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" Chirpy "

Portrait of a

photo by Bobbi Rodgers at Cedar Point Environmental Park April 19. 2011

This story began when I found this "almost featherless" baby bird sleeping up against a concrete marker at the edge of a parking lot.  It didn't seem injured but also didn't seem old enough to be laying around in a place like this in the middle of the day.  I waited a little while to see if there was a mother bird around anywhere... but could only believe he was lost and hungry and probably abandoned... and so it began.

I've raised a lot of baby animals in my day.  Just about every wild creature in 
SE Pennsylvania lived at our house at one time or another.  We had two baby 
raccoons that were about the same size as this baby bird when I found them... 
mother had gotten hit by a car.   They lived with us for several years... 
very much like house cats...
Above, I'm laying on the couch in my living room playing with the larger male "Bandit" who lived in a cage outside but was always welcome to come inside the house and play in the early evening...  well... until he got too frisky and started climbing the curtains and lamps...
and my mom would announce... "OK... get him outa here" :)
Still have a few friendly ones in my backyard here today

I also found these two baby Western Skunks walking down the middle of a back road, 
in the middle of the day, while out on my motorcycle.  I stopped and found a discarded McDonalds bag nearby and put the two of them in a medium sized drink cup that was
inside the bag and stuck it in my shirt for the ride home.  I raised them until they were full grown and big enough to go off on their own.  Never had them descented.  Never got sprayed.  Beautiful animal :)

Here's a flash from my past... my brother and I caught this 27" alligator when I was just 9 years old... and we kept it in the bathtub for a few weeks until we found a new home for it.  Dad wasn't too happy about it.

Yeah I know... you're not allowed to molest the alligators... but this was a long time ago... and we caught the critter in the "crick" behind our house in Pennsylvania... and there weren't any laws about doing things like that :) 

Still have a few of these in my backyard here also... only a little larger  :)

 And so here I was again... playing nursemaid to a baby bird.  At the time, since it didn't have any actual full sized feathers... I didn't even know what kind of bird it was.  It did have a lot of blue in it and I thought maybe it was a Blue Jay.  But whatever it was... it didn't want to eat... so I had to force feed him a couple times every hour for a few days. 
After that... a pair of tweezers and some creativity and he would open up for whatever 
I put in front of his mouth... and slowly but surely... I became the mommy :)
In just a couple of days his feathers started taking shape... but still with that blue tint.


I stopped at the new Pet Supermarket in Englewood and asked them if they had anything that it might need to stay healthy... and they offered me a couple of Free Samples of this "Super5Mix".  Reading the ingredient it seemed like it should have everything a baby bird might need to fly like an Eagle.

Soaking it in a bit of bottled water made it soft and easy to break into small pieces... and after a while 
he really seemed to like it.

A week later his wing feathers were growing in nicely and I was sure it was a Mockingbird.
He wanted to explore new places... but his tail feathers were less than adequate to fly.

But he didn't have any trouble jumping :)

I wanted to keep him "safe" but didn't actually want to keep him "captured"... 
so I put him in a small fake ficus tree that had been sitting in the corner of the 
house collecting dust... and I put the tree just outside the lanai on the 
outside porch... and he took to it like it was his original home. 

Every day before I fed him... I'd get him to hop up on my hand and I'd put him 
on the very bottom branch of the fake ficus and watch him as he'd hop up from 
branch to branch all the way up to the top in just a few minutes.  I thought it'd be 
good exercise for him.  When he got to the top he'd look me straight in the eye
and start to "Chirp" incessantly until he got something to eat. 

And that big yellow mouth meant business... a bit of fresh fruit or some moist puppy food would shut him up for a few seconds... but it wasn't until his entire craw was full that he would stop chirping.

And then he would usually climb to a highest branch in the tree...  and plop down... 
and take a nap :)   Ahhhhhhh

When he was a bit older... the Pet Supermarket also suggested that he might like eating a cricket... so I purchased a couple of dozen to try... this anole (lizard) had a heck of a time 
trying to grab one out of the plastic bag while I was photographing them.

As an experiment... I removed one crickets big back legs and placed it on a leaf in front of him
He saw it moving...
 and grabbed it... and thrashed it
but ultimately forget what he was doing with it...
and dropped it :(

As he grew up... the feathers all started filling in and he became quite a pretty sight to see.  I swear he grew a little bit every day. 
Like a small baby human, he wanted to eat every couple of hours...  but at least he slept through the night. 
And I wouldn't hear from him again until he started chirping just before daylight... 

