Last spring a mother bird built a nest outside our window in the fragrant lilac bush. She warmed the tiny blue eggs day after day until one baby hatched ~ all belly and beak ~ with it's wide yellow beak yowling for food. The mother robin immediately spent her time looking for food, while the father robin stood on the nest's edge guarding the baby until she came back. Then she would sit on the well-fed baby until it became hungry again.
It was the father robin who ended up raising the baby bird, however. The mother's life was cut short, unbeknowst to the father and baby robin, when she flew into a window and fell lifeless to the ground only days after the baby hatched.
The father robin waited and waited on the edge of the nest for the mother robin to return. He chirped frequently, hoping she would answer his call. After quite some time we couldn't bear to see him wait any longer, so my husband carried the limp mother robin and placed her on the ground under the nest in the lilac bush hoping the father robin would see her. He did.
What happened next was remarkable. This father robin instantly understood that he was to become both mother and father, feeding, protecting and warming his baby.
He gingerly climbed into the nest over his new baby bird, like someone stepping into a mud puddle wearing their Sunday shoes, with no other way around it. He akwardly shifted and twisted ~ trying to figure out how to sit on the baby to keep it warm. After some adjusting he settled on the baby and "got it".Then when the baby became hungry, off he flew in search of food. He repeated the rigmarole over and over during the first day.
At the end of the first day he was exhausted. I didn't know birds could look exhausted but they can. His feathers were ruffled and his eyes were at half-mast; he could hardly keep his eyes open as he sat on the baby bird, hoping for a rest before it got hungry again.
This experience made me think of all single parents everywhere, including my own beloved widowed mother who raised the five of us little children on her own. I was so touched by the mother bird's sacrifice and instinct as she