Goodbye, Little Birds


child with birds flying

“All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small…”

Early June 2016

For days, the little bird perched itself on a garden post, only a few feet away, and made clicking sounds as it watched me. I figured this must be the anxious behavior of a parent bird with wee ones in a nest nearby. Not knowing about bird gender, I decided to assign a female identity and call this bird “mommy.”  I felt for her and said, “Please don’t be afraid. I won’t hurt you or your babies, I promise.” I looked about for the nest. Where could it be?


Ground Nest Babies

My 4-year old granddaughter, Adelina, found it. “Gramma, look here, under the trampoline!” I learned to my surprise that some birds actually build their nests on the ground! “Now this has got to be the epitome of vulnerable,” I thought. In an area of long weeds, in an indentation in the ground, the nest lay. It was hardly visible, even to the searching eye, and I only managed to see it when a baby bird lifted its head. A total of three young ones shared the nest.


Adelina and I watched in awe as the mommy, only a few feet from where we stood, shoved what looked like regurgitated morsels into waiting mouths. I didn’t make a video myself, but here’s one by someone else, which may give you a sense of what my granddaughter and I saw. (The word “dairy” must be a misspelling of diary.)

Dark-Eyed Junco Bird Nest

Btw, for some remarkable photos of some of the crazy places these critters build their nests, you might like to visit: Tough Little Birds.

Beauty in Vulnerability

I was moved by the fragility of these little lives, the mommy bird’s included. Here was new life, beautiful in all its vulnerable preciousness. Then I considered: Isn’t it similar for all living creatures when we enter the world, whether we be flowers, people, grasshoppers, trees, birds or–? And if we are honest, don’t we continue through our lives essentially vulnerable, no matter how many defenses we may build?

While I looked at this intimate family scene, the term that came to mind was the “sacredness of life.” That my granddaughter and I were privy to it, just outside our back door, felt like a blessing.

“That’s What Birds Do”

Adelina and I had some conversations about the little birds. Here is one:

“Gramma, are these babies going to fly?”

“Yes, but they don’t how yet. When they get a bit bigger, they’ll practice lots and then learn.” I spoke this confidently, even though I didn’t feel that confident about their safety. “It’s like when you were a little baby,” I explained. “You didn’t know how to walk but then you learned.”

“But I don’t want these babies to fly. I want to keep them.”

“Sweetheart, they will fly around here and then probably fly away. That’s what birds do. We’ll need to say ‘goodbye little birds.’ They may come back to visit us.” Adelina seemed satisfied with my explanation. I love how she, and most other little kids too, are fascinated by the Natural World. That strikes me as precious too.

Adelina and the mommy bird

The mommy bird continued to perch herself on the mesh fence and Adelina, in turn, perched herself on the old trampoline. It was an ideal place to look across at the mommy bird and then down at her babies.

I continued to check on the nest a few times each day. Each time I found all in order, I was relieved. Was there an invisible curtain protecting these little ones? After a while, Adelina got busy with the business of playing and didn’t pay so much attention. It was just as well because this past Sunday morning, her mom (my daughter) informed me, “The mommy bird’s gone, and her babies aren’t moving.”

“We Can Still Say Goodbye”

I didn’t want it to be true, but it was. The ever present mommy bird was gone and her babies…?  They lay lifeless in their nest. No sign of attack. Parent birds sleep on their young in ground nests, yes? Perhaps something had happened to the mommy and her babies succumbed to exposure during the night?  It’s June, not cold at night in Victoria, but certainly cool.

[As for Adelina, we chose–rightly or wrongly?– not to say anything about the loss. Later when she asked, I said, “The little birds went away. I don’t know where they went, but we can still say goodbye,” so we did.]

After that Sunday morning discovery, my day took on a softer hue. I continued to my New Thought church, feeling meditative and sad. When I walked in late, the video “Everything is Holy Now,” was being played. Somehow it was perfect.

The song, which honours the Natural World (little birds very much included) is sung by its composer, Peter Mayer. There’s a spiritual message in his lyrics that can speak to anyone, whether “religiously” inclined or not. I hope you can see/hear what I mean.

Wine from water is not so small
but an even better magic trick
is that anything is here at all,
So the challenging thing becomes
Not to look for Miracles
but finding where there isn’t one…

Closing Thoughts

Hmm, I notice I’ve included three mothers and some of their (our) young in this story about a bird’s family. Maybe it’s because I am thinking about life and those who nurture and protect its continuance, mothers and fathers especially.

