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Monday, May 25, 2009

The Rescue

In Which I Find a Baby Bird

Around 8:30 tonight, I was lying on my bed reading “Watership Down” (which, if you haven’t read, I would highly recommend), when I heard a loud “chirp, chirp” outside my window. A moment later, a heard a sounds of a small scuffle, several high pitched bird calls, and then a repeated, mournful “cheep? cheep? cheep?”. There was unmistakably a bird outside that was injured or distressed.

I told my parents what I had heard, and that I was going to investigate, so I got a flashlight, and went outside to the bushes outside my room. A female bird of some kind (I couldn’t tell from where I was) was sitting out there, and she was the one making the noise. When she heard me approaching, she began to move slowly and deliberately away from me. At first I thought she was hurt, but as I watched her hop on the ground, and fly up to a nearby tree, I could see that she was fine. I wondered why she was moving so slowly, and then realized that she must be trying to lead me away from her nest. I stopped moving, and just followed her with my eyes. The whole time she kept up her crying “cheep? cheep? cheep?”

I followed her with the flashlight and she flew across the street, and there, by the curb, I saw a baby bird. He must have fallen out of the nest (I didn’t know he was male at the time, but I found out later when I saw the markings on his wings). My Mom came out to check on me, and told her to get Dad and my brother’s friend’s girlfriend M. who was over. I thought they would like to see the bird.

I wasn’t planning to try to save the baby bird. The mother was near it, and I believe in letting nature take it’s course. But then a car drove by, scaring the mother bird off. She must have flown back to nest, because she stopped her “cheep? cheep? cheep?” call, which meant she had given up on the baby bird. I said I believe in letting nature run it’s course, and that’s true, but when humans interfere to put an animal in danger, then I feel it’s okay for another human to interfere to get it out of danger. So while M. and I watched over the baby bird, my Dad went to get a box and gloves so I could catch it and put it back on the ground near it’s nest.

For those of you who don’t know, I have a lot of experience rescuing baby birds, and when necessary, taking care of them until I can take them to the Audubon Society, so I’d like to tell you now that the belief that if you handle a baby bird the mother will reject it is a myth.

My Dad couldn’t find a box, but he came back with a wire mesh garbage can, and lined it with leaves. I put on the gloves and went to pick up the baby bird. He was scared, and not moving. The rabbits in “Watership Down” would have described him as “tharn”: the glazed state of fright animals fall into where they are so scared they just freeze and their bodies basically shut down. Not wanting to scare him more, I gently touched his back before scooping my other hand under his legs. But before I could lift him up, he started chirping, and hopped away. He moved very quickly, and hopped all the way back to my yard before I could catch him, which was a good sign. He was strong and healthy, so he had a good chance of surviving.

I finally caught him and gently picked him up, supporting his tiny body from underneath with my hand. I was able to spread out his wing and see by his markings that he was male mockingbird, and he would soon have some of his flight feathers. Not enough for any long distance travel, but in a day or two, he should be able to flutter up to his nest. I took him over near his nest, and let him out; he immediately began chirping, and his mother responded. Once she started to chirp, he moved towards the sound, so my Dad, M., and I went back inside so the mother bird wouldn’t be frightened by us. I’m not sure how he’s doing now, but I don’t hear anymore chirping outside my window, which is a good sign. I hope he makes it, but I got him out of the road, so now it’s up to nature to run it’s course.

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