Country Matters: Sweet tale of a home in hand for a tiny bird


A blackbird sat on Saint Kevin of Glendalough’s open hand and laid an egg on it. This is when the holy monk raised his hands to heaven while praying at the window of his hermit hut during Lent, which protected him as he devoted himself fully to his devotions.

According to legend, Kevin showed pity on the bird by neither closing nor withdrawing his hand, but “adjusting it for the purpose” until the egg hatched. Various images of the holy man show him with a bird perched on his open hand.

There are many tales of birds, particularly robins, finding unexpected nesting sites while humans left them undisturbed in unmade beds, desk drawers, or coat pockets in old sheds. However, a bird settling in a human hand for an extended period of time is an unusual and moving story.

A some years ago, ana Englishwoman, Hannah Bourne-Taylor, living in Ghana, Africa, picked up a baby finch the size of her little finger from the ground where it had fallen one morning. She took it home and put it in a box on a tea towel. The next morning it opened its mouth to utter a high-pitched cry of hunger. She fed it termites and also made a chirping noise for it, to which it responded, climbing into her hand and falling asleep in her palm.

“To him (the bird), I was his mother,” she told a magazine. For the next 80 days the bird lived on her. “We became inseparable.” It stuck to her as she walked around the house or drove in her car. It rested in her hand and gradually learned to fly, making short bursts and returning to her shoulder, head or long hair. She went about her daily life with one hand while the little bird took his nap. She said she would page it at nightfall until its head lolled to one side and put it back in the box.

She was overwhelmed by the tiny creature, which began building nests in her hair, gathering strands, creating a tiny space and settling into it. She learned the bird’s different calls, purring when she was satisfied, shrill when she was nervous. It got tiring.

“Our bond was so strong it became immeasurable. In return for putting his life back on track, he rescheduled mine by giving me a new perspective.”

Hannah began taking the bird to where finches congregated. After three months, it had mature plumage and continued to fly every day. Her husband had built a small aviary to help with weaning, but the big break came when she had to embark on a journey home to England. Her husband took it to flocks of birds three times before flying away with them.

When she returned to Ghana, she began babysitting her former charge when finches flew by. “Every now and then one would stay behind, on a branch, and stare at me. I still cry when I think of him,” she said.

Last week a reader, Mrs MG from Sligo, wrote me about her family of robins – “Mrs Robin and six babies” – who have been in her garden for the past six years. She feeds them year-round and has a video of them splashing around in a bird bath, with one “drying his wings in front of a garden ornament of a Buddha as if he were praying.”

Newsflash: Regular correspondent Paul G in Kerry wrote on Tuesday that a pair of swallows swooped by while he was fishing under Mount Brandon. Then summer is on the way. Country Matters: Sweet tale of a home in hand for a tiny bird

Fry Electronics Team

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