Today was the day.
Mama Bird landed back in her nest with a gentle step down. Her three little chicks lay asleep on the corner, high up on a dry acacia tree.
Oh why did I have to nest so high up, she thought.
Just inside the lip of the nest, where the leaves and twigs bent to make the floor, where the grass and straw was wound so tight that that her chicks couldn’t even get a toe-claw through, she placed three little rocks that she had carried in her beak.
She took one of the stones back into her beak and tip-toed around the nest, looking over the edge. Finally she found a place where it could drop to the ground unimpeded, released it and started to count.
Right before she reached four, the stone hit the dusty ground. She did the exact same thing with the other two stones and counted about the same amount of time before they hit the ground.
Now that she knew how long it took for a stone to reach the ground, she did a quick calculation in her head and found the nest to be about 45 meters off the ground. Not that high…if you can fly. Not an important number in the grand scheme of what she was about to do, but she felt like she needed to know.
She hopped across the nest to the corner where her three chicks lay, asleep and nuzzled up to each other for warmth. She rubbed her beak against the one on the left until it woke. 3zy she called it. Not an official name, she just called him that because he was the third one to hatch. After today he’d get an official name…or none.
“Wake up little one,” she said. “It’s time for school.”
Little 3zy’s eyes fluttered open and he looked up at her with a face that expected food and his eyes dropped when he realized that she didn’t have any.
“Come with me 3zy,” she said, nudging him across the nest towards the spot where she’d dropped the rocks from. “Today is a special day for you. Today, you learn to fly.”
Little 3zy protested with chirps and squawks as he was frog-marched towards the edge of the nest, towards the world that he knew only as that place where mum goes to get food.
At the point where his legs could no longer take him, she picked her 3rd hatched in her beak by the scruff of his neck, lifted him up over the lip and held him over the edge of the nest. She closed her eyes, said a little prayer to the Gods of Flight and released 3zy from her grip, then started to count.
Before she could get to four there was the crunchy squelch of feathers, bone and flesh connecting with a hard surface below. Mama Bird sighed. 3zy didn’t make it. In truth she didn’t think that he would. He ate and slept too much. Maybe 2zy would have better luck.