I’m also thinking about our Natural World and how full of wonders it is. (Thank you, little birds, for reminding me.) How about you? What does this blog post have you think about? Does appreciating the Natural World add depth and beauty to your life?  Have little birds touched your heart like they have touched mine?

Thanks for visiting, and I’d love for you to share your thoughts and/or feelings in the comments section below.

By | 2017-05-28T18:37:18+00:00 June 17th, 2016|Music, Nature, Spirit Matters|20 Comments

About the Author:

Ramona McKean is creating a "Bridge of Light" (aka “a Bridge of the Heart”) to promote cross-cultural appreciation and awareness. An author and speaker, she lives in Victoria, BC, Canada.


  1. Kristina Rylova June 20, 2016 at 2:17 am - Reply

    Ramona, thanks for sharing this wonderful story. It makes me think about the beauty that surrounds us and to realize that is such a pity that we often do not notice it. We are so busy building our lives that sometimes forget to enjoy these small details around us.

    • Ramona McKean June 20, 2016 at 10:53 am - Reply

      Kristina, besides offering us beauty, Nature provides a wonderful antidote to stress. Anne Frank wrote about the healing influence of the Natural World. (What a wise, young old-soul she was.)

      The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.

      “I’ve found that there is always some beauty left — in nature, sunshine, freedom, in yourself; these can all help you.”

      Thanks for your comment.

  2. lenie June 20, 2016 at 3:16 am - Reply

    Ramona, I loved this bird story. I have a similar one. We have these flowers growing up against a shed – I don’t know the name of them but they grow tall, have purple flowers the bees and butterflies love, and they are very aggressive. they really take over an area. Last year we found a sparrow nest in there – still with the tiny eggs – and a very annoyed mother who let us know she didn’t appreciate us being there. Anyway, we kept an eye on things, the eggs hatched and the babies were doing fine. Then one day we checked and the nest was empty – something, probably a raccoon or skunk – had gotten to them during the night. Strangely, we actually felt robbed.
    Thanks for sharing yours.

    • Ramona McKean June 20, 2016 at 11:24 am - Reply

      I can imagine how you felt robbed, Lenie. We did too; we also felt sad that our little friends were no more. Dark-eyed juncos, the birds in my story, are sparrows too; i.e., a type of sparrow. Such fragile little beings. Hmm, a gospel song, “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” has just come to mind. Have you ever heard it? Just did a little googling. Here’s B.J. Thomas’s version recorded in the 80’s:

  3. Phoenicia June 20, 2016 at 10:39 am - Reply

    What a beautiful article. Many of us become so caught up in the day to day that we miss these small but important joys of life. Just the other day we spotted a Cockerell plodding along on a patch of grass. I did not have time to take a photograph as I was in our car.

    Whenever a bird of any kind finds its way in our garden, I grab the phone to take a photograph.

    • Ramona McKean June 20, 2016 at 11:33 am - Reply

      Alas, it’s easy for us humans to get caught up in our minds such that we don’t notice the present moment and its surroundings. Thanks for your observation, Phoenicia.

  4. Ken Dowell June 20, 2016 at 5:07 pm - Reply

    I found it sad, Ramona. Baby animals of all kinds sometimes face some pretty difficult odds.

    • Ramona McKean June 20, 2016 at 7:39 pm - Reply

      Thanks for reading my blog, Ken. I know it’s the circle of life and all that, but I too felt sad. Years ago I really wanted to have bird feeders and bird baths in my yard but didn’t due to my cat. In no way did I want to set up anything like a “death trap.” I know it is instinctual for cats, but still I was horrified one day to see him leap 4-5 feet in the air and catch a bird in his mouth. (He used to leap onto my shoulders from the floor, so he was a high jumper.)

  5. Catarina June 21, 2016 at 7:48 am - Reply

    Nice story, Ramona. Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be a bird? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to fly like they do? All over the world actually due to the change of seasons. But then again, who would want to eat their kind of food and not be able to communicate as well as we do. Besides it would be pretty tiring to have a bunch of children every year, wouldn’t it. On top of it those children would swiftly disappear. For some reason I believe being a bird would best suit people who thrive on getting intoxicated one way or another in order to escape. They could be permanently high and not have to have much of a conversation with their brethren.