And you know... it's funny. 
You hear about how birds can imprint with their mother... and I suddenly realized that it had happened to me. 

Not only did his first tiny little "chirp" from outside and behind the house wake me up in the dark at 6:45 in the morning... 
his tiny voice was mixed in with 100 other little "chirping" birds all over the place... and for some reason I knew which one was his :)

I'd say "Chirpy?"  and he'd respond with a single "chirp".  I'd say "Where's Chirpy?" in a song like fashion and he'd respond with a "chirp peep".
It was funny to think I was laying in bed having a conversation with a baby bird outside... but it always motivated me to get up and fix him some breakfast.

 As his feathers grew in... he started to fly.  Well at first it was more of just a soar 
to the ground because he didn't have any tail feathers to give him some lift... but he'd 
land on the ground at the base of the nearby Bougainvillea bush about 20 feet away 
and he'd quickly hop from branch to branch to the top.
Which was a great place for him to play because I knew he was safe 
from predators there because of it's thorny nature. After breakfast... he'd fly 
off to the bush to nap and preen and I'd go back inside to work at the computer. 
 I'd set the timer on my desk for an hour and go back out and check on him.  If he wasn't waiting for me at the door... (as he usually always did)  all  I needed to do is call out his name softly... "Chirpy?"  "Where's Chirpy?"... and he'd chirp and peep to let me know where he was.   I'd hold up a small plate of Chirpy food and say "you hungry?"
and he'd come soaring right to me in seconds.

Still landing at the bottom of the lattice fence at the back porch, 
he'd use his wings for lift and use his feet to climb the lattice to the top
Always with his mouth wide open... chirp chirp chirp chirp... until some food went in

 On Easter Sunday I was having lunch at a neighbors house and noticed a lot of adult and baby mockingbirds playing next to her house... and I wondered if maybe it would be a 
good idea to introduce "Chirpy" to the locals.  I said I didn't really have a way of transporting him from my house to hers, plus the fact that she has a little cat... 
and she walked away and came back and offered me this old bird cage. 
So thought it might be worth a try.
 Of course her little Hemmingway cat "Callie" thought it was an excellent idea except that it was hanging just a little too high for her to be able to play with him.  So I introduced them :)

 Then I took "Chirpy" outside and sat him on a sturdy stump in her back yard and walked back into the pool area about 50' away.  I didn't even get back to the door when I turn around and see an adult mockingbird come zooming down at him and he jumped off his perch and made a run for it.
 Chirpy hit the ground running and hid in the grass by an orange tree... and then lifted his head and begged the adult for food.  But the adult just flew off and I decided that maybe 
this wasn't the best way to introduce him in someone else's territory.

Back at home... as his tail feathers grew in,  he got a lot better at flying back and forth
to the Bougainvillea... and also started attracting more and more attention from the local mockingbird families which are very, very territorial.  But I guess being a "baby bird" is acceptable because they didn't give him any problems at my house. 
Here he is begging this adult mockingbird for something to eat. 

But they never offered him a crumb...  so I wonder what he's thinking

 Ahhhh.  Check it out... he's finally growing tail feathers.  I remember the first day when he actually flew "up" to the top of the Bougainvillea and then back to the "top" of the lattice... instead of having to hit the ground and climb up.  I was so proud of him :)

 Then there was that "First Time" that he flew "Up" onto the roof 
and sat on the gutter looking down at me.

Here he sits in the sunset peeking out over the front of the house... 
and seeing another whole world that he had not yet explored

Unlike many small birds that spend every waking hour looking for food, 
it is said that mockingbirds actually "take time to survey the passing world."

An Osprey soars through the air above him
And Chirpy heads off for the safety of the giant oak tree to the east.
And that was the first night ever that he didn't sleep in his fake ficus on the back porch... Don't know if it was the Osprey or if  he just decided he was old enough to camp out.  Whichever it was... he never slept in the fake ficus at home again after that night.

An adult male Mourning Dove looks on

 But he was always right outside the back door chirping for food every morning...  so I got to play with him every day.  I'd just reach out my hand and he'd climb right on :)
And we'd have a nice "chirp" together

 And I remember the first day that he went hunting on the ground all by himself. 
He seemed to like this little dirt pile.  He was such a blendable
that you almost couldn't see him playing there.

