A true story by:
Copyright 2015 Rita Villa
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Jimmy had a big nose. Well, technically it was a beak, a long, skinny, bight yellow beak. The minute my friend Betty saw the funny looking baby bird, she laughed and said, “He looks like Jimmy Durante,” and that’s how Jimmy got his name.
How Jimmy came to be raised by my husband and me, rather than his real parents, is a whole other story. My parents owned an antique shop at the time. It was in an old brick Baptist church built in the 1800’s, which had a square bell tower that rose at least seventy feet above the slate steps. That’s where Jimmy fell from. Whether he fell from the nest or his mother threw him out, we’ll never know. (Maybe it was that nose.)
My husband and I are known for rescuing things. So it really wasn’t a surprise when my mother called us panic stricken, “Rita, we just opened the shop and people are coming in and there’s a baby bird on the front steps. Can you come and get him?” I was sure we were headed over there to bury the poor thing. My husband, Gary, found the shovel while I grabbed a little box, lined it with paper towels and we drove over to the antique shop.
We parked on the side of the road, looked up the ten foreboding steps leading to the front door, and then up at the enormous tower. “There’s no way he’ll be alive.” Neither of us wanted to bury a baby bird that morning. We always feel sad when one comes along we can’t help. But if he was killed in the fall, he deserved a proper burial, like all living things.
We walked up the steps. My heart pounded and I tried to feel hopeful, but a cloud of sadness came over me as we got closer. Baby birds are so delicate, the tiny legs, the fragile little bodies, and if he didn’t have his feathers yet, he could be freezing, if he wasn’t crushed in the fall.
Step by step we got closer. My mother was standing at the top looking down at him. “I think he’s still alive,” she said joyfully. We ran up the last few steps and to our surprise the ugly, almost featherless little creature was sitting on the step looking up at us with big black eyes. I instantly scooped him up and warmed him in my hands. He really was alive, and considering he had just fallen seventy five feet onto rock hard slate, looked really good. Nothing seemed broken. There was no blood. He didn’t have many feathers yet, only a few tiny bits starting to poke through his pinkish gray skin. He was so ugly and so beautiful at the same time. And he had spunk. I could tell just by looking at him.
I held him close to keep him warm while we figured out what do to next. “Well, it would be ideal if we could get him back in the nest,” Gary, said. “But there’s just no way to get up there.” We looked up at the tower that soared into the sky. “And even if we got up there how would we find the nest and get him in it? There are probably hundreds of nests in there.” The tower, built in the shape of a square, like the tower on a fort, was completely inaccessible now. I’m sure when it was a real bell tower, in a functioning church, back in 1860, they could get up there through some stairs or something. But over the last hundred years everything had been sealed up or taken down. There was no bell any longer, so no one needed to get up there and ring it.
“And what if his mother threw him out? Maybe he’s sick or something and she might do it again,” I said. I gently put him in my sweatshirt and headed down the steps, toward the car. “I think he’s our responsibility now.”
Gary agreed, and so we headed back to our shop, put the shovel away, and took the baby bird inside to get him settled. We own a small business, and when we walked in, our staff gathered around to see the baby bird. They all laughed at the funny looking little thing, huge yellow beak, the beginnings of a few scraggly feathers and some long gangly legs. Betty named him, and that was that, Jimmy was already part of the family.
First, we got him a nice box, lined it with a bunch of paper towels and put him in a warm spot. Then we made a call to our friend at the humane society for help. “Baby birds are a lot of work,” she said. We knew this going in, we’d taken care of baby birds before, but never one this young. She explained that we were going to need to feed him every two hours. We were not prepared for the lack of sleep. “Yes,” she said, “every two hours…all day and night.”
She told us to feed him canned cat food and crushed up worms…an interesting task. The cat food wasn’t too bad and he took it well, right off the tip of my finger. He’d take water the same way. Luckily, he was a good eater and didn’t fight us in any way. He seemed to know we were helping him. I held him as much as possible. I felt like he needed companionship since he didn’t have his family or nest to nurture him, he had humans. And though we weren’t ideal, we were all he had. He needed to know he was loved so he could become big and strong and go live in the wild, like he should.
