One windy day in May, Susan Simon stepped on to her covered porch and spotted something pink on the ground.
House finches had built nests in her plants in the past, but this year, one little family decided to make their home in a wreath hanging from a light fixture. Unfortunately, the nest was not secure enough and the wind knocked it down.
One tiny baby miraculously survived the fall. Simon returned the naked chick to his nest and went out to run a few errands. “We went to town and when we came back the baby was on the ground again — still alive,” Simon told The Dodo. “I took him inside and Googled ‘how to feed a baby bird.’”
Simon tucked the baby into a Tupperware container with paper towels and placed it on a heating pad. Then she used a toothpick to feed the blind baby.
“At first he didn’t want to open his mouth — I think he was weak and cold,” Simon said. “I got him to take some food and then I had to feed him every 15 minutes for the first couple of weeks.”
“I didn’t think I was going to be able to keep him alive,” she added, “but I did.”
Simon weighed the little bird on a food scale to make sure that he was getting bigger, and after a week his eyes finally opened. He looked so funny that she named him Twerp.
“When I first found him, he was just a naked little thing with fuzz on his head about as big as my thumb,” Simon said. “Then his little pin feathers started coming in and he looked like a tiny dinosaur.”
Simon moved Twerp to a cage with food and water dishes, and as his feathers came in she began taking him out on the porch so he could get used to the natural sounds and weather.
Eventually, Twerp outgrew his cage and began flying all on his own: “I would walk around the yard with him on my shoulder, and he would fly off into a tree,” Simon said, “but then he’d come back.”Twerp started to spend most of his time out of doors, but whenever Simon stepped outside he’d recognize her immediately — flying to her and chirping for food.
To help Twerp find food on his own, Simon put feeders with birdseed out in front of her house and soon all the neighborhood finches were showing Twerp how to eat. Gradually, Twerp stopped coming back.
It was a bittersweet moment for Simon, who had grown attached to the little chick. But, ultimately, she’s glad that Twerp is enjoying his life in the wild. Maybe one day, he’ll start a family of his own on her porch.
“I was sad when he left,” Simon said, “but kind of happy that he was [back] where he was supposed to be.”
Read more: thedodo.com