Birds of a Feather Should Flock Together

I’ve been feeding the birds. I don’t usually feed them at this time of year, but we’re home for half term and had noticed them pecking the seeds off our weeds from the kitchen window and we had some bird food left from the snowy period.


It has been a delight to watch the baby birds especially, fluttering their newly stretched wings and hopping around, capable of flight and picking up the seeds for themselves, but oh, so wanting their parents to feed them, which they obligingly do. Beak to beak, passing on the seeds.

Then as we walked by the canal, where the moorhens slice tracks through the green weed, we came upon three pairs of swans; one with six cygnets, one with seven and one with two. Each dyad of parents, working together to protect their young from our passing feet and the potential threat of our dogs. One swan gathered the cygnets away and the other approached us on the bank, wings parting and widening, sending us the clear message to keep away.

We work so hard to raise our young, with or without feathers! We protect them, feed them, teach them, we do our best to send them into the world as the best human beings they can be. Elephants care for their elders, and buffalo circle the old, the young and the sick, when a threat is at hand.

My aunt has just died aged 89, married for 68 years. In these last years she was cared for by her husband, children, grandchildren and a niece, spending her final years in their childhood home. Not every one ends up with their children living near to them, not everyone lives with someone who can look after them.

But maybe that doesn’t matter if we broaden our sense of family. I had someone else’s grandma living across the road from me helping me with my babies, she’s not my mum but we went out for together for Mother’s Day. A friend visits someone who is not his dad and has him come around to give much needed DIY advice. When he can’t be with his own dad, he looks after someone else’s.

There was a song in the sixties which had the line; ‘If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with’. I think there is a deeper truth, that we can all be each other’s mothers and sisters, grandparents and aunts without being blood relations. If we live near someone who is at home with young children, we can be the one to pop in to make a cuppa and lend a helping hand.  If we live near someone older, we can be the ones to do their shopping or call in for a chat.

Just like the cygnets, we feel better knowing that someone has our back, that someone is going to face off the dogs and noisy children of the world.  And just like those sparrow fledglings, of course we can find our own food, but sometimes it is nicer to have someone else prepare it, to share it, and to not have to face the world alone.


Julie Leoni

Julie Leoni is an academic, teacher, writer, coach, yoga teacher and mum. She somehow juggles all the different parts of the time so that her work fits around her family life. She moved from Kent to the hills nearly 20 years ago and can still remember the first two years when she thought she would never feel warm again. Nowadays, when she goes back down south to visit friends, she heaves a sigh of relief as she sees the Shropshire hills on her return after the chaos of the M25.