KAUAPEA BEACH, Kauai — Carol Dumeyer’s husband, Dave Brune, had gone down the hill from the couple’s home near this iconic beach known locally as Secrets one day in early spring when he noticed a small, dark object on the ground.

On closer inspection, the object moved, so Brune picked it up and discovered it was the tiniest of baby birds. He assumed it had fallen from a nest in the tree above, but no nest was immediately visible.

Not knowing what else to do, Brune took the not-quite fledgling home. Dumeyer, a well-known yoga teacher in nearby Kilauea, is a self-defined “animal person” and she and Brune had an ongoing conversation about how many animals in the household would be too many. There were already five rabbits and a cat. A dog had recently died.

Dumeyer took the chick back to the tree where Brune found it, hoping that some member of its flock would be looking for it. No luck. She took it back home and started feeding it every two hours. The chances of survival, she knew, were slight.

But the bird didn’t die. As it grew, it started to sing, which — combined with the feather pattern and colors — revealed to Dumeyer it was a male Java finch, a species also known as a Java sparrow. Native to Bali and Java in Indonesia where it was a popular cage bird, the species was first introduced in Hawaii in 1867. However, it did not become established until it was reintroduced nearly 100 years later.

Carol Dumeyer holds Mr. Baby Snuggles, an orphaned Java sparrow she and her husband adopted. Allan Parachini/Civil Beat/2020

Dumeyer scrambled to do some intensive research and learned the bird would live or die depending on how she responded to him. She knew he had to be kept warm. Her solution: she put him in her bra.

“For a month, he lived in my cleavage,” Dumeyer recalled, laughing.

Because the COVID-19 pandemic caused her to shutter Metamorphose Yoga, which she started about 10 years ago, and because the bird insisted on following her everywhere, he became a fixture on her Zoom yoga classes, hopping about, landing on her shoulder and otherwise establishing that he was a character, and not bad at yoga, although he balks at eagle and crow poses.

She tried taking him back to where she knew there was a small flock of Java finches, but every time she did and turned to leave, he became upset. She did some reading on what animal behavior experts call imprinting.

Well-documented in the scientific literature, the phenomenon has been widely observed — for example, in geese — but not in birds as small as the Java finch, said Lisa “Cali” Crampton, director of the Kauai Forest Bird Recovery Project.

The bird proved eager to accompany Dumeyer inside her house, where she created a feeding station and several perches where he can safely land without attracting the attention of Maurice, the cat. But Maurice, she said, has taken to the bird and never threatened him.

Mr. Baby Snuggles got his name from his fondness for snuggling. Allan Parachini/Civil Beat/2020

“His favorite thing is to get in bed with us,” she said, describing how he found his way under the covers and created a nest-like space in the sheets. It was clear he wanted to snuggle.

Hence came his name: Mr. Baby Snuggles. As time has passed, Snuggles’ fame has spread on social media. He has his own Instagram page, as “mrbabysnuggles,” with 151 followers.

It all fell into a routine. During the day, Snuggles hung out with Dumeyer and Brune, venturing outside whenever a door opened. In the late afternoon, after he got acclimated to his surroundings, he took to flying off to a nearby valley where he sleeps with a small flock. It’s not clear if any of those birds are relatives.

It has been that way every day now since early April.

As Snuggles grew, it was clear he needed to perfect some basic skills. So, when he flapped his wings and seemed instinctively to know he wanted to fly, Dumeyer helped out by demonstrating how she could raise herself into the air.

“He has definitely imprinted on humans,” she said. “He’s super friendly.”

Like Dumeyer and Brune, Snuggles is mainly a vegetarian, but he does like to pick worms off kale leaves. He also likes to eat with the rabbits, especially Bisquit and Giselle.

Mr. Baby Snuggles dines with his rabbit friends. Allan Parachini/Civil Beat/2020

Dumeyer thinks Snuggles has reached sexual maturity. She said that, as she understands it, Java finches mate for life, but, as a practical matter, “they have their permanent partner mates and then they have their hanky-panky mates.”

She has concluded that she is the former. He does fly off occasionally, and Dumeyer has grown accustomed to finding pictures of him on random social media. She has had to go track Snuggles a few miles down the road in Kilauea on eight separate occasions, she said, after he took to landing on people’s heads.

“He’s too human friendly,” Dumeyer said, leading her to conclude that he may have subordinated some instincts that could affect his survival in interactions with people.

This all struck Wendy Johnson, executive director of the Hawaii Audubon Society, as quite unusual. “A friend once described a close relationship she had with a wild blue jay, who appeared regularly at their house and responded to her in a surprisingly personal way,” Johnson said in an email.

“There were a variety of what appeared to be unusual behaviors on the part of the bird, which seems to have made a significant effort to keep the friendship going,” she said. “I would guess there may be many such experiences and similar descriptions. Many people who get to know a wild animal develop some kind of connection.

“It may be based on wonder and admiration on the human’s part. There may also be a sense that the experience is mutual.”

Dumeyer realizes that the relationship with Snuggles could end at any time. There is never any guarantee that he’ll return after he flies off in the morning. But for the last few months, he’s been a part of the family. She hopes that, if he ever does leave, he doesn’t go too far.

“Who knows?” she mused. “Maybe one day there will be a bird who will build a nest with him.”

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