Auron’s nurse came into the house and said, “There is a bird in the garden. I don’t think it can fly.” Sure, enough there was a bird, a baby dove, walking around, not a new born, but not ready for the world either. Like Icarus he had fallen from the sky, from a nest high in the big Linden tree shading the house. I picked him up and decided to try to save him, normally a fraught situation ending in the pet cemetery. I knew that the fledglings feed from their parents’ mouths. They stick their head into the parent’s throat and eat some mysterious milk-type substance they find there.
We have some healthy snacks around: roasted almonds and sunflower seeds. My best idea was to chew up some of that, mix it with some water, and do my best to get the baby to eat. With a spoon and some persistence, I got his beak into the porridge, such as it was. I saw that he opened his beak a bit and took some. Success! But there was a lot more to do before I would be confident, he would live. We got a small cage and I put some of the mash I made plus some water and he started slowly to eat it.
He was never tame, never friendly. When I would bring the food and water and open the cage, he would raise one baby wing in a “ward off” gesture as in Tai Chi. That was all the defense he had; just to raise a wing. When that didn’t work, he would become panicked and frantic. He would hyperventilate, flapping around hysterically, blood pressure through the roof. Some of his young feathers were getting damaged.
My job was not a pleasant chore. My goal was to get him to the stage where he could fly and be free. As far as I was concerned that could not happen soon enough. There were still no feathers under his wings but he was getting stronger.
Happily, he was eating solid food; cracked corn I smashed up, and the almonds and sunflower seeds also busted up by hammer. After two weeks, a bit prematurely perhaps, I took him out in the morning and let him go. He flew across the street and it seemed like he landed in the neighbor’s walled veranda, the kind of place where he might be trapped. We asked the neighbor to check and he was not there.
Then he was seen at different places along the street. I was happy since I felt he was going to be ok. Over the next few days, I thought I might have seen him with other doves, some about his size, maybe his siblings. I put some food out where his cage had been and also in the street where the doves often feed on things they find and on bits of dry food my wife puts out for the homeless cats in the neighborhood.
And that was that. Yesterday, after about a week, he came back. Our driver, Romulus, was out sitting under the carport awning as he usually does when he not doing errand and helping with various things, and he told me the bird was back. The two dogs were out. I went and sat down quietly on the step and held one of the dogs so he didn’t bother the dove. But she didn’t bother the dove at all, like they knew each other, and the dove actually flew down a few feet from me and even closer to the other dog who moved, but not aggressively. The dove smoothly flew away and landed on the gate, then on the garbage can almost right next to me, and then back to the wall where we had been putting out food.
“Pak Rom, “I said, “Get some of the food and put it out.” He did and the dove didn’t fly away but ate contentedly. Our maid had to go out to buy some vegetables and she went through the gate right next to the dove. He barely noticed. The same thing happened with my wife. He knew us all. And to me that is the most remarkable thing.
During the two weeks he was in his cage he observed everything and knew we were no threat, even the dogs. A renowned naturalist I knew, Larry Killham, an expert on crows and ravens, told me, “Just because a bird has a small brain doesn’t mean there is not a lot in it.”
I have seen him a few times but each time more at a distance. He seems strong and healthy, proud even as he sits on the apex of the roof of the house across the street. He was never a pet, but magically showed that he was and is aware, with feelings.
Surabaya, Indonesia 2020