experience! We just recently started having Blue Jays show up at our feeders. Watching them is such a delight!

My Mother's Garden said...

What a wonderful and inspiring story!
You guys saved a life!

Christy said...

Awwww. We loved meeting Chirp! My children (especially my tender-hearted son) adored that little bird and we are so happy to know the story of her release. I like the ending you chose for her.

Rusty in Miami said...

Very nice story Susan, thanks for sharing it with us. It brought a smile to my face.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I were reading your story with moments of awe and moments of fear. We were afraid it would be like a Disney movie with no sound track. Whew!

We moved to Hernando last month from Indiana and brought the Indiana rains with us (that we were trying to get away from). Glad to find your blog.

Right now, we're wondering what to expect from the weather and.....winter.

Sue said...

Yay...You saved a baby Blue Jay! :) What a sweet story...I'm glad you made in a difference in it's life!


Lisa at Greenbow said...

What a wonderful wildlife experience. The chick always leaves the nest. Maybe it will bring its flock back to your garden to feed.

Susan said...

To everyone who commented...I hope she'll be okay. I keep going outside and hoping that she'll fly in one more time to let me know she's okay. We definitely have a soft spot for Blue Jays now.

Faith said...

AWWWWW was'nt that the cutest bird i still remeber her. your daughter Faith

Meems said...

What a great experience for your family... you were such good "weird parents". I can totally see how you would hope to see her again... so hard to let our little ones go. Great story.

Ruth said...

What an amazing story!! I would think the odds of survival for such a young bird out of the nest would be very small. A job well done.

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