Our grandson found two fledglings on the ground next to a fruit tree while visiting my parents (Papa pictured above) his great-grandparents). The birds were too young to tell what kind they were so we called numerous help lines trying to find answers. Questions like “How do we tell what kind they are” or “what to feed fledglings,” and so on…? Good answers were hard to find. We wanted to do the right thing by these little creatures. In the end, sadly, we lost one. Now we were even more determined to do our best for its sibling.
The challenge was that my Mister (my pet name for hubby) and I were two days from taking my parents on a trip, cross country to Oregon, at my father’s request. He was aging, forgetful and not always in good humor anymore. He simply wanted to fish the lakes and rivers he cherished as a younger man. We would be combining two trips, theirs and ours, as we had a wedding to attend in Wisconsin. We were all living in Arizona at the time! Round Robin… the trip, not the bird! From Arizona to Oregon to Wisconsin and back home to Arizona. All of this in the motorhome… my parents, the baby bird, our Golden Retriever Shelby and of course, us! My Mister and I would do the driving (we had retired my father from driving any vehicles, even his golf car and mother wasn’t comfortable driving the motorhome anymore either).
There appeared to be only one solution and that was to take this tiny bird with us in hopes we could save it. We gathered an old cage, some nesting materials, a cage cover for the night time and a dropper for feeding. We set out on our journey. Having no idea what to feed him (we assumed he was a male, had a 50/50 chance at that being correct), we took several people’s ideas and suggestions, put them together with my father’s miracle food (that being Cream of Wheat cereal) while mixing in tiny bits of blue-green algae (from the company that we are longtime associates of, as a business). Several times a day, we would barely heat the food, then serve with a bit of water.
We were sure, that even though it was being fed very well, our food was nothing like it would have eaten in its natural environment. As time passed, we integrated bits of grains here and there, having no idea whether it was the right thing to do… we were leading by instinct only!
After a couple of weeks, my father named our precious birdie, Peepers, because it would let out the tiniest little peep when it wanted food. He learned to sit on the table and eat out of a dish. A couple of weeks after that, it would sit on the steering wheel while we were driving and flutter his wings as if flying. It would get up on our finger when prompted and didn’t like when we left the motorhome to eat. It let us know as we walked in the door that it was unhappy with us… until we gave it a treat from dinner, of course!
We stopped at a feed and grain store when arrived in Wisconsin, showed them the bird, and after much deliberation, concluded that it could be a Mourning Dove. We purchased their suggested food for wild birds.
Peepers didn’t look much like a Mourning Dove but it was the closest we would come for now. We believe the reason it didn’t look like any bird we’d ever seen was that the food we fed it was people food mostly and although natural and organic food, was not the same food he would have eaten in his natural environment. It totally changed its appearance.
We taught him to fly outdoors as we knew one day soon we would need to release him back to the wild. Although an emotional experience for all, after spending two months on the road with him… we did just that! We acclimated him slowly back into nature by putting the cage at the base of the very tree he fell from, spreading food on the cage bottom along with some water. We left the cage door open. It took a couple of days for him to be comfortable but he finally flew out of the cage and to the nearby fence. He would hang around for a couple of weeks or more… coming back to visit with his peeping sounds. One day Peepers just didn’t come back anymore. We knew he had fallen in love (they mate for a lifetime) and would hopefully produce many other peepers.
The Long and Short of this story…
Our adventure taught us several things, not only how to feed and care for a tiny one that is in need but also, we learned a great lesson that we hear so often… YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT!!! And, that my friends, has much to do with our appearance! A great life lesson learned!
Our Peepers was one big beautiful bird forever seated in our memory!
The Mourning Dove
They tend to mate for life, roughly 7-10 years. Builds a flimsy nest of twigs that often falls apart in a storm. Feeds on the ground. Look for head bobbing while walking. Parents feed young a regurgitated liquid called crop-milk the first few days of life. One of the few birds to drink without lifting head, same as Rock Dove. Their name comes from its “mournful” cooing. Listen for characteristic whistling sound when they fly. This is caused by wind rushing through wing feathers. Size 12″ (30cm)
~ Source: Birds of Wisconsin Field Guide by Stan Tekiela