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  • Roberta Winchester

Win(d)sor the Robin, not the Queen

American Robin fledgling
Winsor, the American Robin chick

One of the hats I have worn, and sometimes wear now, is that of a wildlife rehabilitator. It takes many hours of learning and certification to become a rehabilitator. Although rehabilitation work can be sad and frustrating, it is also incredibly rewarding. The joy of releasing a bird back into the wild that would have otherwise likely died is a feeling like no other.

Two summers ago, when I was spending the summer at a family cabin in the Santa Fe National Forest, I found a robin fledgling underneath a large ponderosa pine. Fortunately I saw it, as no parent was nearby and there was no nest that I could see or even reach if I did see one.

The robin was on the ground and seemed to be waiting to be picked up. It was as if it was saying "oh, there you are!" I picked it up and carried it back to our cabin.

The robin chick seemed healthy but did have a puncture wound on its back. My theory was that it was picked up by a raptor and then dropped. One of the most important things that must be done when a bird needs rescue is to get properly hydrated. Naturally, because I was not at my usual home, I had none of my rehabilitation supplies with me. So I made a makeshift nest for the robin, hopped in the car, and drove two hours back to my house.

Once back home I hydrated it properly and examined it thoroughly. Except for the puncture wound, it was healthy. I cleaned its wound and waited for the first poop. We rehabilitators get very excited when we see healthy poop — it means most systems are a "go".

Well, the poop was not a healthy one so I gave him the needed medicine and crossed my fingers. Luckily, it didn't take long for his digestive issue to turn around and for the wound to close, and the newly named Winsor (named for a nearby creek) was on his road to recovery. Hourly feedings of special food ensued and, after several weeks, Winsor was out of his nest and moving about his container.

Then came time for him to learn how to feed himself — blueberries and mealworms were favorites. (Blueberries also make for interesting blue poop.) Winsor was a fun bird — curious, alert, and to my mind, sweet. Once he was able to feed himself, I put him in a flight area where he could work on his wing strength and practice being a real bird.

Finally, it was time for Winsor to go out into the world — a great moment for both of us. Or so I thought. Winsor did not think so. He thought my job was to feed him so he kept coming back to our porch expecting food. Back to the feed store I went to buy more worms. Winsor was becoming an expensive bird to feed!

Winsor the American Robin fledgling
Winsor and Kent

Not wanting Winsor to get tame, I quit putting worms out for him knowing that my yard was full of food for him to find on his own. He eventually got the message but paid me back one more time by flying into the cabin and refusing to land for three hours. When he finally landed on the kitchen counter I grabbed him and flung him outside. That was the last time I saw Winsor, although I think I heard him once or twice on one of our walks.

I like to think that three years later Winsor is still flying around the canyon happily enjoying his robin life.



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