Baby bird lessons do not include arithmetic and history; and what they need of geography is only the road to the South, where they spend their winters.
Baby birds have to be educated and trained for their life, just as we do - though not exactly in the same way.
The first of many baby bird lessons is learning to fly.
Baby birds tend to first fly away from the nest, when the parents are away after food.
Sometimes, parents will try to coax a nestling who is afraid to try his wings. I watched young orioles fly from the nest, all except for one. The one remaining seemed to be too timid to try. He stood on the edge of the nest, and called and cried. But he did not use his wings.
The father came to see him now and then. He had caught a large moth, and brought it to the nest in his beak. The young bird appeared to be very hungry when he saw the food; he opened his mouth and fluttered his wings, eager to get it.
But the parent did not feed him. He let him see the moth, and then, with a loud call, off he flew to the next tree. When the little oriole saw the food going away, he forgot he was afraid, and with a cry of horror he sprang after it; and so, before he knew it, he had flown.
After the young bird can fly, baby bird lessons include how to;
If you watch baby birds just out of the nest, you can see them being taught the most useful and important lesson, how to find their food.
The robin mother takes her baby bird to the ground, and shows him where the worms live and how to get them.
The owl mother finds a mouse creeping about in the grass, and teaches the owlets how to pounce upon it, by doing it herself before them.
The mother swallow, takes her youngsters into the air, and shows them how to catch little flies on the wing. The mother phoebe teaches her baby birds to sit still and watch till a fly comes near, and then fly out and catch it.
If you watch long enough, after a while you may see the parent bird, who is training a young one, fly away. She may leave the young one alone on a tree or the ground, and be gone a long time.
Before many minutes the little one will get hungry, and begin to call for food. But, if nobody comes to feed him, he will think to look around for something to eat. Thus he will get his lesson in helping himself.
Once I saw a woodpecker father bring his little one to a fence, close by some raspberry bushes. He fed him two or three berries, to teach him what they were and where they grew, and then quietly slipped away.
When the young bird began to feel hungry, he cried out - but nobody came. Then he looked over at the raspberries, and reached out and tried to get hold of one. After trying three or four times, and nearly pitching off his perch, he did reach one. The father stayed away an hour or more, and before he came back that young woodpecker had learned to help himself very well; though the minute his father came, he began to flutter his wings and beg to be fed, as if he were half starved.
A parent robin in our neighborhood has been heard giving a music lesson. He would sing a few notes and then stop, while the baby bird tried to copy them. He had a weak, babyish sort of voice, and did not succeed very well at first.
I have heard several baby birds at their music lessons. It is very easy to catch the birds teaching their little ones to exercise their wings and to fly together. You will see the young birds sitting quietly on fences or trees, when all at once the parents begin to fly around, with strange loud calls. In a minute every youngster will fly out and join them. Around and around they all go, hard as they can, til their little wings are tired, and then they come down and alight again.
I have seen a bluebird just out of the nest, taught to follow his father. He stood on a small tree, crying for something to eat, when his father came in sight with a beakful of food. He did not feed him, but flew past him, so close that he almost touched him, and alighted on the next tree, a little beyond him.
The little bluebird saw the food, and at once flew after it, perched beside his father, and was fed. Then the old bird left him, and in a few minutes he felt hungry, and began to call again.
I watched closely, and soon the father came and did the same thing again. He flew past the young one with an insect in plain sight in his beak, and perched on another tree still farther along in the way he wanted the little one to go.
The hungry baby followed, and was fed as before. In this way he was led to a big tree the other side of the yard, where the rest of the family were, and where they all spent the night.
I have watched a mother robin teach her young one to bathe. She brought him to a dish of water. The little one stood on the edge and watched his mother go in, and splash and scatter the water. He fluttered his wings, and was eager to try it for himself, but seemed afraid to plunge in.
At last the mother flew away and left him standing there, and in a moment came back with a worm in her mouth. The young robin was hungry, as young birds always are, and when he saw the worm, he began to flutter his wings, and cry for it.
But the mother jumped into the middle of the water dish, and stood there, holding the worm in his sight. The youngster wanted the worm so much that he seemed to forget his fear of the water, and hopped right in beside her. She fed him, and then began to splash about, and he liked it so well that he stayed and took a good bath.
Baby bird lessons, as these stories show, are taught by coaxing their little ones, and not by driving them.
A careful watcher will see the bird giving some of these baby bird lessons, and many others as interesting.
The key to observation is to be quiet and not frighten the birds. Happy birding.
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