ROBIN HOOD


by Marie H. Deis


A tiny, naked robin lay panting in the driveway to our home, rain pelting down on him, and he, with hardly a breath of life in him, had fallen, or been pushed from the nest in the Sweetgum tree. His head was crushed, as if it had been pecked by a larger bird, and one leg was broken, and my husband, Bert, and I decided his chances of living were slim.

We fed him water with an eye dropper, and I held him in my hands for hours. I thought he was sick because his throat was very red and he felt so hot, but Bert assured me that this was a normal condition in baby birds. The red throat attracts attention, so he will be fed when he has his mouth open, and birds have a higher temperature than humans.

Late that night he was still breathing, so we found a box and tucked him into a nest we fashioned from an old soft rag. he slept, and we both thought he would not live through the rest of the night.

Hood surprised us by being alive the next morning, and we fed him artificial worms made of raw hamburger. He perked up a little, and we phoned the Parks Director to ask his advice about what the bird should be fed. He said the raw hamburger was all right, but suggested we feed him cooked grits -- very watery. He had a ravenous appetite, and had to be fed about every half hour.

My husband was retired, and we had the time for the whole thing, and besides, we both felt driven to keep the little fellow alive.

The neighborhood children brought bugs and worms, and Hood ate them all. He had to be fed every half hour, and for a few weeks, this seemed to be a project that kept us confined. We named him Robin, Hood, and fashioned a splint for his broken leg from a toothpick and a little Scotch tape. Soon he was perched in the old canary cage, singing "Be-Bop" when he wanted food or attention.

After his feathers began to appear, we would toss him up and catch him, to teach him to use his wings. One day he flew into the front steps and broke his delicate leg again. The new splint worked fine, and did not affect his cheerful nature.

In the mornings, he would perch upon my husband's legs while he read the newspaper, and gradually hop up until he was on his shoulder, yelling "Be-bop" in his ear. My husband made artificial worms from rubber bands, and Hood would bite the end of the band in his bill and pull. He grew strong, and was soon flying all over the house. He preferred to perch on the back of my Boston Rocker, so I kept old newspapers on the floor behind the chair. We propped open the back screen door so he could fly in and out, in spite of the flies which took advantage of the open door. For a while, our lives were geared to the life of one little bird.

My husband developed a signal, which was three hand claps, at which time Hood would come flying from anywhere in the area, and land upon his shoulder.

One day, when I was making a batch of brownies, Hood flew in and landed upon my head, much to the dismay of a friend who was visiting us. My son grabbed the camera and took the picture. It was truly a ridiculous sight -- me stirring a bowl of brownie batter with a live bird sitting upon my head.

One morning Hood came flying in and perched upon the back of the rocking chair, looking quite ill. His eyes were almost shut, and his head drooped, and we thought he might be dying. Suddenly, he spit out a green stick, about one half inch long, and a little smaller around than a pencil. He had bit off more than he could "chew", but after that he seemed to be all right.

Jackie, a Parakeet who lived with two elderly ladies, had to have a home for a week while they went to Hawaii, and came to spend a week with us. Jackie had been the center of their attention for a long while, and was accustomed to being in charge. Well, our home was Hood's nest, and he didn't like having a strange green bird intruding. Hood flew at Jackie, snapping his bill, and Jackie snapped back, and it became obvious that they didn't like each other at all. Jackie spent the rest of the week in the Canary cage, in a separate room.

It was our intention to help Hood to become self-sufficient so that he could migrate in the Fall. We had become attached to him, and he to us, and my husband reminded me that we had already paid for a trip to Greece in the Fall. Hood had to be trained to leave us.

In the evenings, we would feed him a large raw hamburger worm, and he would get sleepy. We would take him into the back yard thicket, facing away from the house, and if the kitchen light was off, he would remain there for the rest of the night. However, if I turned the kitchen light on, he would fly up to the window and peck on the glass until I let him in.

By October we were just weeks from our trip, and Hood was still an important part of our lives. Although he had practically no tail feathers, his flying skills were excellent. We had a friend who knew everything about birds, and we asked her if she would examine our Robin and let us know if he could make it on his own. Now this woman bands thousands of birds every year in the "Christmas Count", and others, and I am sure she thought we were a little silly, but she and her husband came, and decided that Hood was healthy enough. Moreover she banded him and recorded the number in her book.

It was almost as if all of us knew what was going on -- including Hood, and this part of the story still gives me little chills up my spine. Hood -- banded and fed, was placed in the bush overlooking the thicket, as usual. That very evening, a huge flock of robins flew into our back yard, chirping and foraging. The next morning Hood was gone.

We searched all over the area to see if perhaps a cat got Hood and his feathers would tell the story. For weeks we did the three claps up and down our street. A maiden lady on our street was upset because "a man was going up our street with field glasses and he may look into her window."

Many little Robins live here, and I always want to ask them, "Was your Great Grandfather Robin, Hood?"