Wild baby jays have it rough. After a short 10 weeks of being fed in the nest, they are down on the ground trying to earn a living. You may have seen some of these fledglings yourself. Fully feathered, but with a short tail and wings, they are able to walk, hop and flap, but cannot yet fly. Mom and Dad still come by and feed them for a while, but otherwise survival is left up to them.
The numbers are not stacked in their favor. Depending on the bird species in question and the specific habitat, their chances of surviving to their first hatchday are generally in the 11-30% range. The biggest obstacles they have to contend with are 1) predation, and 2) starvation. If there are cats around, feral or no, their chances of survival are much worse.
The Bird with Three Names was a baby scrub jay found by my friend Jenna in her yard. He was standing immobile in a corner with cats all around, so Jenna brought him inside. Jenna’s daughter Makenna loved the little bird and named him Lucky. And then Jenna brought the bird to me.
One thing you may not know about people in the veterinary field is that we are a superstitious lot. We are particularly wary of saying something good, for fear it will soon be proved wrong. If I am ever foolish enough to say something like “wow, we really aren’t busy!”, or “wow, the clients are being so nice!” the vet techs all groan in protest. Surely now the gates of hell will open up, and chaos and discord be unleashed!
So, you can imagine how we feel about the name Lucky. This name is pretty much the kiss of death. Any animal with the misfortune to be named Lucky will surely have a panoply of terrible things happen to it, each worse than the last. As far as we are concerned, you might as well have named your pet “I Hope you Suffer and Die Horribly”.
I knew, therefore, as soon as I met Lucky that I had to change his name. In a vain attempt to remedy the damage, I quickly named him CatFud. My son Micah, however, was having none of it, and thought CatFud was not a nice name at all for a baby bird. So shortly after being named CatFud our feathery protagonist was re-christened Bluebell.
Lucky CatFud Bluebell was a very adorable baby bird but Not Quite Right. While he was bright and alert, he wouldn’t gape for food like hungry jay babies do. Even after a few days of fluids and antibiotics he didn’t want to feed himself or be fed. He was interactive and curious, and the tests I ran came up normal, but the fact remained that he wasn’t thriving the way he should have.
Poor Lucky CatFud Bluebell passed away quietly and unexpectedly the night after this picture was taken. Perhaps he had a disease we couldn’t identify, or a birth defect we couldn’t fix. Perhaps Mother Nature had written him down on the deficit side of her balance sheet before we even met him. All I know is that we are sad he is gone.
Rest in peace, Bird with Three Names. We will miss you.