The Bluebird Effect–Part Two

In Part One, I introduced Julie Zickefoose, writer and artist, whose new book The Bluebird Effect is now one of my favorites. In this earlier installment, I discussed Zickefoose’s rescue of a starving Turkey Vulture and mothering infant hummingbirds to fledglings. Zickefoose saves her most poignant chapters for last, as discussed below.

Julie Zickefoose saves the most poignant chapters for last as she writes about and draws and paints her Chestnut-fronted Macaw, a parrot she had for almost twenty-three years.  She writes honestly about her need for a pet that would live for a long time and about her finding how difficult life with a parrot is. She accuses the pet industry, which was responsible for smuggling parrots into the U. S., of being the source of the gradual disillusionment of most parrot owners.  At first baby parrots are cute and even cuddly, but, as they mature, they become more and more demanding of their owners.  Most people, Zickefoose suggests, relegate their parrots to a cage in a back room or give them up for adoption because the birds are so loud and intolerant of all but their one owner.  Julie and her husband found “to continue cohabiting with such a creature [we] had an eight-by-ten foot aviary built onto my studio.”

Cedar Waxwings on the Grape Mahonia bush; original photo by Janet Weeks

Cedar Waxwings on the Grape Mahonia bush;
original photo by Janet Weeks

The book is divided into four seasons and has twenty-six chapters, each chapter concerning a different bird.  The most shocking chapter?  That would be the one about the sandhill cranes.  A few years ago we heard them fly over our house. There were several hundred of these three foot tall birds, which are very noisy.  We ran to the front yard to get a better view of them and realized that every lawn had a neighbor on it looking skyward.  We developed a phone tree to let friends who live north of us know that the sandhills are flying that way.  We’ve followed them in our car, and, with the binoculars we always carry, we’ve leaped out at a gas station to watch them fly over.  I’ve tried to count them–flock after flock veeing their noisy way north or south—and frequently I give up after three hundred!  And then I read Julie Zickefoose’s chapter and came upon this sentence:  “I remember where I was standing when I found out that midcontinental sandhill cranes are considered game birds and could be shot in every state where they occur except Nebraska.”  I read the sentence out loud to my husband, and we were both outraged.  The chapter concerns the efforts of many people who are trying to change the laws in their states.

I have read many books about people who live with birds.  Of those I’d recommend Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O’Brien, Arnie the Darling Starling by Margarete Sigl Corbo and Diane Marie Barras, and The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill: A Love Story. . .With Wings by Mark Bittner.  However, Julie Zickefoose’s book now tops my list of bird books because it is satisfying on many levels.  It is informative and beautifully illustrated.  She shows that wildlife rehabilitators are experienced, knowledgeable, dedicated, and caring.  She spends every day working with birds and illustrations.  Her book is a treasure and not one that I will recycle.  (It’s also one of the best arguments I can think of for having a real made-of-paper book in one’s hands.)

Bluebird, Ossabaw Island, original photo by Janet Weeks

Bluebird, Ossabaw Island, original photo by Janet Weeks

Julie Zickefoose explains the bluebird effect by remembering the “butterfly effect.”  “Taken to its extreme, one flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil might alter the atmosphere sufficiently to cause a tornado in Texas.”  When she and her husband rescued a bluebird from a sharp-shinned hawk, they had no idea that the bluebird would spend the next eight years around them. Scarred by the sharpie, he was easily recognizable to Julie and her husband, and he showed no fear of them.  Because they saved him, he was able to raise at least sixty-seven young in his eight years of nesting in their yard.
What should you do with an abandoned or injured bird?  You might go to the internet and look up “wild bird rescue.”  Do you know anyone who has had success with nurturing a bird back to health?

6 thoughts on “The Bluebird Effect–Part Two

  1. Janet, thank you so much for these thoughtful and appreciative reviews. I’m honored to have a representative in that lineup of books that you love. If you haven’t read Illumination in the Flatwoods by Joe Hutto, you must. I loved it long before it became a Nature special (about imprinted turkeys). Gee, I’m saying “love” a lot. Birds do that to me. And yes, your photos outshine everything!

    • I’m excited about reading another good bird book! I’ve ordered both Illumination in the Flatwoods and your first book, Letters from Eden: A Year at Home, in the Woods from our local independent bookstore, Tall Tales. My reading forecast for the next few weeks looks very sunny!

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