On the July 1st long weekend we came home from the market to find a sweet baby bird sitting quietly in the grass in our front yard. Little did I know that my life was about to change.
Instantly I fell in love with this tiny little being as he looked up at me mouth wide open wanting to be fed. My mothering instincts instantly kicked in to full gear.
First I needed to find out what kind of bird this was and then how to begin to look after him. We got the bird books out to start looking for a bird with orange tips on its tail - turns out we had a fledgling cedar waxwing - a bird I was not too familiar with. It seemed that he had likely just left the nest, full feathers - but unable to fly and no parents in sight to look after him. We waited several hours to see if any cedar waxwings appeared on the scene - but nothing. Reading on the internet I learned that cedar waxwings mainly eat berries and insects - thank goodness there would be no digging for worms! We also read that feeding wet kitten food would provide him with the protein he would need since baby birds grow at an incredibly fast rate. Cedar waxwings are known for being voracious eaters feeding several times an hour. We found black and red raspberries in the backyard, choke cherries down the road and local blueberries which he enjoyed, but CW's very favourite thing to eat were sliced grapes - peeled, even better.
The first couple of weeks were spent feeding CW many, many times a day. The dogs were jealous and I didn't get much work done - I really did feel like a Mom. Initially we set up a screened tent in the yard with branches for CW to start practicing his flying skills. He loved to be encouraged to fly from branch to branch. At night he would sleep in a bird cage in the bathroom - safe and warm in a nest we found in the yard. Luckily once dusk falls birds sleep through the night until daylight - and then the feeding begins again. I discovered a wonderful website called Wild Bird Watching which became my main source of guidance to help raise CW. Several people had written in with similar experiences of finding, raising and then releasing cedar waxwings. After reading the advice of rehabilitators I learned that the next step for CW was to condition him to being outdoors over the next several weeks. We built a large cage with several branches, a dish for food and water, and cedar branches for protection from wind and to provide a sense of being in a tree - a super deluxe bird condo complete with Jazz music playing in the background which he really seemed to enjoy!
We placed the cage on our back deck under a roof and just outside the living room patio doors. We constructed a large netted area around the cage so that we could then leave the door to the cage open and CW could fly in and out. We camped out next to him in the mainfloor bedroom so he wouldn't be alone and we could keep our ears tuned in. Even the dogs were hanging out with him - laying at the patio door keeping him company. Several weeks passed and we had quite a routine going. CW was definitely a part of the family. He would be so excited to see me in the morning - chirping away as he waited for his food. I would leave food in his dish and wire branches of choke cherries to the cage but he still preferred to be hand fed - never tiring of those peeled grapes. He enjoyed a daily bird bath - such a joy to watch - especially that crazy hair do!
CW loved watching and listening to all of the bird activity going on in the trees around him. Every once in a while we would hear a cedar waxwing calling and CW would talk back. We told them to wait - that CW would be joining them soon. Our goal was for CW to eat on his own and to be conditioned to the elements before we would release him. After 6 weeks the time was approaching. I felt excited and happy for CW but also great sadness as I had grown so attached to this beautiful being. What a lovely connection we had developed. He was so playful, trusting - sitting on my shoulder - picking at my hair - sleeping on my arm - we were happy being together.
What an incredible experience to spend this time with a wild bird. What a gift to have the opportunity to nurture and raise a little creature that otherwise would likely not have survived.
CW flew off one afternoon after 6 weeks of living with his human and dog family. It's been 2 weeks now and I still have the occasional tears in my eyes and lump in my throat. He hasn't been back to sit on my shoulder or to eat grapes but I do think that he is hanging around close by. We talk back and forth often then he flies off with other cedar waxwings. They are hard to spot but we hear them in the trees. Soon they will migrate. I will miss my friend CW. He has taught me much - to live in the moment - and to love fully knowing that you have to let go ..... I am blessed. Enjoy your adventure CW.