Sunday, March 8, 2009

Wild Rescues

Twice in the past week I've been startled by the unwelcome yet distinctive thud of an unfortunate bird hitting our glass patio doors with significant speed and force. Both times, I've found the victims -- pine siskins -- dazed and limp on the concrete. And both times, I've been able to create a happy ending to what could have been a tragedy.

Window collisions are no rarity for backyard birders, but a swift and compassionate reaction can help the birds survive if they are not too gravely injured. With both of these birds, they were still obviously breathing, though disoriented and severely stunned. The first managed to flap his wings weakly, while the second could only sag against the concrete, his bill the only thing keeping his head off the ground.

With the cold, windy weather we've had recently, I couldn't leave the birds outside. I grabbed my bird rescue box -- a sturdy, spacious cardboard box prepped with a newspaper lining -- and a pair of garden gloves, gentle picked up the bird, and placed it in the box. Lowering the lid to give it darkness and quiet, I kept the birds sequestered for nearly an hour each, checking their condition several times to be sure they were recovering. When the birds appeared alert, active, and anxious to be on their own again, it was time to let them go.

The first pine siskin was quiet, even as I took the box out to the now deserted patio to release him. He peered up at me from his cardboard sanctuary for a few moments, then gently lifted off and fluttered to a nearby tree. He stayed around the yard for some time, getting a drink at the warmed birdbath and rejuvenating himself with black oil sunflower seeds from the open platform.

The second siskin, a guest in my office just this morning, was more active and eager to be away. When I opened the box carefully (and I don't dare lift the lid completely) to check his condition, he flitted out into the office, heading first for the wide mirrored closet doors that were reflecting the large curved window, then to the window itself. He flew back and forth between the two several times, anxious to leave but unable to fly away. Fortunately, the window screens are still off for the winter, and I was able to open one side of the window for him to make his exit. He alighted in one of the quaking aspen trees in the front yard for quite awhile to get his bearings.

This shows that even birds of the same species have vastly different temperaments and will react differently to similar situations. I'm just glad that I was able to successfully aid both birds, and that they are none the worse for their brief respite in my box and my office. Of course, it was a thrill to have the little darling free in my office, it is even more of a thrill to set free a bird you know you've helped recover.


Marvin said...

Congratulations on your two successful rescues. It isn't usually as cold in Arkansas as it is in Utah and moving the stunned birds to a safe, sheltered location usually works for us. Your having a rescue box ready is an even better idea, though.

Melissa said...

Thanks, Marvin. We do have hawks in our backyard, and with the lack of shrubs and cover I don't really have a safe place to shelter birds while they recover, so the box is a good alternative in all weathers. I just wish I didn't have to use it so frequently!

mckay olson said...

I had a pine sisken land on my hand and eat seed that I had in my hand, that happened today.

Melissa said...

I've done that too, McKay, and it's a thrill! Be sure to wear gloves or wash your hands thoroughly afterwards, though, so neither you nor the birds get sick. Happy birding!