He was gone for a while.
When he came back he was shaking his head and muttering, "That daughter of ours . . . "
"What?" I asked.
"(E14) has baby robins. She's had them for 4 days. She had all of the girls in her room watching her feed them crushed guinea pig food and cat food mixed with water."
"Are . . . you . . . KIDDING ME?" I yelped.
"No. (M12) was threatening to tell on her if she didn't tell us first as I arrived. She's been keeping them in her dresser drawer and feeding them day and night . . . "
He continued to tell the story.
In a nutshell, E14 saw our cat fighting a mother robin as she was killing and eating one of the babies. The cat had knocked the nest sideways, dumping the other two babies on the ground. The mother bird was swooping and diving at the cat, trying to defend her babies, but the cat knocked the mother sprawling into the underbrush, and she didn't come back out. E14 claims to have watched for a "long time" for the mother to return before coming forth and rescuing the babies.
Honestly, E14 knows full well that the recommended course of action by naturalists everywhere is to right the nest and put the babies back. The mother bird almost always comes back, and as birds have no sense of smell, she will not be put off her babies by human handling. We've encountered this problem before, and we've looked it up more than once.
The problem is that the babies died the last time we tried it this way, and she couldn't bear to see it happen again. She knew I'd tell her to put the babies back if she told me about them, so she didn't tell me.
In retrospect, there were several clues that SOMETHING was up, but of course none of us ever considered that she had baby robins in her dresser drawer. She only told her sisters about in on Saturday night because their hungry cheeping got loud enough that it couldn't be hidden any longer.
After church on Sunday I was introduced to little Mac and Roni. (Of course she's named them.) They're almost full grown, but still have a few bits of down and their mottled baby coloring. I was startled by how big they are (I was picturing really tiny hatchlings). They live happily in her dresser drawer, hopping on to her hand and cheeping wildly when they see her. She puts them on her desk and uses tweezers to pick out morsels of mushy food which they inhale as if they were made to eat it. E14 has been supplementing their diet with as many moths, caterpillars, and worms as she can find. They open their little beaks, eating ravenously until they are filled, at which time they fluff out their feathers, close their eyes to slits, and sit contentedly.
Sunday afternoon was warm and mild; we decided to let the little birds come outside for a while.
|E14 looks impossibly young to me here . . .|
|This is Mac--he still has a crown of down on his head.|
|This is Roni. Every time I tried to take his picture, he moved his head, so this is the best I could get.|
|That's Grandpa with the girls checking out the birdies.|
|Daddy is seriously long suffering. He put the guinea pig's exercise cage together to keep Mac and Roni safe.|
|They are perfectly content when E14 holds them.|
|They LOVED the straw in the cage.|
|And the kids loved them.|
So now we have some decisions to make. We live only 3 miles from a really good nature center. I'm sure they'd take Mac and Roni and give them the environment they need to become independent little fellows. E14 wants to continue to raise them and let them be semi-wild pets, but we're all afraid that their tameness would make them easy prey for the cat.
We'll see . . .