    • Ramona McKean June 21, 2016 at 11:08 am - Reply

      Thanks for your comments that have put a smile on my face, Catarina! For some weird reason, crows and ravens command my attention. They are such smart, bold, brazen birds. They seem to like nothing better than to steal food out of its close proximity to humans. Then it’s like they laugh at their own audacity! Years ago when I lived in logging country (north Vancouver Island), I knew a guy who was sitting in his truck one day, with the window down, eating his bag lunch. A raven flew in, seized the sandwich right out of his hand, then flew off in triumph. So the diet of these bratty birds is varied, all depending on what they can scavenge.

      Their camaraderie with the other crows/ravens in their airy neighbourhoods intrigues me too. They squawk/talk to each other from tree to tree in what seems a display of sophisticated language ability. Much of their banter sounds like joking with lots of guffaws. Yes, maybe they thrive on being “permanently high”! 🙂 These feathery friends also congregate en masse in particular trees or on people’s lawns. I figure that’s when they’re having family reunions or crow conferences or rallies!

      I get your point about babies leaving home for their own wide blue yonder. Maybe crow babies are different and they stick around as continued members of the clan. Who knows? So, if I were to be a bird, which would I choose? Maybe a crow or a raven, or maybe I’d be a stately albatross, soaring above the Southern Seas.

      If you were a bird, Catarina, which one would you choose to be? Thanks for such a great reply that certainly got my imagination going!

  6. Sabrina Quairoli June 21, 2016 at 6:28 pm - Reply

    We have many birds and wild bunnies in our backyard. Recently a new animal is living in our trees. It’s a chipmunk. He/she is so cute. But totally scared of us. It’s does give depth to my life watching them.

    • Ramona McKean June 24, 2016 at 4:47 pm - Reply

      Sabrina, how nice to have these kinds of little backyard visitors! (As long as they are not devouring your vegetable garden or doing other mischief?) Little critters are a delight to watch. Whenever my 2 year old grandson is crying, I’ve discovered a trick. It’s to say, “Did I hear a little bird?” He almost always stops crying right away. We then go to the window, or outside, to see where the bird might be hiding. So effective in a simple and peaceful way.

  7. Doreen Pendgracs June 21, 2016 at 6:48 pm - Reply

    Lovely post, Ramona. I live in a place where I am very connected to nature. It certainly helps keep me grounded and appreciate all the small, yet important things in life. And yes, I too, love the birds and feed them everyday.

    • Ramona McKean June 24, 2016 at 4:55 pm - Reply

      How lovely, Doreen! I too experience the grounding/centering quality of nature, daytime or night. Sometimes it can be as little as picking up a stone and wondering about how it was formed. At night, particularly if I’m sad or stressed, I just need to look up at the sky. What a marvellous, and totally healthy way to shift perspective. 🙂

  8. William Rusho June 24, 2016 at 10:24 am - Reply

    Nature is wonderful, and so cruel at the same time. It is this dichotomy that teaches us how great and fragile life truly is. Sometimes, we must accept the brutality as part of that magnificence that is nature.

    • Ramona McKean June 24, 2016 at 4:57 pm - Reply

      William, I appreciate how sage your words are. Thank you.

  9. Paul sappington August 20, 2016 at 1:03 pm - Reply

    I love that first picture of the silhouette of the girl looking out at the birds. Can you tell me the artist?

  10. Bola November 12, 2016 at 9:38 am - Reply

    Love your bird story. Quite emotional but a great post.

    • Ramona McKean November 12, 2016 at 9:37 pm - Reply

      Hi Bola,

      Alas, the story of dying or dead birds didn’t end for us there, I was soon to discover. After posting this blog, we had three more sets of experiences:
      1. A dead crow in our back yard;
      2. then a week or so later, there was an injured young crow that took a couple of days to die. At times it was surrounded by many of its “clan.” We couldn’t tell what was wrong. It did manage to make its way under some moderately thick foliage. My daughter put out a small dish of water. Later the bird was gone. We wondered if perhaps a raccoon had got it.
      3. In July, right along the shoreline of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, my granddaughter Adelina and I discovered an unusual looking sea bird, still alive, bobbing on the incoming tide. It was lying on its side then on its back and was in obvious distress. The tide deposited it on the sand by our feet and we saw it breathe its last. It had a little “horn” on its beak. A few days later in our local paper, I saw an article entitled “‘Shocking’ Number of Seabirds Found Dead on Region’s Beaches.” Turns out the bird ws a “rhinoceros auklet.”

      Perhaps there’s a superstition I don’t know about regarding dead birds?

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