08/29/05 — This robin is just a whistle away

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This robin is just a whistle away

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on August 29, 2005 1:48 PM

Melvin and Mildred Cannon of Black Jack Church Road are worried about their daughter, 3-month-old Robin.

Like any parents, the Cannons wonder what will happen when their "little girl" comes of age. Will she go off on her own, or will she stay around the house?

For now, they watch her test her wings.

"We can take her out, and she'll fly all day until (Mom) calls her, unless a mockingbird gets after her. Then she'll hide," Cannon said. "Mildred said, 'I'm going to let her go, and I don't care if she comes back or not.' But she'll go out there and holler and holler until she comes. She wants her to go, but she doesn't want her to go."

Robin is the second robin the Cannons have raised in their home. The first, a male, was knocked out of his nest in early June by an attacking mockingbird. Mockingbirds are trying to kill the female Robin, too, but she flies to nearby evergreens and hides.

"A mockingbird is about like a blue jay, very aggressive against young birds," Cannon said.

The male bird never played with the Cannons like Miss Robin does. He would eat and go back into his cage. The Cannons say it's because females are more easy to tame.

But even their "son" didn't stray too far from home. He left for good after about six weeks, found a mate and stayed in the Cannons' blooming pear tree, raising a family of his own.

Knowing the dangers that are out there doesn't make it any easier for the Cannons to let go. Miss Robin flew across the street one day recently, and they thought she had left for good.

But then Mrs. Cannon came to the door and called her. Miss Robin whistled in response and came flying back home.

Her cage sits on the living room floor. The door stays open during the day. She has the run of the living room and goes in and out when she wants to.

The door closes at night, and Mrs. Cannon covers the cage with a towel.

When Miss Robin hears the Cannons stirring the next morning, she chirps at them, a "good morning" of sorts.

Mrs. Cannon talks to her and Miss Robin chirps back. They go back and forth engaged in a conversation that only they know -- much like the special language of a mother and a daughter.

Miss Robin came to the Cannons three weeks ago after being rescued from the jaws of a house cat. She had her pin feathers and was just getting away from the fuzz that usually identifies a baby bird.

Robins are born bare, Cannon said. They grow fuzz and then pin feathers as they mature.

Mrs. Cannon learned how to raise baby birds by working with Emily's Ark, the wildlife preserve in Pikeville. She started eight years ago helping with the birds and the squirrels. There were so many of them.

She hand feeds Miss Robin a special mixture of baby food string beans, canned dog food, the kind of cockatiel food used for hand-feeding babies and some light bread crumbled up in the mixture.

Mrs. Cannon also gives the robin worms. They're expensive, though. She said she wouldn't have to buy them if a good rain would come along, and she could turn over a rock.

"All my hand-fed birds I raise you could put on your shoulder and take them outside," she said, dipping her finger into the mixture and letting Miss Robin eat.

Robin will eat the mixture until she's decided to fly away permanently. She eats bird seed now, and she knows how to hunt worms. She will catch a bug "in a heartbeat," her proud parents say.

And although they don't really want to admit it yet, she's big enough to take care of herself.

"I'll miss her if she doesn't come back," Mrs. Cannon said. "I hate to see her go if she does go."