Poop or Puke?

Turns out it’s poop.

Today is one of those days that I try to remember what we ever did before Google.  I seem to remember that if the set of 25 year old encyclopedias on the shelf in the den didn’t have what you were looking for, then you were out of luck.  I’m pretty sure I would have never found today’s question in the 1962 edition of the Golden Book Encyclopedia.  (And you better bet my momma’s pulling those bad boys out now, trying to prove me wrong.  Let me know what you find, Mom.)

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This afternoon I sat perched in Nana’s living room watching a family of robins.  Chica and Nana had done the same for about an hour earlier today, so Bubba and I had to check out what was so intriguing too.

Just as expected, Mama Bird brings a mouthful of juicy worms to the nest.  Next, the tiny, fuzzy (ugly!) heads emerge, mouths wide open and searching.  Mama picks a lucky winner, and the meal is gobbled up in seconds.

But then something happened that I had never seen before….Mama Bird grabbed something white from the nest, and she proceeded to eat it.  The first time I observed the mysterious white blob, I guessed it was maybe a grub that she had brought earlier and the babies had rejected.  I know all about picky eaters!  As I watched longer, though, and saw her pick up something from the nest every time she returned, I knew this white blob had to be something else.

“Poop or puke?” I wondered.

I’ve heard of animal mommies chewing up their food for babies, but the order of things just didn’t seem right as I watched the robins today.  Actually, I seem to remember reading an article about some celebrity who did the same for her baby.  (I just Googled that too….Alicia Silverstone.  Ok, I digressed.)  So if it wasn’t some form of premastication or regurgitation, then it had to be poop, right?

Right.  I found my answer here.

So you think your infant goes through a bunch of dirty diapers?  Turns out the baby robin poops every time it eats something.  Every. Single. Time.  And almost right away, too.  The cool part is (or maybe gross…it’s all about perspective) that when they are just a few days old, their poop comes enclosed in a neat package made from mucous, and it doesn’t contain bacteria at first.  So Momma Bird and Daddy Bird grab the package (called a fecal sac) right off the baby’s rear end and eat it.  It’s actually mostly undigested food, so this keeps them from eating all of the food they should be bringing to their hungry babies.  After a while their digestive system becomes more developed, and the poop starts to have bacteria.  When this happens, the parents stop eating the fecal sac, but they continue to cart it away from the nest to help keep things clean.  Once the babies finally leave the nest, their bodies stop making the sac…just regular poop from there on out.  Wow.

In case you care to watch…

So why am I telling you this?  (I almost wrote, “Why should you give a crap?” but that was just too obvious.)

I’m telling you this because in less than one week, it will be summer.  Glorious summer.  And one of the things I am looking forward to the most is time to just sit, observe, and be.  Even better than that, I can’t wait to observe and be and learn WITH my kids.  Today was like a tiny little taste of that.

After watching the birds’ business, we also hunted for live cicadas and made a collection of a dozen of them in Nana’s big blue pail.  FYI—no top needed.  Apparently they are too dumb or lazy or just incompetent to get out.

Kew!” Bubba said repeatedly.  I agree, Bubba.  Kew.

Come summer.

Image:  LILLY  © shudrbug  | Flickr Creative Commons