Monday, October 6, 2008

Head Games

Remember to vote in the October poll: What types of feeders do you use?

While it is never nice for a bird to collide with a window, it is good when birders can help them recover from the impact and fly on their way again. One evening a few days ago, a male house finch collided with our patio doors (the window clings have helped, and we're going to put them up with less distance between them to be more effective), stunning himself badly. He fell to the patio chair, where he clung to the netting and hung there, dazed.

To ensure he was all right, we went around the chair to see if he reacted to our presence, but he didn't at first. Wearing gloves -- always a wise precaution with wild birds, particularly those who may be injured -- we plucked him off the chair out of fear that his talons may have become entangled. I held him for several minutes, gently and quietly, just keeping him safe from falling or flying again into the glass doors. Gradually he became more aware of his surroundings, hopping a bit on my arm and eventually fluttering down to the concrete, where he was much more wary of our presence. After a few more minutes, off he flew.

What a privilege to help a sweet bird at such close range, to interact with him in this way. Window collisions are a fact of birding, but they don't always have to be tragic. If a bird is dazed after a collision...
  1. Do not startle the bird or otherwise excite it; if they are aware enough to flee from your attentions, they should be fine.
  2. Keep them still and quiet, ideally in a loosely closed paper bag or cardboard box where they can recover. Don't forget air holes!
  3. Check on them after 10 to 15 minutes and release them if they are alert and active. If they are not, keep them still for another 10 minutes.
  4. Do not offer them feed or water; stillness and quiet is the best remedy.

These gentle ministrations won't always be effective and there will be times where dazed birds are injured more gravely than we realize. Nonetheless, not all collisions have to end poorly, and the opportunity to share a moment with our feathered friends should never be taken for granted.

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