This past Sunday my dog Winston found a bird’s nest in the hedge by the garage. I came upon him chomping down on the nest like he had found the most delectable thing to eat. He was thrilled and, as happens from time to time, I was appalled by his actions and sheer enthusiasm at the destruction of another animal. Dogs can do some really gross stuff but when it comes to attacking little defenseless birdies, mother nature rules but I would rather it be different.
After succeeding in removing the nest from Winston’s mouth I looked down and just under the hedge I spotted one of the little fledglings standing there looking at me. Winston went back under the hedge going at the dirt and continuing his pursuit of the scent of bird. I quickly grabbed the little bird and lifted him to safety from the jaws of death.
I took the little bird and went to the back of our house where in another hedge I knew there was an abandoned birds nest. Winston had pestered a mother Robin so badly a few days earlier that she left the nest and somehow took two of her three eggs with her. I placed the abandoned egg in a pot of plants on the deck, put the bird in the nest and then went into the fenced in area surrounding the pool where Winston couldn’t enter and sat the bird down to rest.
Meanwhile Winston was still going at it, tail wagging and dirt flying. I bent down to see what else he was after under the hedge and there is where I found it. Another fledgling was on his back, covered in dirt and gasping. I reached in and picked it up. She was a mess. Eyes covered in dirt, a small amount of blood seemed to be coming from its wing. I gently took it to the nest and placed here in it with her sibling.
I watched them for a while and then left the nest sitting on the ground safe from Winston. I checked on them from time to time and attempted putting them back in the hedge where they had come from which is when the healthier young one jumped out of the nest — he was ready to move on. I gathered him up again and then sat him on the ground inside the fenced area and left the injured bird in the nest to rest.
I noticed two other birds flying around and sitting in the tree above as I cared for these little creatures. I concluded that it was their parents. I went off to do some gardening work and when I returned the healthier bird was now in the middle of the pool deck chirping away and it’s mother was hopping around close by. The injured bird was still in the nest resting. I watched for a while and then left them again. The next time I returned the healthier bird was gone and so was the mother. I was happy to know that I saved the bird and that mother was once again caring for it. I left the injured bird to rest thinking that most likely it would die. This was early Sunday afternoon.
I went on with my day, out with friends and forgot about the injured bird until Monday around noon. Suddenly remembering, I ran back to the pool area expecting to see that it had died. What I found instead was a wide awake and alert little bird looking up at me. He was clean, sitting up and seemed to be doing pretty well. I picked up the nest and brought it into the house. We found a dropper and I gave him some water, with which he seemed to perk up. I then wondered how he made it through the night and decided to google information on how to care for fledglings in a case like this.
It was a Sparrow. I knew this from having seen the mother. As I read the information I discovered that if you find a fledgling (meaning that it is fully feathered, ready to be out of the nest but not ready to fly yet) the best thing to do is to put it back into the nest or into a basket and place it near where the nest was. OK, I had done that. Then it says that the mother will find it and will continue to care for it. I thought then that most likely the mother had continued to care for it because it was in such better shape than the day before when I found it. So, I returned it to the deck and continued to watch it throughout the day.
Yesterday which was Tuesday, I called the Cornell Vet School and spoke to someone from the wildlife section. They confirmed that I had done everything that they would have suggested and they offered that I might bring the bird in to be checked for injuries. If it had a broken wing, for example, it would never be able to fly and they would keep it and care for it. I agreed that I would bring the bird in the next morning.
A rain storm was coming so I moved the bird to the ground under the cover of our barbecue so that it wouldn’t get wet. We (my kids were now involved too) checked on it a couple of times after that and then this morning I got up early to take it into the vet school which opened at 7:30am and my daughter went out to check on the bird and he was gone! When my son heard that he asked if I had left it on the ground and I replied, “yes.” He said that probably another animal ate it.
I was struck by the thought that the bird may have been eaten and attention needed when caring for such a vulnerable, helpless creature. I was reminded of caring for my children when they were babies. For a few moments I felt responsible for the end of the bird’s life through my ignorance. I even cried all the while thinking I was being ridiculous. Yet, at the same time it was as if I lost the bird. The bird that was never mine was gone and if my son was right eaten by some other night creature. I envisioned the poor little thing trying to call out for help “tweet, tweet!” crunch…. dead. All of those thoughts happened in a split second.
The truth is we don’t know what happened to the little bird. The vet school staff assured me that the mother was close by or it would have been dead. Perhaps it hopped out of the nest and went off with its mother or, maybe as my son suggested, another animal ate it.
Why write about this in my blog? That is a good question. As I have been writing some things have occurred to me:
- One is that it may have been easier not to care and to have left the birds under the bush for Winston’s delightful Sunday Brunch. And yet, I am just not that kind of person, I do care and I do get involved.
- Second is how though we may care and care deeply our actions and shortsightedness may not give us the result we want. Making mistakes doesn’t mean you don’t love something or care for it. That is the stuff of learning and there are consequences for our ignorance. If I ever care for a fledgling again I have learned something about it.
- The third thing is that maybe that bird is alive and well and not in the belly of some passing by snake. Perhaps all is well. And then again perhaps all is well if he is in the snake’s belly. Come to think of it how could it be anything other than all is well?
So, having said all of that, and at the risk of sounding silly, what is left to say is that I forgive myself for having left that little bird on the ground and for not having had the presence of mind to think of other animals that would want to eat it. I also forgive my son for having said “it probably got eaten” which was the first time I even considered it as a possible result and lastly I forgive Winston for being a dog and acting like dogs do.
Little bird, I hope you are well and if you are gone I hope that in your next adventure you get to have the experience of flying and singing and all the wonderful things that birds get to do.