He had two chances for survival when we in-took him (her?) to our wildlife center some three weeks
ago. His feathers were as ragged as we’d ever seen, he was terrified – even of his own species and their young – and he could not close his mouth.
The ‘mouth’ thing mystified us.
Like I said, he had, in our estimate, two chances for survival: none, and less than that. We set him in a netted cage about 3 feet by 3 feet by 2 feet. The other inhabitants were three Robins, three Blue jays and two young Jays. He promptly sought out a hiding place and stood the shivering with fear, his bill open.
But, due to the ministrations of my Sabrina, each morning, fully expecting to find him dead, he remained alive. His feathers looked slowly better; bit by bit the more radiant. Then he developed drainage from the corner of his mouth. It was an abscess which had spontaneously ruptured relieving pressure, and he could now close his beak; he could now feed himself.
He began to make timid forays from his hiding place, and briefly join his fellow inmates.
Sitting in front of his cage watching him, I marveled how like an aquarium the enclosure seemed. It gave me a chance to study what at first glance seemed to be purposeless, fragmentary movements of the birds. Then I noted, for example, this Jay would feed himself by pecking. Next to him, a young Jay stared and then started to peck millet and seed for the first time! Mimicry. [Teaching.]
Some days later, one of our volunteers set a small pile of wax worms in front of him as I sat watching. He gobbled them all up! What a piglet!
Then, just an inch or two above him, perched on a branch, a baby Jay began gaping and screaming for food. Our hero jumped up beside him and began to feed him the worms I thought he had taken for himself; surrogacy [parenting.]
He (she) had taken up the worms, bit into them thus softening their covering so the youngster could more easily digest them, before regurgitating his crop-contents into a hungry mouth.
What began as a no-hope situation has miraculously turned ‘round.’ His feathers, his socialness, and his beak are all mightily improved. I thank the good Lord for mimicry, surrogacy, and my Sabrina for her wisdom.
– Lucky Garvin
SEE SABRINA’S WILDLIFE WEBSITE: FACEBOOK.COM/SWVA WILDLIFE