 But at least he was out finding his own food.  Well... attempting to find his own food. 
Since his "real mom" wasn't teaching him how to catch bugs... he learned it himself
by the process of elimination.  By that I mean he just tasted everything he saw.
Here he was sitting on the fence when this small insect flew by his head and he grabbed it right out of the air.   Good Catch Chirpy !   Ahhh.    They grow up so fast :)

My sunflowers are beginning to bloom... I wonder if he'll like the seeds


A week later my friend Bobbi Rodgers from Cedar Point Environmental Park stopped by 
to see how Chirpy was doing... and she had the pleasure of feeding him some lunch.
And then Chirpy showed her how well he could fly with his brand new tail feathers :)

 She also got him to take his first bath...

which he wasn't real crazy about

but he kinda got to learn what the

feeling of water was like

Which is good because he didn't have a clue what to do when he found himself in his first rain storm.
He just stood there shivering and trying to shake the water off... and I felt like I should tell him what to do...

So I went out and picked him up and dried him off with a towel
and put him back in the fake ficus which was staying dry under the eve...
and as soon as the sun came out he flew back onto the fence..

 And it didn't take him long to figure out 

that this might be a good time to take advantage

of the wet feathers to preen himself up a bit

There ya go...   All clean and fluffy :) 

 My friend Marie is the one who painted the green lattice around the garden that Chirpy became so very fond of... and he'd fly right over to her whenever she was visiting

And he looked great perched on it in the early morning light

And preening on it

And being photographed on it

 And sleeping under the bean sprouts that were growing on  it

As his tail feathers got longer and his wing feathers matured...  Chirpy just got prettier and prettier. 
And it made it easy to photograph him in lots of different locations as he flew around the yard and investigated everything


People from out of town heard about Chirpy but didn't really believe a wild bird could be so friendly... 
so went out of their way to stop by and see for themselves.  Chirpy just showed off as usual :)




He liked playing on the fence and resting under the bean sprouts... and also liked to eat the tender white flowers


He got so used to me taking his picture...

that I sometimes needed two cameras 

to take one picture :)




My back yard really was a pretty perfect environment for raising the little guy.  My lawn is actually all carpeted in the back with my veggie gardens cut in and surrounded with lattice... so Chirpy could easily see everything tht moved.
Behind that is a big Bouganvillea and a couple of large Oleander trees... 
and behind that was a huge stand of ficus trees that are all about 50' tall.
And in this ficus forest were probably about 20 different nesting birds...
including starlings, grackles, boat tails, cardinals, sparrows and doves.

And... the entire area became somewhat of a "No Fly Zone" to all the larger birds... 
and things like crows and hawks and herons were all met with a swarm of small birds
that would suddenly race out of the trees and be nipping at their tail feathers to keep 
them away from their nests.  So the big birds had to give the whole area a wide berth.

 The Oleander was a little further from the safety of his fake ficus 
but quickly became Chirpy's favorite tree
And he loved hopping around from branch to branch for hours at a time

 Chirpy hunting in the early evening light


 Interesting how mockingbirds spread their wings like this when on the ground hunting.  They frequently spread their wings in a peculiar two-step motion to display the white patches on their wings.   But it's debatable whether this behavior is a territorial display, or whether the flashing white patches startles insects into giving up their cover.   Only a Chirpy knows :)

You can read more about them here

 Nite Nite Chirpy

Chirpy on the hunt

Look Mom... I can stand on one foot :)


From time to time he'd even visit the old bird cage that I left hanging with the door open

The Gulf Fritillary or Passion Butterfly, is common in my back yard.

This Brown Thrasher is closely related to the Mockingbird and a pair of them nested nearby and visited my bird bath quite often. It also sings like a mockingbird and holds the title of  the Georgia State Bird.   Interesting article I found here

Now this was a very heart warming experience for me.   Chirpy brought me this stick ! 
What a great feeling to get a gift from such a friend :) 

This beautiful female Cardinal I named "Mrs. C" shared the Oleander tree with Chirpy without any problems

" Baby C "  looking for a snack

Interesting shot I got of this The Ring-Necked Turtle Dove as it flew by heading for a Norfolk pine at the edge of my property...  Their usual call is a monotonous and high-pitched “Cooka-loo” which they repeat ten to thirty times.   A friend of mine 
calls them the "Darn Owls" that keep waking her up in the morning :)

Because of the unusual sound of the birds call in the bush it is said that in the morning the 
call of the turtle dove is saying 'work haaarder, work haaarder', and in the evening, the call is saying 'drink laaager, drink laaager'.

