We Have An Empty Nest

The Next Family

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

City Dweller mom


It feels like yesterday that we were eagerly anticipating the birth.  We remained watchful, optimistic and waited for a miracle.


And it came.


Five tiny baby birds.  In a nest.  In our birdhouse.


“We must be the luckiest family, ever,” my son said. “I mean this is really special.”

“If they fall out of the nest or the mama gets eaten by a cat can we adopt them?” my daughter asked.

“Don’t worry about that,” I told her.

But I worried.  I worried that a cat would eat the mama bird.  I worried that she would get lost or that the tiny, featherless creatures would get too cold or too hungry.  I worried that my kids would scare the mother bird away, that they would, with all their love and attention, force her to abandon her young.

“Don’t freak out,” my husband said.  “It’s nature.  What happens will happen.

I looked up the Bewick’s Wren and found that the mama bird feeds the babies up to 200 times a day.  It was no wonder she was never in the nest.  She wasn’t abandoning them.  She was working her wings to the bone to put food on the table.

We watched her fly in and out of the birdhouse.  We heard her scratchy little cry of warning followed by a trill of notes.  Her tail bobbed up and down furiously as if propelled by her intense mothering energy.  I felt for her.

The babies grew quickly, their pinkish-grey bodies filling out to match the size of their gaping yellow mouths.  Their voices grew, too.  Their joyous welcomes (Mom! Food!) were matched in shrillness only by their wretched farewells (Mom? Food?).

Boosted by their diet of at least 200 bugs a day, the babies grew so big so fast that the last time we saw them, it was impossible to tell where one fluffy, gray body ended and the next began.  They opened their yellow beaks and looked at us with bright eyes.

The next day, they were gone.

“I miss the birds,” my son said.  “I liked the cute sound of them.”

“Do you think the mama has another nest somewhere?” my daughter asked. “Where she lives without her children?”

“Will they come back?” my son asked.

I miss the birds, too.  I was sad when they left.

“They didn’t even say good-bye,” I said to my husband.

I was only half joking.

“I know,” he said. “It went too fast.”

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