For the Birds Radio Program: A Day in the Life

Original Air Date: July 15, 1994

Laura Erickson tells what a day in her life is really like. 4:15 (Date verified)

Audio missing


People often ask me what a typical day is like in the life of a bird rehabilitator. Unfortunately, I’m not the right person to ask. I haven’t had a typical day since 1986. But I can tell you about one day in my life—today, for example—July 7, 1994. I woke at 5:34 am to feed my three baby phoebes, and then went back to sleep.

I was staying at the house of Ken and Marj, a couple in Cable, Wisconsin, who put me up after I gave a lecture last night. I’m not allowed to display rehab birds in my programs—just Sneakers and Fred, my licensed education Blue Jay and Common Nighthawk—but I couldn’t leave dependent babies at home, so I had to lug along a cup o’ phoebes besides.

Anyway, we went back to sleep until 6:15, when a familiar whistle from downstairs cut into my dream. Sneakers was whistling her lonely song. I fed the phoebes and grabbed a few more winks, but hungry phoebes and a whistling Blue Jay got me up for good at 7:15. Marj prepared strawberries and homemade muffins for breakfast, and I shared a bit with Sneakers, who whistled and chattered from another room during our entire meal, wondering why she wasn’t invited. Then I fed Fred the Nighthawk and the phoebes, emptied Sneakers’s water dish, packed them all in my car, and we headed home. It took an hour longer than usual—I stopped at every wayside to feed the phoebes.

When I got home, I spent half an hour feeding my flickers. Even though 12-year-old Joey fed them while I was gone, they seemed genuinely pleased to have me back. My poor kids had to prepare their own lunch because I was too busy bathing and feeding phoebes. Then it was time to take my kids to Community Ed swimming classes. The phoebes are big enough to leave for an hour or so, so I didn’t lug them along like last week, but we did have to race home to feed them before weekly music lessons.

After lessons, we hurried home to feed the phoebes again. Spot the boy flicker flew down to the car as we pulled in, demanding an afternoon snack. Speckles the girl flicker, who had mildly sprained her wing on a picture window, was up in the box elder, hungry and crying, but she didn’t want to come down on her sore wing. I fed the phoebes and then went back to her. I couldn’t entice her down myself, but when Spot flew in, the rude little crybaby attacked her brother with such vigor that she fell out of the tree so I could finally feed her. Then it was time to feed the nighthawks.

When I went back out to feed the flickers, my good friend Mary Tonkin came by to tell me of adventures some neighbors had that morning with a flicker who kept landing on people’s heads and hitching up pants legs. Spot gave me his innocent look. Now I’ve been writing radio scripts for the past five hours, with three little phoebes calling every 10 minutes or so. After I feed them, I have to wash my goopy fingers before I can hit the keyboard again. Until it got dark an hour ago, every time I got up to wash my hands, I heard one or the other flicker outside calling for a snack.

Fortunately, it’s ten o’clock now, they’re asleep, the phoebes are settling down, and Joey volunteered to feed and put the nighthawks in their carrier so I can finally leave for KUMD to do my production work. That takes two and a half hours, but at least I don’t have to bring the phoebes with since it’s past their bedtime. I’ll get to bed sometime around 2:00, and should get three or four hours of uninterrupted sleep before it’s time to start all over again. I’m hoping I can actually wash some dishes in the morning. After all, tomorrow is another day.