One of the wonders of spring is the new life that blossoms, blooms and flies all around us. So much is to be enjoyed and learned from watching our furry and feathered friends.

Recently while in a staff meeting, out of the corner of my eye I could see something flitting about again and again. I turned around to see a mourning dove feverishly building her nest, ignoring the distraction of my colleague and me watching with fascination. Strand by strand, she was constructing it in the fir tree using dried leaves from nearby ornamental grasses. From our vantage point, we could see her precise and complex engineering as each strand layered the functional yet inconspicuous home.

I could watch birds endlessly. It’s rather surprising, given that Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren should have scared that joy right out of me. A suet feeder hangs from a suction cup just outside our patio door, where a downy woodpecker chips away at sunflower seeds and peanuts just a nose-length away from us. The black crows recognize and greet me with their caws as I fill up their feeders with safflower and millet. They wait patiently on nearby branches watching my every move. While I once thought crows were brazen and selfish, I’ve learned that they keep the hawks away from the little finches and titmouse who are too small to defend themselves. Every once in a while, a hummingbird, oriole or bluebird will swing by for a treat. It’s such a thrill.

Birds have given me the story for posterity that all parents should parents have – you know the one that goes, “I walked 10 miles uphill to school in the snow story.” I’ve told my bird story before, but it’s worthy of a repeat — especially since your children may get the chance to see a momma or papa bird in action in their own yard:

A bird built a nest in a wreath just outside our front door. It may have been a wren or a house sparrow. She sat in it for days, sinking down low when we entered and exited our home as if to pretend that she wasn’t there. But, we knew she was there and waited with anticipation for the big day to arrive.

When that day came, three eggs hatched. From inside the screened door, we could stretch our necks to just barely get a glimpse of the momma feeding her babies worms. The babies would chirp and tweet to call her back home.

It wasn’t long before two of the babies flew away, but one stayed behind. At times, he would take a short step outside the nest or perch on the nearby porch railing. Yet, he always came back to the familiarity and security of his nest in the wreath.

Our worries grew when the momma didn’t come around so much. “How long can a baby bird survive without worms?” we wondered. The nurturer in me felt compelled to intervene and chop up some juicy worms to feed him myself, but deep down, I knew that nature had to take its course. One day, we heard a lot of chirping, and looked out to see the momma pushing the baby with her beak. She was forcibly pushing him out of the nest.

When we watched this nature story unfold years ago, I told our daughters that I am like the momma bird. My job is to “push you out of the nest when you’re big enough so you can be part of the great, big world.” My daughters still think my analogy is corny, but I think it’s perfect.

Just like momma birds teach their babies how to choose the proper twigs to build their home and to dig up tasty worms, we have to teach our babies to walk and talk, and read and work. Babies, like birds, aren’t born with the instinct to know survival skills. On that day years ago, the momma bird seemed anything but motherly; but she knew what the baby bird didn’t — that the nest couldn’t support his weight or keep him safe from predators any longer. Little did the baby know that his momma likely saved his life that day.

Baby birds aren’t born with the ability to fly; their parents practice with them and show them how to use their wings. Our babies are just like birds; they learn to fly from their parents.

Pamela Henderson is the director of development and communications at Dunebrook. To learn more about parenting and support programs at Dunebrook, call (800) 897-0007. Email Pam with parenting questions and comments at

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