The Immeasurable Value of Young Life
If my porch wren will do anything to protect her young, why won’t we?
By Mary Daily
A porch wren built a nest at the top of the wreath on my front door. The perfect circle of grass and bits of paper and feathers is nestled between the wreath and the door, at the back of the porch, sheltered from rain and wind. It’s an ideal location of course, because birds know these things.
I returned after a long time away to find the nest, with five small speckled turquoise eggs inside. The mom perched there almost 24 hours a day, against the window in the door, where she could keep the eggs warm and keep an eye on me. I quickly learned that if I got too close, she flew away. So I tried not to disturb her, coming and going through the garage rather than the front door.
One morning I noticed she wasn’t there as much and, standing on a stepladder, I peered into the nest. Four tiny chicks huddled there, filling the nest like furry pink shrimp with large black eyes. Their little bodies were pulsing and, while I watched, one flung its neck and changed positions. But one egg was still not hatched.
The dad bird started showing up. He didn’t sit on the nest but perched on the side, looking in. He seemed to be putting something into the mom’s mouth. Both parents looked concerned about the remaining egg.
But by the next morning there were five birds, so tiny I could easily have held them all in the palm of my hand. Since then, the mom sits more to the side of the nest, hunkered down to try to cover them all. The dad continues to drop by to check on everyone.
Several times a day mom leaves for maybe 15 minutes to forage, while the babies stretch their open beaks upward. That’s when I do what I need to do in the front of the house. Mom and I carry on a daylong dance as I keep an eye out for the little hump at the top of the nest. If it’s there, I stay away. But she will now allow me to walk halfway down the hallway toward the front door and into my office. I hope she’s learning I’m on her side.
This mother bird will do anything to safeguard herself and her young. She knows that if anything happens to her, her five babies will starve, their lives ended before they begin. She has no other interest but the wellbeing of her chicks.
All this has been on my mind in light of the recent murder (again) of school children. While my porch wren was being so protective, 19 children were shot in cold blood at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. This, when humans are supposed to be the most intelligent beings on earth, blessed with the ability to reason and make choices.
Yet we continue to let disturbed people go undetected and acquire the means to murder. Is it too much to ask us to protect our children? Sending prayers to the bereaved families changes nothing if we don’t take action. God isn’t standing by to bail us out while we sit on our hands.
My porch wren knows no limit to what she will do for her young. Yet we do. We should be horrified at ourselves. It’s way past time to stop the insanity.
Mary Daily is a writer in Los Angeles.