The month of June barely starts and two Bird-of-the-Month nestlings fall into my life.
My morning walks are action-packed in several ways but this was certainly not what I expected as I carried munchies for furry friends this morning. I was about to turn back home when I heard that unmistakable chi-chi-chi of a baby Myna. Nothing surprising since it is Myna month in the true sense of the term and baby mynas in different stages of growth are all around us. But the sound came from the ground level and it was the voice of a very young myna. That can be a little alarming for the bird’s safety, since it is more vulnerable to all sorts of dangers. I stepped back and followed the sound: two barely-feathered hatchlings, one behind the other. One was dead. The other was calling out.
Well, the first thing to do was to locate the nest. I craned my neck but for at least 20 feet up into the imposing silk cotton tree there was no sight of a hole or nest of any kind. There was an adult myna peeping through the branches, but it didn’t look too anxious and didn’t let out a single cheep. In fact, it soon moved away disinterested.
The little fledgling continued to cheep. The baby had to be rescued! Someone outside the building opposite was more than helpful when I requested for a piece of soft cloth to take the myna up in since I didn’t want to injure it inadvertently in a bare-hand snatch. He even offered to keep Chi (in Chinese, I’m told, that means, Life Force) till I could get her picked up, since I was quite far from home. As he bent over to pick up Chi, he gave me some good news. The other one was also alive! So, both Chi and Jiya (heart) were rescued.
In less than half an hour, they had been checked and cleaned of fleas and their wounds had been cleaned by the very kind veterinary surgeon but it was obvious they needed some mother-henning. The babies came home in a clean cardboard box lined with dry grass.
Emails and calls flew across the city and country regarding their diet chart that now includes mashed biscuits and mashed fruit. Feeding them by hand was not hygienic for the birds since they had to be cleaned of spills that may have attracted ants. So, now, they are being fed with a syringe. Just to rule out accidental choking from an inadvertent overdose, we fill very little each time, just enough for a mouthful. When you’re talking of a fledgling’s mouthful, it is really a tiny quantity.
The progress has been heartening from the first meal: Chi doesn’t know where she’s going but is busy practicing hopping out of the carton; Jiya, who was too weak to sit when we found her, is now sitting up and eating more heartily than Chi.
Is this the end of a happy story? Far from it; from two generations’ experience with nestlings, we know we are up against a challenge. And those things are precarious. It is just the beginning of a new chapter whose length we don’t know. We are counting the hours since they are so tiny and so vulnerable. Three of the four eyes are yet to open.
So far, so good! It’s time for the next feed…
Please wish them health and a long life!
Benita Sen is a journalist and children’s author.