TODAY’S FRENCH WORD: un oisillon
: baby bird, chick
SOUND FILE: Click the link to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in today's post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.
Vous POUVEZ remettre un oisillon dans son nid. Contrairement à un mythe très répandu, les parents ne sentiront pas votre odeur si vous le touchez (l'odorat des oiseaux n'est en général pas très développé).
You CAN put a baby bird back in its nest. Contrary to a common myth, the parents will not smell you if you touch it (birds' sense of smell is usually not very developed). --intra-science.com
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
A week ago, Thursday, Jean-Marc and Jackie found baby birds in our yard, below the 20ft palm tree. My husband was getting ready to BBQ some salmon when he stepped back and almost crushed something under his shoe: a nestling, with all its feathers, scraggly looking and weak. Moments later our daughter discovered a second oisillon, severely injured and bleeding. There were scrapes all along its side, on the wing, and a deep, large gash on its back from un prédateur? Un chat?
I hurried and got a box, set a towel inside, and ran around the side of the house to Mom's studio. Jules shot into action: examining the doves, she began to wash the wounds of the injured one with water and drops of Bétadine. As she cared for them, Mom kept repeating, “They are big, these babies are big,” giving us all hope the lost ones would make it through their ordeal.
These fledglings were tourterelles turques, or Eurasian collared doves–very common in our neighborhood. Lucky little rescapés! To think their life hinged on a banal and flippant decision: earlier there was a question of cooking our lunch (fish) on the BBQ or in the frying pan. I kept hesitating until, oh let Jean-Marc cook outside--less of a mess in the kitchen! We would never have found the struggling oiselets had JM not gone out to the yard. Surely the cats would have come back in that scenario….
After lunch (the little orphans with us on the bench), Jules disappeared, leaving the helpless birds to Jackie… I didn’t understand why Mom would abandon her doves (we voted Jules as Chief Nurse) until she returned a while later having done a crash course via YouTube on how to care for fallen or injured birds. Apparently we had on hand all supplies needed, including dog croquettes… and the human touch, which Mom said was the most important ingredient. As Jules cradled the injured birdling, my thoughts slipped out, “Mom, haven’t you ever heard you’re not supposed to touch a baby bird? The parents will reject it!”
Jules wasted no time arguing. Tearing up her favorite wool nightshirt, she swaddled each chick. Emmitouflés, snug and warm they were carefully fed "un velouté de croquettes" (enough to nourish and hydrate them) before being placed near the heater in Mom’s tiny salle-de-bain.
I didn’t think the injured one would make it through the night, but early the next day I found Mom awake, feeding one of the nestlings, who now had a name: "Betty." I knew right away the other was "Rusty," after Mom’s dear, departed brother.
We took Rusty and Betty outside to the “nursery” (the center of our garden, beside the weeping pepper tree). There on a carpet of delicate white flowers we set the baby birds. The sun and fresh air began to dry Betty’s wounds. If it wasn’t amazing enough to see them alive Day Two, Day Three presented a miracle when a couple of doves landed beside the box and began feeding the baby birds!
It was no other than Mama and Papa, a pair of doves Jules befriended 3 years ago. So tame, they feed right out of Jules' hands and have landed on her head and shoulders dozens of times. Here they were, taking turns feeding Rusty and Betty. But were these fallen chicks their offspring? I didn't think so, but Jules insisted they were!
I noticed the parents opening wide their beaks for the babies to reach in and feed (I always thought it was the other way around, with the mama putting the food into the baby's beak). "This is good!" I said to Mom, happy she would have relief from the regular day/night feedings.
"And the good news is I don’t have to teach them to fly!" Mom smiled. Sacré Jules. I could just see her flapping her wings!
They next days were a treasure, with our family gathered in the garden for the 3 or so daily feedings, in which Mama and Papa flew in to nourish the babies, who began trembling each time they were ready to eat (see video below). If it was awesome to watch the feeding you should have seen these fierce protectors dive bomb any bird that came near our yard (parts of which are now covered in feathers). They even chased the cats away!
Sacré Mama and Papa. I never did understand why Mom named the doves this way (always wished she'd come up with something zippier--Suzette and Fritz, for example. But now I see it clearly. Mama and Papa have come into their names.
This morning I went to get Rusty and Betty from Mom's, to put them out in the "nursery." Mama and Papa flew in immediately and began feeding their kids. Jackie and I sat chatting on the edge of the little pond/fountain, Smokey beside us, as usual. (Mama and Papa practically walk over his paws to get to where they're going and the baby doves find it normal to have a giant golden retriever looking over them.) This morning was one of the loveliest and when it came time to put the baby birds back into the box.... Rusty flew up to a branch!
I ran to get Mom, who hurried out. Jules's reflex was to get Rusty down off that branch (a rainstorm was coming in...) but as she approached the parents flew in and Rusty took off in a spectacular arc over our yard landing in the tree on the corner of our lot (above the busy crossroads in our neighborhood). He's been there now 8 hours, his parents looking on from the telephone pole beside the tree.
Should we get a ladder? Toss a ball near the branch? Will he survive the night? He must be getting cold. What will happen to little Rusty? The overall feeling (beside helplessness) is to leave the parents to take over from here on. But why aren't the stealth dive bombers moving him along, steering their young one back to the nest?
Please send good wishes Rusty's way. Meantime Betty is back with Mom. Ever a fighter with those battle scars, she's ready to fly too. But with the rain coming in we want to keep her dry and warm a little while longer.
I worry about Jules as much as the nestlings. She's put her everything into nursing them back to life, and she didn't get to say goodbye to one of the little ragamuffins, as she called them. I want this story to have a happy ending for the birds and for my Mom, but will have to stop here and cross fingers. Bonne chance, Rusty and à demain, j'éspère.
Click the arrow in the screen below to start the video, or view directly on my Instagram
un oisillon = chick, baby bird
un petit oiseau baby bird
tomber = to fall
blessé = hurt, injured
le prédateur = predator
le chat = cat
le nid = nest
la Bétadine = Povidone-iodine, a popular antiseptic
la tourterelle = dove, see "lovebirds" in French
l'orphelin, l'orpheline = orphan
un (une) rescapé(e) = survivor
un oiselet = baby bird, chick
la croquette = dog biscuit, kibble, dry food
emmitoufler = to wrap up warmly, to swaddle
un velouté de croquettes = cream of kibble soup
la salle de bain = bathroom
sautiller = to bounce, jump
voler = to fly
soigner = to care for
à demain, j'éspère = see you tomorrow, I hope
The blossoming tree where Rusty landed. See him camouflaged there in the center?
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