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Our American robin (who we also named Robin) was delivered to Wildworks in 2008 as a tiny, downy orphan and although we couldn’t tell right off what kind of bird she was, she was hungry and begging with her mouth open and we became her surrogate parents. She grew rapidly and we were thrilled because this was the first orphaned robin to come our way.
Our intention was always to release her but it’s risky business when you’re working with a solo, social bird. Robins spend their youth learning from their parents and although we were able to feed her properly we couldn’t teach her all the lessons that help wild songbirds survive in nature-- like how to avoid danger and how to sing and recognize the songs of other robins.
Then one day we were hired to release a bird in a public park in downtown Los Angeles on opening day. I’ll share the story with you here. But you have to promise not to tell!
We were honored to have the opportunity to release a bird at this special event but when Robin and I arrived early I was disappointed to see the lack of appropriate habitat available for our little friend. It was a brand-new park, mostly lawn, very wide open with newly planted saplings with minimal leaf growth. And that wasn’t the only problem. By now the little bird had become accustomed to being close to people and sat calmly in her cage while everyone came over to meet her. At release time the place was packed and I was starting to worry.
They said “Are you sure you want to release her?” And I said “Well… maybe it’s not such a good idea……” Then I was suddenly interrupted by the announcer on the stage who loudly called us up.
“Now we’re going to cut the ribbon and release the bird into our beautiful new public park!” Much cheering ensued. Even the major was up there. It was too late to say NO.
Robin and I made our way up onto the stage as the crowd went wild. We all posed for a photo and then I held the cage up and opened the door and there she went. 300 people were clapping and screaming but as I left the stage I looked over and with the crowd heading off for the next activity I saw poor Robin shaking on the ground. I quickly snatched her up and zipped her into my pocket when no one was looking.
Our job was finished and as we headed to the parking lot everyone cheered me on. “That was beautiful! Great job! What a memory!” It seemed that no one knew our secret.
Over the years, Robin has thrived in her little enclosure which is adjacent to my front door. She sings constantly and aggressively defends her nest which she rebuilds every spring by meticulously placing leaf litter in a small terracotta vase. And it’s true; A robin’s eggs are really blue!