May 25, 2011
NO CREATURE expresses the naked need of the young quite like the baby bird. At this time of year, in the springtime, the nestling and his siblings create an entire subculture of anarchy, unrest and desperation. In his twiggy, secretive nest, with his beak agape, waiting for the bug or the worm to drop, he is pure ego. He is all demand. He is hunger. He is greed. He is dire poverty. He expects nothing less than constant, unequivocal, unhestitating attention.
Human parents find here a worthwhile comparison. Things could be worse. The parent bird wings back and forth to the nest, communicating strategy to his spouse and retrieving every available form of food, and there is never enough. Even when he approaches with a fat, pinned, wriggling cricket, the screeches and squawks of reproach echo through the neighborhood. “That’s all!? That’s it!?” The children scold with fury.
The parental bird is inadequate. Love is definitely not enough. He finds a few moments of rest, when the nestlings sleep against their own best interests, but that is not time to recover. The day’s expenditure of energy is never recouped. He will die exhausted, not old. If not for his will and determination to see the species live, he might have survived for 20, maybe 30 years.
Some young nestlings chirp constantly. Others pose silent and accusingly, their empty gullets pointed toward the skies. ‘See this?” they say. “This is what you did to me. Hunger. I am dying.”
Springtime brings new life and rejuvenation. For the parent bird, it is the time to give. Never pause. It is the season to prove one’s own existence is not enough.