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Some boys found her one evening in the suburb where we live—a tiny, partly-feathered baby bird cheeping helplessly on their lawn. One boy took her home and tried to feed her sugar and water.
The next day they brought her to me—with very little life left in her. It was my first meeting with Jujube, who took on an importance in the life of my family out of all proportion to her size.
The first problem was to get some food into her as quickly as we could. A quick mixture of Pablum and water was offered, in a medicine dropper, until a better formula could be prepared. But she seemed too weak and frightened to open her mouth. Her bill was so tiny, so delicate I was afraid to force it open lest I hurt her.
What to do?
Twelve-year-old Steve dug out his Audubon Bird Call. He twisted this little gadget over the baby bird's head, hoping the sounds that came out would remind the creature of its mother. I held the medicine dropper poised hopefully, handily. Suddenly the tiny bird came alive. The little wings fluttered. The mouth stretched wide. Quickly I popped in some food.
By next feeding time—half an hour later—I had made up a formula that has successfully taken care of many kinds of birds: one tablespoon Pablum, one tablespoon egg yolk, one tablespoon mashed potato (the prepared kind). And, since this was a seed-eating bird (her tiny size and stubby bill suggested that she might be of the goldfinch family), I added a tablespoon of canary nesting food.
At first we kept the bird in a small box—a twig inserted crosswise on which she could perch. We tried a cage but she almost strangled herself trying to squeeze through the bars.
Then she discovered a small coffee pot on the table, and this she took over, perching happily on the rim. We bought a little "picnic parasol"—a cheesecloth affair that opens up like a little umbrella and is used to cover picnic food. Steve rimmed it with a four-inch base, to make it higher, and hung a little bird swing from one of its ribs, and the finch had a new home, with her favorite coffee pot inside.
Soon she was learning to feed herself. Her feathers were coming in fine, her tail growing a bit each day. Color began to show on her breast—pale yellowish, a hint of greenish on her back, her tail and wing feathers dusty. A female green-backed goldfinch, we decided.
One day her cheep had a new note. A two-note call. "Ju-bee—ju-bee—" or so it sounded to us. From then on Jujube was her name.