I wonder if this is why they call them a "turtle" dove ?

What do you think Chirpy ?

Chirpy liked strawberries

Peek a boo :)

His friend Mr. "C" singing at the very top of the ficus in the morning

 This pair of grackles live in the ficus trees out back and were in the yard every day 
taking a bath or collecting food and nesting materials.  Chirpy had no problems with them.

But as he grew towards adulthood... the other mockingbirds in the area decided
they didn't want him here... and they would dive down and try to run him off several 
times an hour.  But since Chirpy really didn't have anywhere else to go... 
he pretty much just had to deal with it. 

And I think it made him a better / stronger bird because of it.

He learned so many evasive maneuvers to avoid their attacks that it actually 
seemed to turn into a game for him.   He'd fly to the top branches of the ficus or the 
Norfolk Pine where he knew he'd draw attention and then make them chase him
for five or six minutes until they'd get tired and go home.
One of his best maneuvers was how he learned to actually fly right through the openings in the lattice without having to stop.  He'd just fold his wings and sail right through... and none of the other mockingbirds knew how to do that.  If / when he got himself into a bigger jam... (because sometimes several birds would gang up on him) he'd zoom right through the fence and then fly over and land right at my feet... as if to say... 

"My mommy is bigger than your mommy."

He also knew that he could fly right up to the screen on the lanai and perch on the spigot right next to the house 
and they wouldn't bother him there... but I think it may have been  because they saw me sitting right inside :)
No matter...  as I think it probably helped to build up his confidence :) 

And then one late evening... the strangest thing happened !

The Oleander tree became the center of attention for about 10 - 15 mockingbirds 
all at once.  As if it were some sort of family reunion or something.  It was too dark 
to get a picture without a flash but I didn't want to disturb whatever was going on. 
Amazingly... it was if Chirpy was actually invited.  And he flew over into the tree 
with all the other birds and they all hopped around playfully until it was dark.

The next day... Chirpy didn't show up for breakfast for the very first time... 
and I must admit I was a bit worried about him.   He finally did show up for lunch... 
but he only took two quick bites and then took off to the Oleander tree. 

And in the tree I see another smaller mockingbird perched on the branch where 
Chirpy always sat... and he flew up next to it and they sat there for several 
minutes before they took off together. 

And from that day on... Chirpy has been with this "other bird" every time I've seen him. 
So I'm going to assume it is a girl bird... and that Chirpy met his mate at that late night party in the Oleander the night before.  So I guess he was finally accepted by the locals for being in such good shape.  (well he did eat better than they did (did you look at those puppy food ingredients) and got lots and lots of exercise fighting for his territory every day.) 

Last time he actually came right up and visited with me was a week later.  I hadn't seen him for awhile... and was working on the house across the street from where I raised him... and I'm on a ladder painting some trim and doing some repair work on the gutters... and above the sound of the wind in the trees and the air conditioner running almost directly below me... 

I hear that familiar  "chirp"  "peep"... and I turn around on the ladder and there's Chirpy sitting on the branch 
of the Grapefruit tree just a few feet behind me.  And I say "Hey Chirpy... How you been?" 

And a moment later I see his little friend in the branches just above him. 

And I talked to him for awhile... he didn't answer... but then flew off with his little friend in tow.

He hasn't come that close to me since. 

And I think maybe he was just saying "Good Bye"

Or maybe he just wanted to introduce his new girlfriend to his mom ? :)


I miss the little guy. 

So I guess I did good.  I think Chirpy will be very happy here. 

I do get to see him one place or another almost every day. 

Always with his little friend at a distance.

I can't help but say  "Chirpy?" "Where's Chirpy?" out loud every time I see him...

Just makes me feel good :)


May 22, 2011

I had Chirpy for exactly 1 month and 3 days

And since then...

He has grown full length tail feathers...

Lost the boyish spots on his chest

And likes to play in the mango tree in front of the house and the grapefruit tree 
on this side of the house and take a bath in the bird bath behind the house almost every day. 

Interesting Information about Mockingbirds

Mockingbirds can master 180 calls and more than 400 song types in a few months. 

