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Open Mic: Being the Mother Hen (or What It’s Like to be the Parent of a Young Birder)

At the Mic: Shari Mutchler

There is nothing in the parenting books that explains what to do when you discover a wild bird hatching in your child’s bedroom. This is clearly an oversight on someone’s part. I found myself in this situation while my daughter was off visiting her grandparents for ten days over the summer. I went to check on her pet Budgie in her room. I noticed a small plastic container with an egg in it. It wasn’t an ordinary egg though. It was a small, off white egg with reddish-brown speckles. It was split open across the middle, and something inside was slowly trying to push its way out. OH. MY. GOSH.

“CALL MARKY!” I hollered at my husband. “Call Marky and ask her why there is an egg hatching in her bedroom!” I yelled. “Then ask her what we’re supposed to do with it for Pete’s sake!” Had I been warned, maybe I wouldn’t have gone into shock.

My daughter is lucky she wasn’t home at that moment to bear the full brunt of my panic. Long story short, we were able to find a local animal rehabilitation clinic that was willing to let us bring the hatchling to them, on the 4th of July no less. When my then-10-year-old daughter returned from visiting her grandparents, she was given a good scolding, and told that we were lucky we weren’t fined hundreds of dollars for unknowingly harboring a wild bird in our house.

This kind of thing happens only in the house of a young birding enthusiast. There have been many other things that have occurred over the past 11 years we weren’t prepared for. What do you say to an 8-year-old that has saved every feather ever molted by her pet parakeet, and then painstakingly reconstructed her own bird using Styrofoam and tons of clear tape? It was a little creepy, but at the same time, it was incredibly detailed and life-like. She had recreated a wing by arranging the feathers by size, perfectly spread out as if the bird were flying. My husband and I refer to it as her “Franken-bird” period.

So for those who are raising a young birder, all I can recommend is that you try to expect the unexpected. Be sure to support their interests without getting arrested or fined by the local wildlife conservation department. Most of all, enjoy this amazing time of your little fledgling’s life as they look with wonder upon every bird and feather they see. Raising a birder can be sort of a wild ride, but it is never dull!

The author and her daughter, the young birder.

The author and her daughter, the young birder.

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Shari Mutchler is an Aviation Meteorologist who lives in Liberty, Missouri. She is Mother Hen to Marky, one of the 2015 ABA Young Birders of the Year.