By now you have probably heard of “failure to launch,” applied to adult children who have finished college and are now living in the basement of their parents’ houses, content to be housed, clothed and fed by their parents. For the last 36 hours we had the chance to observe the same phenomenon in the last of the three robin babies. The other two had flown away without our notice. However, this last one sat forlornly at the edge of the nest, hoping against hope that food would come her way. It had always worked before, so why wasn’t it working now? Meanwhile the adult robins were nowhere to be seen, though their persistent encouraging tweets came in a constant stream from across the yard. They were in a stand off, the adults refusing to came over, the baby refusing to leave the nest. Some time between 10 and 11 this morning the baby finally conceded and flew off.
The time one of our dogs had puppies, the process seemed a little more gradual. The mother did stop nursing, but she spent time jumping down off the couch onto the unsuspecting pups. Since she was a terrier, I figured she was teaching the babies how to pounce on prey. Eventually they caught on and pounced on her and each other. Satisfied that they were ready to leave home, she didn’t fuss when each was adopted.
Theodore Roethke has a line of poetry, “I learn by going where I have to go.” I guess that is the way for robins. They have to learn to fly by flying. No flight lessons for them. They have to launch themselves or go hungry. Flying looks much less daunting on an empty stomach!