Great Tailed Grackle

We have many birds in our neighborhood and one of the most popular is the Great-tailed Grackle.  Like all birds, they rise exactly 30  minutes prior to sunrise, and I hear them throughout the day and see them on the adobe walls in my backyard.  Last week, Mrs. tVM saw a nest in our neighbor’s tree and we knew a new family had arrived when we heard young, hungry birds chirping for their mother’s attention and an insect morsel to fill their bellies.

This afternoon, I ate my lunch on the back patio with Clarence as I always do, and I noticed a pair of fledgling Grackles in the corner of the yard.  I am glad Clarence did not notice them.  The pair were obviously testing their new wings and found their way from our neighbor’s tree to our back yard.  They tried and tried to fly to the top of the 6-foot wall.  One made it.  One didn’t.

Three hours later, Mrs. tVM and I sat at the patio table to play our daily game of Yahtzee.  The young Grackle was still there.  He continued his efforts to fly to the top of the wall but came up short again and again.  This time, Clarence noticed.

As Clarence curiously approached the fledgling, a flock of 8 to ten adults appeared on the wall squawking madly, racing along the wall and even swooping down if Clarence approached the young bird.  While I distracted Clarence, Mrs. tVM secured the confused and frightened fledgling and placed him on the high wall.

His adult protectors, though grateful, continued to squawk until Clarence retired to the air-conditioned indoors.

The lessons were innumerable…

The ability to survive – and to fly – will not be denied in young birds.  Having flown – more accurately departed – the nest, they continue to experiment with and exercise their wings and feathers until they are successful.  FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION!

I never realized how ‘family-oriented’ the Grackle is.  Unseen until the fledgling was threatened, the adult Grackles appeared in mass to protect it and guide it to safety when threatened.  Major point there.  The adults allowed the fledgling to learn on its own, to make mistakes and fail.  The adults were unseen until the young one was threatened.

I have seen too many whining people in my life – many children – who do not share the same will to succeed – the will to win – that the fledgling showed me today.  For that, I will forever respect this bird.  I suspect he is characteristic of his race, not just Grackles, but all birds.

Similarly, as adults we have become too ready to step in to insure our ‘fledglings’ do things our way without experiencing failure.  We shower them with gifts and all the material things we hope will make their lives easier.  We do not allow failure, mistakes and pain to be a teacher, rather, we allow it to be an excuse to give up because life should not be that hard for our ‘fledglings.’

We need to let our children make mistakes, to face uncertainty, to allow them to find their own way out of uncomfortable situations.  We need to encourage them to be bold, to experiment, to grow on their own.  Guidance is essential, but to do everything for them becomes counter-productive.  Scabbed knees and black eyes were once badges of honor and rites of passage.

The human is as resilient as the bird.  It can be as bold and curious.  Allow your children to make mistakes but do not allow mistakes and failures to discourage them from moving forward.  So what if you fell on your bike like every other kid who learns to ride a bike has?  Get back on it and try again!  Be like the fledgling who will try and try, again and again until he learns to fly.

Chief Walking Buffalo

“But the great spirit has provided you and me with an opportunity for study in nature’s university, the forests, the rivers, the mountains, and the animals which include us.”
Chief Walking Buffalo, Nakoda

Mitakuye Oyasin

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  1. I love this! I came upon a baby Great Horned Owlet along side of the road. Someone had stopped and wanted to call the DNR. I said, no as he flew lowly into the woods. I said the parent will watch over him or her. And did you know the owlets can climb trees? Nature and birds are amazing. And bet Clarence was super curious! Thanks for this lovely story and reminding us that our children’s story is their own story, not ours.