For thousands of years – from ancient China and Native American folklore up through 20th century Disney movies and even rock lyrics, bluebirds have been symbols of human happiness. I had been aware of this for years, but always thought of this as no more than a myth. Birds come and go, I thought, flying by my windows. I didn’t take much notice of them.
My own happiness couldn’t possibly be linked to something as small and inconsequential as a bird, could it?
And then a pair of bluebirds built a nest in the bird box I mounted in my backyard. I noticed with great interest, and perhaps a bit of attachment to the territory I had staked out as my own, as the male and female moved in, sharing my home without invitation or permission. Soon though, I backed off my feelings of possession. Our worlds became one as I watched the pair lay eggs in their nest. They sat on the eggs to keep them warm and, soon enough, babies were born. Sadly, the babies died but the parents returned to the nest and tried again.
This time, when the brood hatched, I helped the babies by checking them for blowfly larvae when they were just born and still featherless. I would take the hatchlings one at a time out of the nest and check their tiny bodies for parasites, placing them temporarily in a plastic bowl. They were so identical that, if I put them back in the nest, they all looked the same and I couldn’t tell which baby I’d already checked. I got to know the birds and they came to know me. I checked on the nest every couple of days […]