Immature American Robin

Oh, to be a young robin, out in the world for the very first time, finding your first worm, singing your first song! It is early June, and the young ones are beginning to leave their nests. Everywhere you look, there are youngsters flying around, some with their parents still in tow, others completely alone already.

You can usually tell the young birds apart from the adults because their field marks are different. Immature robins have black spots on their breasts. Young Oregon Juncos are striped instead of plain, although their outer tail feathers are white like an adult’s. Newly fledged swallows are clumsy when they fly over the pond and dip down on the wing to take a drink of water — most of them make a big splash instead of a delicate ripple. Young human kids are especially distinctive: many are wearing mortarboards this month and have stars in their eyes.

Whether human or avian, they all think they are ready to be out on their own. We of the gray hair know better, but we bite our lips, sit on our hands, say nothing about our worries. The young must do this, and we must let them. Wish them well, help them if you can, but quietly. They must learn to fly free.

As for our worries, take heart. Many of the young will be back, to settle into their outgrown nests again and ask us take care of them. At least two of the juvenile Bald Eagles who hatched out a year or two ago are hanging around the Fill now, hoping to be fed by Ma and Pa. My binoculars are not quite powerful enough to read the expression on the parent eagles’ faces, but I get the impression they are rolling their eyes, maybe even muttering under their breath: “Get a job.” It makes me smile.