queens-quadrilleI spent the Memorial Day weekend in an elaborate quadrille with assorted rehab birds getting everyone situated according to their ever-changing needs. I started out with four robin nestlings and a baby jay in an incubator, three flickers in an inside cage, a fussy-eater fledgling blue jay in another inside cage and an adult jay and fledgling robin battling each other in an outside flight cage. Two days later, the robins had fledged, so they got the flickers’ cage, who in turn got put in the flight cage, meaning the robin and the adult blue jay ended up in separate outdoor cages. I moved the jay outside as well since he is doesn’t seem to care where he makes a nuisance of himself. The baby jay remains in the incubator wondering where all his roommates have disappeared to.

Flicker woodpeckers, for Ben Burrt's bird column in Stars

Flicker woodpeckers, for Ben Burrt’s bird column in Stars

So now I’m surrounded by nine teenaged birds all of whom can’t decide whether they want to self-feed or be fed so they’re either yelling at me because I’m in their space or because they’re starving and I’m not feeding them. All of the flickers are male, so they are particularly loud and like to jump on top of each other when they are not jumping on me to get closer to the food. They are expert climbers so they generally land somewhere on my stomach and then scramble up to my shoulder and shriek in my ear to make sure that I know that they are about to die of neglect.

In the background, an enormous and elegant adult blue jay watches the goings-on with distain. He’s missing most of his tail feathers but otherwise seems unharmed. He should be able to fly but can’t—or won’t. He does seem partial to my miracle cure diet of pinkie mice soaked in pedialyte, so I hope he’ll molt over the summer and be on his way this fall.