Jimmy liked eating from our fingers and ate more and more and more. It was a big mess every time we fed him. He’d take a big bite, but only about half the food would go down, and then he’d shake his head and bits of cat food and crushed worms would go flying. We’d have to give him a sponge bath after every feeding. (And then ourselves). It was a gross, yet funny mess. Even with crushed worms flying at us, Jimmy made us laugh. He was a very friendly bird and only got more friendly as he traveled everywhere with us for his two hour feedings.
What came out the other end after these feedings, I can’t even begin to describe, but I swore I’d never eat chocolate pudding again. We would put in him this little yellow plastic bowl, lined with paper towels, to try and keep the mess contained. But Jimmy would lift his butt and the poop would shoot out like a projectile. We’d never know where it would land. We’d try to guess and cover everything with paper towels ahead of time. But somehow it would shoot right past them, or in another direction, or all over my shirt. Gary explained that it was perfectly normal, “that’s how they keep the nest clean. The baby bird’s poop goes right over the edge.” Interesting, I thought, Jimmy had taught me something once again.
During the process of his feathers coming in, he looked goofier than ever. Fluffy down feathers, spiky wing feathers, and bits of feathers sticking up on top of his head…he was a sight. Soon the feathers opened up, his legs got stronger and finally he could stand. That turned into him standing on my shoulder or finger most of the day. Good thing I’m self employed because I’m sure no boss would have allowed me to work with a baby bird standing on my shoulder. And I got used to doing everything with Jimmy on my shoulder. He also liked to hide under my hair and surprise people by popping his head out during a conversation.
This went on for weeks, until it was finally time for him to learn to fly. My husband took on this task. Every morning, noon and night, Gary would take Jimmy outside and explain to him that he was a wild bird and that he would need to learn how to fly. Jimmy seemed to listen.
Gary would hold him up on his finger, lift his hand high in the air and then slowly lower it. Jimmy would hang on and flap his wings. After many days of learning to flap, Gary placed Jimmy on his palm, raised him up and then lowered him. Jimmy would flap, become airborne, and hover. Soon he started to flutter and then fly, a few feet at a time, finally making his way to the pine tree. He’d wobble and flap. We’d get him and try again and again. After a few days he could fly up into a higher tree and back. And he would always come back.
After a few weeks of training, he could fly up into any tree he wanted. He knew what to eat, we’d taught him to dig up worms and bugs and drink from puddles. Jimmy was ready to be on his own.
As much as it broke our hearts to release him, we knew it was the right thing to do. He was a wild bird and deserved to be free. The problem was, Jimmy didn’t want to leave us either. We’d take him out and let him fly away and later he’d be back. He’d sit in a tree and wait for one of us to go outside and then fly right to us. For awhile he’d spend his days outside in the trees and his nights inside with us. It seemed like he was happy and it gave us time to get used to the idea of him not being with us. It felt weird to sleep through the night and work without a bird on my shoulder.
After some thinking, we decided to release him out where we were building a house. My parents had given us two acres of land amongst their thirty wooded acres. We had a big pond and lots of other birds and wildlife. So it was really an ideal spot for Jimmy to start his new life. We headed over to the property on a beautiful Sunday morning, held Jimmy up, and much to our surprise, he flew up into the tall trees and then out of sight. We sat there awhile just to be sure he had really gone. We were sad but knew he’d have a great place to live and hoped we would see him around the yard. We headed back to home, sad to see him go, but knowing we did the right thing. Jimmy the starling was now free to fly wherever he wanted. We took pride in the fact that we had saved a life that could go out into the world and soar through the sky, find a mate, and start the cycle of life all over again. A happy ending, after the many weeks of two hour feedings and projectile poop clean ups.
Everything seemed great, until Monday morning arrived. In our plans, we hadn’t thought about my father, who was building our barn, or the construction crew working on our house. About 10am I got a call from dad. “That bird of yours is here landing on everyone.” We left work right away and went out to the site. There was dad and the whole construction crew standing in the yard talking about the amazing little starling that kept landing on them while they worked. Well, dad knew it was Jimmy, but the construction guys thought it was some kind of miracle. They were all amazed and delighted by his friendliness. Obviously, Jimmy hadn’t lost his fondness for people.
