It’s not every day a wild animal will stop by for dinner, but for the past month Cindy Lauzon and Cory Lindal of Fort Frances have had a near constant companion in a fledgling robin they’ve nicknamed Tweeter.
Their adventure in raising a wild bird began in June, when a strong storm caused some damage to a tree in their backyard and a nest a mother robin had built there.
“She was just about 30 feet up when the windstorm hit,” Lindal recalled.
“And actually she had her nest between two branches, so the wind started pulling them apart and then everything came down. One of the little ones didn't survive, the other one was huddled up there and once I had it in my hands it felt the warmth and settled right in, happy.”
Not expecting to be surrogate parents to a baby bird, but not willing to leave it to the elements or predatory animals, Lauzon and Lindal took Tweeter in, put it in a cage, and got to work researching.
“We went and Googled the heck out of him,” Lauzon explained.
“We found out you can feed them chunks of cherries and strawberries, apple, blueberries...”
“Raisins softened in sugar water,” Lindal added.
“Cat food, they said,” Lauzon continued.
“So that's why we were doing that. We were chopping up the raisins. We were digging worms out of the garden and then finally we just went to the bait shop.”
The pair fed Tweeter several times a day, cutting up the worms and fruits into manageable chunks and giving them to Tweeter with a pair of tweezers. As the bird ate, he grew, and Lindal said it was no time at all before Tweeter had become much more active than he had been when they first found him.
“They grow fast,” he said.
“Not even two weeks and he was out of the nest jumping around the bedroom.”
Lauzon explained that as Tweeter began to grow, they kept their mind on making sure that he would be able to be self-sufficient in time for winter so that he could fend for himself, or migrate further south with other robins. While American Robins are certainly capable of withstanding Canadian winters, neither Lauzon nor Lindal want to be full-time bird parents forever.
“We had him in a cage in the house for a while and then I started bringing the cage outside and putting it half under the tree so the branches draped over him, to get him used to the sounds out here,” Lauzon said.
“And then I decided that he wanted out, he really wanted out so we opened the door and he went and flew right over to the trees and he didn't come down the rest of that day. Then the next day he came down and he's been down ever since.”
Feeding time for Tweeter has mostly boiled down to him flying into the yard to perch on the edge of a concrete fixture, where he’ll chirp at the pair to let them know he’s hungry. They then grab an insulated lunch bag that they keep all manner of treats in. After feeding the young bird a few different pieces of fruit or cat kibble, and Tweeter decides he’s had his fill, he flies off to a nearby tree to do his bird duties until he decides it’s snack time again.
Both Lauzon and Lindal admitted they have some reservations about Tweeter flying free, mostly due to the fact they don’t want to see any harm come to him after having spent so much time feeding and bonding with him, but Lindal figures that Tweeter is savvy enough to keep out of harms way.
“I think he knows, because a neighbour came over to see him when he was still in the cage,” he said.
“As soon as [the neighbour] walked in the room he went crazy in the cage and was fluttering all over trying to get away because he didn't recognize him.”
They also think that Tweeter has learned enough from other birds since he’s been out of his cage that he can look after himself in terms of food.
“We think he's getting all the worms he needs out there, “ Lauzon said, adding he’s seen Tweeter on a nearby Saskatoon berry bush picking at fruits.
“He's just coming back because he likes the raisins and the fruit.”
Indeed, as the weeks have gone on, Lauzon and Lindal have fed Tweeter less and less, though he still stops off several times a day for a snack. According to their research, over the next little while Tweeter will start to get more and more distant as his wild instincts and natural wariness kick in, and eventually he might stop coming by for a snack altogether. However, they also learned it wouldn’t be uncommon for him to swoop down and perch on their shoulder or head to say hello from time to time either.
Regardless, Lauzon and Lindal said they’re happy for Tweeter to gain some independence, as they’ve put some of their own plans on hold to make sure he was taken care of.
“We haven't been up to our camp because we've had to look after him,” Lindal said.
“Now we can go,” Lauzon added.
“We're feeding him maybe four or five times a day now, and he doesn't even need it.”
While there’s no way to know if Tweeter will stick around over the winter or next spring, there’s certainly a chance that he could be a common fixture around Lauzon and Lindal’s home for years to come. The oldest known wild American Robin lived to be nearly 14 years old.