Our little House Sparrow, Chip, died Monday morning. She was 10 years old.
For those of you that aren't familiar with the story of Chip, let me explain.
Years ago I was an aviary keeper for a public exhibit of lorikeets (that's a whole other story in itself) and I was responsible for the handfeeding and care of around 2 dozen parrots, which consisted of mostly lories and lorikeets as well as 3 macaws. I also did some work for the pet store where Gregg still works to this day, handfeeding and socializing baby parrots. I got a reputation at the "bird lady" around town and would often end up with orphaned wild birds to rescue and release.
One day, a friend of a friend found a nest of baby House Sparrows that had been blown to the ground after a storm. Only one of the babies was still alive. It didn't even have feathers yet. The guy heard about me from our mutual friend, and brought the bird to me for help.
I hand fed the little sparrow, as I had done dozens of times before, and got ready to release her, but there was a bit of a delay. Gregg and I were preparing to move that spring. I wanted to be available to offer her food for a few days once she started living outside. Oftentimes young newly released birds will hang around for a week or so, for security and food while they're learning to live in the big wide world.
Once we got to the new house, I started taking her out every day to fly around. She lived outdoors for about a week, but two nesting mockingbirds started to harass her. She would frantically land on our shoulder every time we came outside, so we starting bringing her back in to keep her safe. We thought that as soon as the mockingbirds finished nesting, she would happily adjust to life outdoors....but she didn't. She would fly around for a few minutes when we took her outside, but then would cheep and cry and every time we walked in the door she would land on our shoulders and hitch a ride back inside. After a while, it started to get cold outside....so we kept her inside where it was warm and safe. And after that first winter, we had a pet sparrow. She didn't know how to live in the wild and we didn't have the heart to try to force her.
A few years later, we moved into our current house, and Chip came with us. She had a whole bedroom to herself, with a large potted ficus tree and a window looking out onto our bird feeder. We often opened the window in the warm months, so she could have left at any time, but she never did. We didn't keep her in a cage. She lived in her ficus tree, and we kept newspaper down on the floor in her room to keep it clean.
We grew very attached to Chip over the years. (A coworker of mine named her for the sound she made as a baby.....in those first days I had to take her with me to work so that I could feed her every couple of hours). In addition to the fresh seeds and water that were always available to her, she loved bread. Every single morning for years, Gregg would take a tiny piece of bread in to her room and she would hop on his hand and nibble it. We noticed over the past couple of weeks that she was slow to wake up and get moving in the morning, and it would take her a few minutes to come around. She was extraordinarily old for a House Sparrow. And on Monday morning, when Gregg went in with her morning piece of bread, he found her little lifeless body underneath her ficus tree. We both cried.
|Chip as a baby.|
If you've ever wondered how my blog came to be named "Sparrow Tree Journal" now you know...it was a tribute to Chip and the tree where she lived.
We're going to miss that little bird.