For many months after that, we heard stories about a wild bird that visited people at garage sales, on walks, or children playing in the yard. The local paper ran a photo of a man working in his garden with a wild bird on his shoulder. “How unusual,” they’d said. Everyone talked about the mysterious starling that loved visiting people. He’d fly right down, look at them, sit on their head, or chirp at them. It was a miracle, as miracles go, that this one little bird could touch so many lives with his love for life and people.
So the story of the ugly little bird that was thrown from his nest ends on such a happy note, a note I’m sure Jimmy would love. Because that’s what he brought to my life as well as everyone he touched. Jimmy had a tiny body, but inside he was a beautiful friendly creature that brought mysterious joy and love to many residents in our little town that year. And we never told anyone that the mystery bird really wasn’t a mystery at all…it was our friend, Jimmy.
A true story by:
I had been at the hospital all day visiting a sick friend. As I headed out to the dark, cold parking garage at 2am I felt exhausted, drained and depressed. The concrete parking garage wasn’t helping.
I grabbed my keys and went to unlock my door. Just as I stuck the key in the lock I saw a tiny brownish colored bird sitting on the ground by my car. “What are you doing here?” He looked up at me. “You need to move so I can get in my car.” But he didn’t move. I reached down, expecting him to fly away. But no, he hopped on my hand instead. “Aren’t you a friendly little guy!” I looked him over closely, he looked fine. Nothing broken. His eyes were nice and clear.
I walked over to the ledge of the parking garage, placed him up there, and waited for him to fly away. But he just looked at me. “You need to fly away, you crazy little bird.” Still nothing.
I put my hand back out and he jumped on my finger again. I opened my car door and started getting in, thinking he would fly away, but he just gripped his little toes into my finger tighter and got in with me. I started the car. He wasn’t scared. Instead, he cocked his little head and looked at me. By now I was feeling like this was the weirdest encounter ever. Was he trying to help me feel better? Did Mother Nature send this beautiful creature to cheer me up, to take away the negativity of the day? He may not have known it, but that was certainly what he was succeeding in doing.
“Do you want to come home with me,” I asked. “I have a beautiful yard in the country. Lots of little birds live there.” He seemed to listen. But at the same time I thought he was probably ill and couldn’t fly. I would at the very least take him home, keep him warm and bury him if he passed away on the ride. Even though he looked perfectly healthy, wild birds don’t sit in parking garages waiting for people to come along and pick them up. He had to be ill, I thought. Though I prayed he wasn’t.
I made a little nest out of my sweater and placed him on my lap. He just sat there comfortably. I backed the car out, paid my parking fee and headed home. I talked to him for the whole thirty minute ride, waiting for him to hop up, start flying around the car and cause and accident. But no, he just sat there comfortably staring at me.
When I got home, I parked the car and got out. He was perched on my finger tightly. I lifted him up, and much to my surprise and delight he flapped his wings and flew out of sight. “I guess you just wanted to move to the country.” I laughed to myself and thanked him for happiness he had given me.
If you enjoyed this story please look for my other ebooks
It’s All About The Gravy
The Cat Factory
I have been creating things for as long as I can remember. Everything from paintings and sculptures to novels. Creativity is such an important part of my life that I can’t imagine getting up everyday without some artistic project to do. Writing a novel had always been a goal of mine but I never sat down to actually do it until 2007 when I wrote The Cat Factory. Writing, like art, has become a creative outlet for me.
I have been studying spirituality, philosophy, meditation and the paranormal for over twenty years, leading me to get a M.S. in paranormal studies. I live in a small town with my husband and our many animal companions. I hope you enjoy my simple stories as much as I have enjoyed writing them. My biggest dream is that they help you to see that life is a celebration for all creatures.
Raising Jimmy is the true story of a baby bird that fell from his nest and landed seventy five feet below onto slate steps below. See how he lived to spread his mysterious joy and love to an entire town.