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The Tale of the Blue Robin

Blu-Blu died on Good Friday in 1995. It was a fitting time for an elderly soul who had lost her ability to perch and her will to live. She was an earth angel, complete with wings who blessed my life for eight years.

How, you may ask, did I end up with a one-eyed American Robin as a pet. As with most blessings, it was by fate.

On July 7, 1988, the day before my birthday, I was sent a special gift. I was walking my tri-color Collie, Crickett, up the street. She stopped in front of a neighbor’s house and kept sniffing and nudging he edge of the lawn.

I looked down and saw a blue-spiked ball. Upon further inspection, I noticed a beak and one big brown eye. Where the other eye was supposed to be, it was crusted over. It let out a chirp. The little bird must have been newly hatched, since it hasd barbed quills but no feathers.

I picked it up in the palm of my hand while scanning the nearby trees. I didn’t see a nest. Looking at the forlorn creature, I realized that due to its defect, it probably was a reject doomed to die.

Birds are not new for me. I had two parakeets in my teens. One, Feathers, lived until 11 and was taught over 200 phrases. Every night at 10 PM she would say “Good night, good night night,” until you covered her cage. I had also rescued, raised and released a house sparrow. After release, he came back with a mate, as if to show me that he was doing fine back in the wild.

This little golf-ball sized spiked creature deserved a chance. I brought he little creature home and placed it on a washcloth inside a shoebox, as a makeshift nest. I called a bird rescue group but since they were out of the county, they couldn’t take the orphan but offered some advice. I also contacted the bird curator at the Natural History Museum who also helped.

Heeding the advice I had been given, I mixed a concoction of Hill’s CD cart food (I bought from the vet, since I don’t have a cat), a beaten egg, breadcrumbs and a crushed bird antibiotic pill (very important) that I bought at the pet store. Using a medicine dropped, I fed the hungry baby who eagerly opened its mouth. I learned that birds, like all infants, require around-the-clock care. When it chirped, opened its mouth and flapped its wings, it had to be fed. It was every hour on the hour at first. It ate and pooped and slept. The shoebox went everywhere with me.

I was told that I shouldn’t get my hopes up because the bird wouldn’t make it. My answer was, “You want to bet.”

I don’t know who was more determined, me or the bird. When the feathers began to fluff out, I realized that I was wrong. What I thought was a Blue Jay, since we had so many at the time, wasn’t blue. The rusty-colored feathers that emerged revealed that Blu-Blu was really a red Robin.

As a toddler, she outgrew the shoebox. I got out my old parakeet cage and she adapted nicely to her cozy home. In the meantime, wild bird experts informed me that healthy Robin babies have a 50% chance of survival out in nature. With one eye, her chances would be reduced another 50%. I was told, “You have a pet.”

Now, you must understand that keeping a songbird as a pet is against the law. By doing so, I was subjected to a fine, imprisonment and Blu would have been confiscated and probably euthanized. As one who defies convention, I thwarted the law. I also had accomplices in my family, veterinarians (who clipped her nails and wings), the bird curator and others. Blu only had one eye and could not be safely released. She was also a loving little soul.

Birds each have a unique personality. Whether they are parakeets or robins, they have similar needs and unique quirks. Blu’s meals consisted of the cat food concoction (without the antibiotic as she grew stronger), blueberries and raisons. During the gardening season, I dug up earthworms while planting flowers. In the off season, I bought meal worms at the per store. Trust me, nothing disgusts me anymore! She also loved to splash and bathe in her water bowl.

As a speckled adolescent, I let her fly in the closed-in living room. That was short-lived, however, since having one eye caused navigation issues and safety concerns. Realizing my dilemma, my husband bought her a big cage as a Christmas present. She loved he multi-level perches, which I replaced with tree branches, her toys and even the swing. Her new home was placed on a desk in my bedroom, in the front window where she could peer outside. When I opened the window, she could hear birdsong and commune with nature. Yes, I would take her cage outside, too. When we went out of town, my father would bird sit.

Blu had amazing talent. She sang her Robin songs, wolf-whistled and learned to imitate the alarm clock. She also gave kisses, complete with a kissing sound. She loved to perch on my finger and it became our bedtime ritual.

As a side note, until Blu I didn’t realize how much wild birds had to be taught. I had to teach her to peck to eat and how to drink. I also had to each her how to distribute her body weight in order to perch. I also learned that there are two types of American Robins., those that migrate and those that do not. Some Robins stay up north all year round, dispelling the myth that Robins are the harbingers of spring. Other Robins migrate south. Of course, I had the latter, The change of seasons in autumn and spring proved difficult for Blu. She suffered from “migratory restlessness,” the urge to fly away and migrate. She would become agitated and frustrated.

How did I know she was a girl? She exhibited nesting behavior. I even bought her a little nest, though she never laid an egg.

Blu and I had a special bond. She was my baby. After all, I had raised her. Losing her was like losing pat of my heart and soul. Though I knew her lifespan wasn’t long, there is never enough time.

Because of Blu, I view wild birds in a different way. They are each individuals with unique personalities. They are unique and loving creatures. They are not just generic birds. When I see a Robin in my yard, I often wonder if it is somehow related to Blu. Robins bring a smile to my face, joy to my heart and bring back pleasant memories.

PS: Through the years people have wanted to bring me birds or offer advice. No, I cannot give my heart to another bird. There are amazing rescue facilities now that will take in wild birds.

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