Friday, April 13, 2012

We Rescued a Baby Bird

One day last week in the midst of a typically busy day we had more excitement than usual.

The sequence of events went like this. My husband brought our oldest son downtown and dropped him at the convention center for the Lone Star Regional FIRST Robotics tournament. My husband proceeded on to go to work. I realized that I'd forgotten to have my son's hair cut before the crew team photo and individual athlete photo so added in a haircut appointment. I drove downtown after lunch to pick the kid up and then rushed home and went to the hair stylist for the hair cut. We were then to go directly to crew for the photo shoot then for practice.

As we walked down the sidewalk toward the car we went past a CVS. I heard a loud cheeping sound of a bird. My eye picked up something on the ground and there in the corner of the building was something little and brown. I heard the chirp again and saw movement. I turned and looked and it was a baby bird! It flapped its wings frantically and one of them pointed downward. No matter what it did, it could not lift up off the ground to fly. It was full of energy. I looked and saw the busy parking lot on the other side of the sidewalk. It was 85 degrees and humid. I thought, "This is not good." My son was bothered to see this and we wanted to do something about it but I didn't know what to do and we were late for the photo shoot, so we left. My older son said, "Leaving that bird there is going to ruin my whole day now."

As I drove him to his team photo and practice I phoned my younger son, who was home alone. I said, "I have something important for you to do. Google what to do with a bird with a broken wing." He said he would research it. I told him what happened. My younger son is even more emotional about the welfare of animals and I knew he was upset about this.

As publicity chair I had helped set up the photo shoot for the team. I set about to help as photographer's assistant. I told the coach's wife what happened and she was sympathetic, and said they'd rescued various critters over the years when her kids were young and they happened upon animals in need. She took over the task and I headed out early to address the bird.

Once in the car I was on the phone again (we have hands free mobile phone communication through the minivan's stereo system). My son told me he researched everything about how to care for a bird. I wondered what we were getting ourselves into and doubted we were up for the task but all I could think of was arriving back at CVS to find a squashed baby birdie in that busy parking lot and I didn't want that to happen. I arrived home to find my son waiting at the door. We took a small box and clean cloth rags and we made a soft nest (in case it thrashed around), which he'd gathered up. We rushed to CVS and the bird was still there but it was weaker, more quiet, and it had moved about two feet from where it was. I was afraid to pick it up lest I scare it or hurt it, especially if the wing was broken, but I just worked quickly and scoopd it up. I was surprised to find the its body was about the size of a chicken egg's yolk. It looks bigger but that's just feather fluff.

As I drove home, in my mind I was wondering if it could be just a baby that fell out of its nest. I remembered reading somewhere that people sometimes rescue baby birds that fall out of a nest when they should have left them there. I couldn't figure how leaving a baby bird on a hot sidewalk next to a busy parking lot was a good idea.

When we got home my son instructed me on what he read about helping the bird. This included feeing it seeds, giving it water, bandaging up the broken wing and caring for it for 2-4 weeks.

Two to four weeks?!?!

What had I gotten us into?

Following the online directions I attempted to wrap the wing. It was very hard. In the process the bird was moving more and I realized that one wing was no longer hanging down. I had to open the wing -- those wing bones are so lightweight and tiny and I was scared to death that the slightest pressure from my fingers could snap one so easily - and it didn't seem to me that the wing was broken.

I told my son that maybe we were wrong and maybe it just fell out of the nest. I also said I felt we were out of our league and that perhaps we should find another option.

I went to the Internet and within seconds read about bird rehabilitator volunteers in every community who are licensed and trained to take care of ailing wild birds. With a second search I found a list of bird rehabbers in my county, two of which were in my own town. I dialed the phone. An older gentleman answered. I asked for the woman by name and he asked who it was. I said my name and said, "it's about a bird". It was so funny when he called to his wife and said, "It's a woman about a bird."

We made arrangements for me to immediately bring the bird to her home which was less than ten minute's drive. My son was happy yet sad to see the bird go. I quickly snapped some photos before we headed out the door.

When we arrived she examined the bird and identified it as a juvenile sparrow. She said its wing was not broken, it had just fallen out of the nest. She estimated by its feather growth that it was about 2.5 weeks old, it still lacked feathers on its belly. I asked if we did the right thing by taking the bird. She said yes and explained that if a baby bird falls out of a nest in the woods, one should leave it there as the mother bird will bring it food and keep it alive until it grows enough for it to fly on its own. But left exposed in a busy strip mall on cement, it would have died. So, she said, we saved its life.

The bird rehabber had a host of wild birds in various cages in her home. In her backyard she had an aviary, where she would put it eventually, where it would learn to fly. When it was ready, she would release it to the wild, in the area behind her home which was green space.

After dropping off the bird, my younger son was now late for lacrosse, so we dashed off to the field and he joined his teammates almost a half hour late (quel horreur!). Little did anyone know that on this day we had a certifiable and justifiable reason for being tardy.

I was glad to know we did the right thing and that we alleviated the suffering of a baby bird and allowed it to live. Sometimes we as individuals can't do everything, but it is good to know our limitations. If we'd kept the bird ourselves, despite good intentions, in our ignorance we could have helped the bird die. Although my son loved the bird, even having known it just for a short while, and he wanted to keep it and help it for his own selfish reasons, he admitted that we were incapable of giving it the right care. We also now realize there is a whole world out there we didn't know about: volunteer bird rehabbers who dedicate hours of every day to help ailing wild birds, who knew? We hope and pray the little birdie makes it through and goes on to enjoy life in the wild soon.

I think this was one life experience that was a spontaneous homeschool lesson that taught a lot and won't ever be forgotten.