There once was a very young bird named Sweetie. She was part of a flock of brown cowbirds. Sweetie was much smaller than all of the others in the flock. Often the big ones would push her away when they were looking for food. Sometimes they would bump into her in a mean way when they were flying.
As a rule, cowbirds are not very nice birds. They lay their eggs in other birds’ nests. Often other eggs or baby birds who belong in those nests get pushed out.
Sometimes other types of birds toss out the cowbird eggs from their nests or refuse to raise the cowbird babies. When that happens, the adult cowbirds usually destroy the other birds’ nests.
But our little bird was exceptional. She was a sweet cowbird. That is why her name was Sweetie.
Sweetie was a skinny bird– brown with speckles. She was also a very lonely and sad little bird. It is no fun being left out and having no friends.
Sweetie’s flock of cowbirds started living in the lawn of a couple named Mr. and Mrs. Mac. Mr. Mac was a huge man–generally brawny, and very tall. He was also very kind. There were those who called him a gentle giant.
Traveling was a big part of Mr. and Mrs. Mac’s lives because their children lived in other areas. Sometimes they went on trips together, but at times one would go alone.
One summer, Mrs. Mac was gone for a while on a trip. When she came home, there was a surprise for her. As Mrs. Mac sat in the living room one morning, she was startled by a “tink, tink” sound. She hurried towards the direction of the sound. This led her to the bathroom.
There on the windowsill staring at Mrs. Mac through the glass was Sweetie.
The little bird stood still, just looking at Mrs. Mac and waiting. Mrs. Mac was surprised by this.
Mrs. Mac walked out onto the porch. “What are you doing here? You don’t belong here?” Sweetie just looked at Mrs. Mac but did not fly away. Mrs. Mac watched the bird for a while, then finally went on with her work.
In the next few days this same event repeated over and over. Sweetie would peck on the window and wait. When Mrs. Mac would go to the window, the tiny bird seemed to look above and behind her. Sweetie always seemed to be looking for something or someone– Mrs. Mac could not figure out what.
Mrs. Mac mentioned all of this to her husband. All he said was, “I know all about it.” He would say nothing further on the subject.
One day Mrs. Mac decided that she was tired of the pecking noise, as well as the mess left on, around, and under the window. She washed the window, the brick wall and porch floor under the sill, then she waited.
The next visit that Sweetie made, Mrs. Mac rushed into the bathroom and right up to the glass. Close to the bird’s face, she made a big, loud growling noise with her mouth wide open. “RRRRRROOOAAARRRRR!!!!!!”
Sweetie jumped off the sill as if she was scared to death. She flew to the kitchen sill, just a short distance away. Mrs. Mac followed her to that window and growled again. Poor little Sweetie flew off in terror and confusion.
Immediately, Mrs. Mac felt sad that she had frightened this little creature. “It was not that much mess to clean up,” she thought to herself. That evening she told Mr. Mac about what she had done and how badly she felt about it.
“Awww!” Mr. Mac said. “She was my friend. She came every day for a visit, and I talked to her. I did not tell you because I was sure that you would think that I was crazy. I didn’t know that you would scare her away.”
“What do you mean the bird was your friend?” Mrs. Mac asked.
“Well, when I got ready in the morning, the little bird would be waiting for me. While I shaved and washed up, I would talk to her. She would stand quite still, tilt her head, and listen.”
“What did you say to her?” Mrs. Mac asked.
Her husband responded, “Simple things–like how pretty and sweet she was, how nice it was for her to visit, and that I thought she would be a wonderful mother. I would ask if she had a nest with eggs.”
“Also, I let her know that I was happy to have her as my friend. Mostly, I just talked in a kind voice. I liked her, and I liked her visits.”
Now, Mrs. Mac felt even more sad about what she had done to frighten away pretty Sweetie. “She will never be back,” Mrs. Mac told herself.
Surprisingly, the very next day Mrs. Mac heard a much softer “tink, tink” sound. She tiptoed carefully to the bathroom, and there was Sweetie on the sill once more.
The bird seemed nervous and ready to fly away, but she first looked around Mrs. Mac to see if Mr. Mac was behind her. When she saw that he was not there, Sweetie flew away.
Mrs. Mac felt sorry again. She thought about what could be done to make Sweetie comfortable in visiting once more.
In spite of her fear of being growled at, Sweetie came back to visit Mr. Mac in the mornings. When Mr. Mac was there, the tiny bird listened without moving a feather as this gentle giant spoke his kind words to her.
One day, another chance with Sweetie came for Mrs. Mac. There was a cautious tap on the window, so Mrs. Mac quietly walked in. She went close to the bird at the window.
“Hello, sweet bird,” Mrs. Mac said. “I am so sorry that I growled at you. You are very pretty, and it is nice that you visit my husband. You are welcome here even if you make a mess.”
The gentle giant’s wife continued on for many minutes, saying sweet and soft words. She spoke kindly to the bird, and Sweetie tilted her tiny head in complete attention. The small bird stayed for quite a while until a loud street cleaning machine went by the house. Then the little creature was startled, and she flew away.
Sweetie gradually became more involved in bird activities. Yet Mrs. Mac noticed that Sweetie did not hang out with the other birds. Little Sweetie was building her very own nest.
Without warning, Sweetie’s visits stopped. The Macs looked for their small friend for quite a while before they totally gave up.
One bright sunny day, early in the morning, Mrs. Mac heard “tink, tink” once again. Her heart leapt with joy as she called for her husband. Before they made it to the bathroom window, they heard another very small “tink, tink” and then another.
As the Macs came into view of the bathroom window, they were greeted with the sight of Sweetie. No longer was she alone. On each side Sweetie was flanked by her babies. Sweetie proudly nuzzled both and then looked to Mr. Mac for approval.
“Well done, sweet girl!” said the gentle giant. “These are two beauties just like you. You could not have done better!”
Sweetie ducked her small head as if saying thanks and fluffed the feathers of her babies with motherly pride.
Mrs. Mac added, “These are lovely babies, Sweetie. We are so proud of you for raising them yourself.”
Sweetie did raise her own her babies with love and attention, breaking the cowbird tradition. Mrs. Mac wondered how much Sweetie’s friendship with Mr. Mac enabled her to love more completely. A quiet, small bird was an unusual friend for a gentle giant.