I’m a bird lover who has had many birds as pets – and I even let them fly around the house! But I’ll admit I’m not a fan of starlings. They come in great numbers, like a gang of ruffians, and attack my orchard.
In a few minutes, the ravenous starling gang destroys the results of my hard work in the fruit orchard, and leave a devastating scene behind. They eat and throw away my black cherries, my black and white prized mulberries, and my figs.
I spend much of my summer rushing out of the sunroom into the garden to shoo them away. Recently, the frantic sound of their chirping urgently propelled me into the garden to discourage them once more. Irritated, I clapped hard and threw water at the big cherry tree, thinking they were in there decimating my cherries, even though I couldn’t see the birds. Despite my efforts the chirping continued, and I felt helpless to defend my fruit.
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This went on for a couple of days. I could still hear their loud voices, but I couldn’t find them. On the third day, in the early morning, I heard very close to me the sound of movement in the wall of my bathroom. My house is 110 years old, with many places where different creatures can enter for a visit, so I’ve accepted that I must co-exist with them. I listened carefully, realizing the sound was behind the wall. The noise sounded like a bird flapping its wings.
After some thought, I concluded that it could be a bird that had fallen through, meaning there was probably a nest in the attic. I knew it must be the pesky starlings nesting there, their babies torturing me with their cries and getting ready to grow up and destroy more of my fruit. So I took a flashlight and went to the dark and narrow attic, where I could hear the chirping.
There he was, a loud mouthpiece with eyes closed and beak open, making a scene. I lifted the little guy and he tried to bite me, wanting to get away. I felt angry and confused – my enemy in my house at my mercy, I’m trying to save him and he’s fighting me? How dare he? Who does this little thing think he is?
With a little distaste I put the loudmouth chick on the floor, thinking the parents would take care of him. Later, when no parents appeared, I realized that there were two chicks left hungry and out of the nest, one of them in my bathroom wall where I could do nothing to reach him. Because that one no longer made any sound, I assumed that he had died shortly after.
On my next visit to the attic, I found the nest on a platform half a meter from the floor. The nest was not deep, and any movement of the chicks would have caused them to fall. That’s exactly what happened, I reasoned.
Knowing all this, I felt terrible about the chick’s death and wanted to do something for his surviving sibling. Despite my dislike for starlings, I decided to take care of him, remembering these words of Abdu’l-Baha: “Ye must not only have kind and merciful feelings for mankind, but ye should also exercise the utmost kindness towards every living creature.”
So, I went up to the attic once more. I looked for him and could hear him but could not see him.
He had apparently found his way under the attic floor insulation – which meant I couldn’t reach him, either! Frustrated, I returned to the attic several times. I could hear him, which made me miserable since I couldn’t help him. I felt he was calling me for help, and since his parents had abandoned him, I was his only savior.
During the next few days, he was a bundle of energy, crying loudly and continuously without breaks. It tore my heart out. I did not know what to do except repeat “I am so sorry, I cannot help you,” or “It’s not my fault that your parents built a bad nest!” I talked to him to ease my conscience. I felt there was a lesson in this for me, but didn’t yet know what kind of lesson.
Maybe that little fledgling starling was born to teach me a lesson about the love and preciousness of life.
Hearing his non-stop cries for help, and being unable to do anything, I was in emotional hell, and I knew the end was coming. My misery knew no limits, since now I clearly understood the agonizing end of my unwanted guest – who I now deeply cared for and wished for. I prayed for his survival, which was impossible because I could hear that he had now fallen behind the wall behind the bathtub.
In my mind I called him the “Little Fighter,” who would not give up easily. I cannot describe the change in my feeling from indifference when I first held him in my hand, to now sincerely praying for his survival.
His cries mercifully stopped the following day and, as I pondered this sad event and tried to find the lesson in it, I realized that the little lost bird taught me that the gift of life is precious and worth fighting for. He also taught me not to hate the starlings that destroy my fruit. They, like all of us, want to live and need to eat, and, since they can’t buy food from the store, they eat it from the trees – my trees included . I learned that I can still love even those people and creatures I wrongly perceive as enemies.
I thank my Little Fighter for showing me that I am still emotionally alive, capable of loving and changing my attitude. In his short life span of a few days, he triggered emotions I did not know I had, reminding me to follow this advice from the Baha’i teachings: “Therefore one must be very considerate towards animals and show greater kindness to them than to man.”