Mama Bird


It happens quite often. Upon seeing or hearing something, I’ll get a new story idea. This time, during school in Big Papa’s Basement Academy, the story simply flew into existence. Over the next few weeks, I really didn’t have to write much of anything. The complete story was laid out right in front of us one small twig at a time. Not by Little One, Sweet Caroline or even me, but by another. Welcome, Dear Reader, to Mama Bird.

Each school day we start off with math, and this particular Monday morning was no different. I’d given the girls their assignment, and they were busy solving the problems when I first noticed the movement outside our picture window. The math session took fifteen minutes, and for the entire time, I watched as a small brown bird flew to and from the hanging basket under the porch.

Handing in their papers, the girls noticed me gazing out the window and asked what I was looking at. “There’s a mama bird out there building her nest in that hanging basket.” The girls ran over and pressing their faces against the glass, they admired the construction going on and, as usual, were filled with comments and questions. Lots and lots of questions.

“Wow, she’s building it fast.” “Look, here she comes again.” “Papa, how long will it take her?” “Is she gonna lay eggs?” “How many?” “What color?” “How long before the baby birds fly.” “What will they eat?” Their questions created a unique educational opportunity. For the next few weeks, we started school not with math but with life science and the observation of what was going on just outside — never knowing that, in the end, it would become a window into the world.

For the next few days we watched the little brown thrasher building her nest. Then we were on egg watch. During their morning bird watch three days later, Sweet Caroline squealed, “Papa, I see an egg!”

Moments later her older sister proclaimed, “I see one too!”

Luckily, The Wife had bought the book “Georgia Facts and Symbols” by Emily McAuliffe last year, so we used it to show the girls that the brown thrashers are the state bird plus many other things unique to Georgia.

After two and a half weeks, it finally happened. At the first study break, we all went out to check on the eggs and were surprised to hear baby birds chirping from the hanging basket. On our second study break, we decided just to look at the nest through the window. And that’s when a blue bird attacked! Luckily, Mama Bird swooped in, fighting off the blue bird, saving her babies from harm.

The girls wanted to know had I ever seen such a fight. That’s when I told them back on Flamingo, my brothers and I had also found a brown thrasher nest in a bush across from Neighbor Thomas’s house. It also had two eggs.

We checked every morning for two weeks to see if they hatched, and they finally did. Then we watched as that mama bird brought worms back for the babies to eat. And one afternoon we watched as she fought off an attacker who was going to harm her babies, but it wasn’t a blue bird. It was none other than Down the Street Bully Brad.

I smiled remembering the bird pecking his head. That was the fastest I’d ever seen him run away from anything. And like the blue bird outside our picture window, he too was unsuccessful in harming the babies.

A week later Mama Bird and her babies had flown away. Our nest now stands empty. The girls wanted to know if I thought the baby birds were okay or if something bad happened to them. “I think they’re okay, but sometimes bad things happen. Luckily, they have their mama as they are getting stronger,” I replied.

“But what about all the bullies, like Down the Street Bully Brad?”

“Unfortunately, there’re bullies out there,” I said. “Some hurt baby birds, but thankfully, the world’s also full of mama birds to protect their little ones. And we hear their happy songs of hope every morning.”

In less than a year, our Mama Bird will be moving out with her two babies, Little One and Sweet Caroline. By then it will be almost six years we’ve all lived together as a family. It will be hard to see them go, but that’s a long time for birds to be in a nest.

Thankfully, just like that brown thrasher outside our picture window, she’s well prepared to protect them from any blue birds out there seeking to cause them harm.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog:]