Making your own way in a wild world

A couple of weeks ago they arrived. You saw the nestlings. It was a rare treat to see their story unfold every day. I feel very privileged to have been allowed to capture these moments. These baby cardinals go from egg to fledgling in less than 3 weeks. And while it takes us a little longer to leave the nest, I can’t help but compare…

We and the birds are not so different. Our babies come into this world much like nestlings. Completely helpless and dependent on Mom and Dad for food, shelter, warmth and protection, we teach them everything they need to know. We nurture them, making sure they have everything they need to grow healthy and strong.

As our fledglings grow, they are ready to experience the world outside the safety of the nest. While some jump at the chance for adventure, others need to be coaxed from the nest by Mom and Dad’s encouraging words…or chirps. When they do take that first step, we parents are always close by, ready to swoop in if something threatens their safety. Whether human, bird or animal, the desire to want to protect our children, regardless of their age, is a strong instinct. Sometimes they need to be protected from themselves, which we do on occasion so they don’t injure themselves and ruin their future.

The fledglings test their wings, showing confidence in their new skills. But when life gets a little too scary, they retreat to the safety of home and call frantically for Mom and Dad. Little by little, the fledglings venture farther and farther from the nest. Mom and Dad keep watch while teaching the life skills the little ones will need to be on their own. Parents stand just out of reach to make them stretch their wings and achieve a little more each day; always offering encouraging chips to guide them so they don’t get lost or go the wrong direction.

Then, one day the fledglings navigate the entire yard. Mom and Dad fly along side, proud of the accomplishments but not quite ready to let them be completely on their own. Our fledglings become stronger every day, pushing the limits a little more each time. Soon Mom and Dad will not need to fly so close alongside to guide and protect.

There will come a time when our fledglings will fly beyond the perimeter of the yard and be on their own. They will make their own way in the world and the cycle will begin again.

And I wonder if these feathered parents ever stop watching to catch a glimpse of their children once they’re grown and gone. We’re fortunate because, in the best case scenarios, we are invited to share in the lives of our adult children, watching them make their way in the world and maybe even become parents themselves. And even though they are adults, we are never far out of reach, quick to offer a helping hand, protection and guidance (if asked) when they happen to stumble into dangerous territory.



4 thoughts on “Making your own way in a wild world

  1. Oh my. Your words and these pictures are so touching.

    English pparrows have just been born unto us (my best guess since neither Mom nor Dad is ever close enough to really tell). I dreamed of phoebes or cardinals but I’ll settle for babies of any kind. I’ve been watching all varieties of fledglings in the backyard over the past week or so. Not always sure what I’m seeing until I see the parents.


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