Their own call is a musical burble punctuated with an occasional harsh tone.

The Mockingbird is the state bird of Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas.

They did a study that showed that
Mockingbirds can remember people who have threatened them
and will start dive-bombing them if they see that person again.

I wonder if they ever did a study on friendship?

" Best of  Luck Chirpy "

Questions?  Comments?  Ideas?

I've been receiveing some very nice comments and emails about this web page and thought maybe I'd share a few with you.
If you have any positive comments you'd like to share please feel free to send them and I will add them to this page. 

Thank you in advance.

You can send them to:

The story of "Chirpy" is a magical story which seems to delight both children and adults alike, made even more so, 
by Robert's beautiful photographs of Chirpy and his World. I hope all your visitors will tell everyone they know 
about this amazing story and the lovely children's book that is to come!


Mariam Jensen

Dear Chirpy’s Adoptive Dad/Mom,
I was born and raised in the Englewood area (Boca Grande, Placida, Englewood, etc). My family has been here for 
over 4 generations (Bass), and I now own a second home in Cape Haze. The purpose of my email was to let you know 
how absolutely wonderful it is to see someone with such as heart in my hometown. We see many people from other parts 
of the US here, and it is refreshing to see an individual who cares about the animals and environment within the Englewood area.
I shared the story of Chirpy with my children (ages 7, 10) and you are their hero! What a great story. You should make a children’s book about Chirpy’s Life. They loved it as much as I did.

Thank you for sharing with us. We would love to see Chirpy’s “friend” and updates on how he is doing.
We will be back down the 4th of July. I will not be surprised if my kiddos look in the sky for him!

Kind Regards,
Dana Bass-Gonzales

I accessed Robert’s website and watched the “Chirpy” story.  The saga is really well done and is made 
more poignant by the artistic pictures.  I felt a real tug of emotion when I read about Chirpy’s goodbye and 
the fact the relationship lasted only a month and 3 days.  The pictures brought back the wonderful memories
I have of my visit to your piece of paradise.

Love,  Wanda

Your “Portrait of a Mockingbird” portrayed a uniquely intimate friendship between a seemingly trivial little creature 
and a human.   Yet your devoted nurturing and spirited delight melded a trust and mutual admiration from which you 
both were richly rewarded.  Thank you for sharing his evolution, so charmingly depicted in your beautiful photography, 
your admiration for this delicate friend shines through your lens. 


Thank you, Robert. I enjoyed your story, the pictures and the video.
It was a very nice treat in the middle of my day.


Love, love, love it!!!  Makes me laugh and cry…You did good Mom!


Checked your site to see about Chirpy and there it was!  Love the pictures (old and new), love the story, 
love the videos.  It's kind of like one of those tear jerker nature movies! I'll admit, I needed a tissue near the end
to dry the eyes!  You did good!  Rough start for Chirpy, but looks like he's happy now. 
Again, good Chirpy job - in raising him and the pictures!


That was cool


Very special Robert!  Loved the pics and the commentary.


HI Robert,
So nice of you to send me your pictures, I especially enjoyed Chirpy on your camera.


You are brilliant.  So a mocking bird mimics everything it hears.  I was fascinated.  I cannot stop watching. 
You are amazing.  You should win an award for that.    Thank you.

Mountain Girl

I finally got time to give this article the attention it deserved - ohmigosh - is this guy Dody's twin? Just magic! There are so few successes with amateurs and wild baby birds that young, but his is obviously a success story.

I loved the photos - the fluffed up shot after the bath, especially - all the ones of the bird interacting with people - and this bit sure hit home - I could relate exactly:

"You hear about how birds can imprint with their mother... and I suddenly realized that it had happened to me. Not only did his first tiny little "chirp" from outside and behind the house wake me up in the dark at 6:45 in the morning... his tiny voice was mixed in with 100 other little "chirping" birds all over the place... and for some reason I knew which one was his :)"

Sharon L. Brown

I looked at it last night and was enchanted!


What an awesome page.

Awesome story, awesome pictures.


My good friend, Annette, showed me your wonderful website and the story of "Chirpy". 
What a wonderful story, with amazing photography! Your pictures brought "Chirpy" to life 
for me and reminded me of how every little creature grows, learns and then "learns to fly!"


Your comment could be here :)



Thought you might enjoy meeting some of my other back yard friends :)

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