Jailbird

We have a bird in a box! A little sparrow in a shoebox, for three days. On Saturday I was shocked awake by a bird smashing into a window with the force of a snowball.  It was sickening. It doesn’t feel good building in the woods and then installing a bunch of windows that birds don’t understand and will slam themselves against.  I’ve hung strings on most of the windows to help them see it, and it helps greatly.  We have only had one bird casualty, and one chickadee that got its bell rung but recovered. This bird hit the only window without strings:(  I ran outside and found the bird gasping and quivering on its back, scooped it up, and took it in, holding it for several minutes, with my whole hand wrapped in a towel for dark, soothing. When the bird started to perk up, aka try to escape, I took it outside and held it up to a branch.  It seemed just fine, standing up on my hand, and it stepped confidently onto the branch, spread its wings after a moment, and jumped off to plummet straight to the ground. Then I had to recapture it, as it scampered away in the underbrush. Gravely inform HW we now have a pet sparrow.  Quickly google what sparrows eat, rescue sparrows, etc.  Create a habitat shoebox. 2015-07-04 08.34.39This is a young adult sparrow.  It has vestiges of the clown lips that baby birds have (called gape flanges), and on the first day it would sometimes do the “feed me!” squat and gape when I was feeding it. It’s fully feathered, though, and had full capability of flying, before hitting the window.*  Now its right wing droops; the tips no longer meet over the tail where the wing should rest. In fact, it drags under his tail and sometimes he poops on the wing tip. *This is important because lots of fledglings get “rescued” because they can’t fly.  They can’t fly because they’re learning how. Right away, we found instructions to immobilize the wing in position of rest.  So together we held the bird and wrapped its tiny body, with the kind of medical tape that only sticks to itself, trying to leave its other wing free and legs free so it can stand up. Well, the bird lay there panting like it was gasping its last, flopping pathetically and apparently unable to stand.  After an hour or so, I was convinced that it was dying of internal injuries.  Although it was wrapped barely tight enough to hold the wing, I thought if the bird’s gonna die anyway, then at least I can take the wrap off him. I took the tape off and the bird immediately affected a miraculous recovery.  Hopping around, exploring the box, breathing normally.  Later, Hope would say sometimes you can wrap a bird, but “Birds hate to be wrapped.”  No kidding. So cute!  I fed and watered him with a popsicle stick.  The first day, I gave him flax seeds and sunflower seeds.  Nothing.  I offered a worm (alive).   The worm inquisitively poked her in the face, and got  no response.  Ants?  No way.  A mosquito? Why yes!  Hmm, I could spend all day mosquito hunting.  I gave her quinoa, because we had some cooked, and she gobbled it up.  Also quickly proved that beak wiping is a universal bird thing.  Then I ground up the flax and sun seeds with mortar and pestle and mixed it with the quinoa.  We have a winner. 2015-07-05 12.51.11 Every hour or two I would come back to the house and feed the bird.  Very time consuming, holding the popsicle stick while the bird picked and chewed one grain at a time.  I can see how baby bird care is a full time job, running the parents ragged. The first day, the bird seemed fine, not in pain at all or bothered by the wing, shaking it once in awhile.  Also content.  I covered the box in the early evening, and it fell asleep with its head tucked under the injured wing.  Adorable! 2015-07-04 19.21.02 The next day, there was no more crouching and begging, and I saw him help himself to water out of his tiny cup!  Also, she would pick up food that she dropped.  I started leaving food on the floor of the box, and also dabbing chunks on the side of the box for him to peck off, while I got something done. I added a strawberry to the mash and got rave reviews. I gave him a whole strawberry, and he demolished it. Soon she mostly fed herself, but I still offered tidbits on the stick. The second evening, she developed a tragic obsession with escape.  He’d bump his head on the grate, peck at the wires of the grate.  Very sad.   I covered her early to calm him down. Hopefully, the energy to make jailbreak attempts is a positive sign.2015-07-05 12.47.08The third day he was even more obsessed with escape – give me liberty or give me death! (unfortunately, each means the other in this case).  She’d never say no to a mosquito, but otherwise, when offered food, she’d kind of attack it momentarily,  like hunger itself was an irritating distraction, and then resume craning her neck at the grill ceiling. In the evening  we packed her off to Hope for Wildlife.  We passed her over to a volunteer animal delivery driver (!), to go to the animal hospital, and get a bird Xray (!), and hopefully rehabilitation. I had no idea something so awesome as Hope for Wildlife was here, in Nova Scotia, and on tv.  I’m more impressed with this province all the time.  The same day as calling Hope, my bird issue was “dispatched” and someone living near me called to arrange a pick-up and transportation (!) FOOD: The suggestion to feed a wild bird cat food is almost universal (high protein meat based).  I thought about it, but most cat foods I wouldn’t feed to a cat I liked, so I decided I’d dig up worms if I had to.  Luckily, I didn’t have to, because worms went over like a lead balloon.  The live offering was a complete fail, so I minced one. Let me tell you, mincing an earthworm is one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever done.  First I dug, and picked out an inch of worm that was severed by the shovel’s slice.  Perfect, I thought, already dead.  Only the pieces of worm that have the smooth ring that holds their DNA can survive being cut.  Right?  Not necessarily so.  Every piece I cut, no matter how small, writhed and contracted and to all appearances, experienced pain and tried to escape it.  Not to mention excreted mud.  Uggghhh-willies!  They only stopped moving when they dried out a bit.  Death, finally, by dehydration.  Thinking about the circle of life and how everything I thought I knew about earthworms may be wrong, I managed to complete the mincing of that one segment of worm that may or may not have been doomed anyway. The bird ate it, but preferred quinoa, so I stuck with that.  Earthworms are manna for baby birds, but not such a big diet item for adult birds (thankfully for me, gagging over the mincing). Here’s what I fed the bird, that it liked:** Cooked quinoa (couldn’t get enough) Boiled egg, finely minced. Ground flax seed Ground sunflower seed (hulled) Hemp hearts Strawberries (big hit!) Mosquitoes A few  cereal and bread crumbs Some soaked, top-quality high protein dog food (for high performance dogs), that we had (because we have a high-performance dog)  It snacked on the dog food, but did not love it. **As Hope told me on the phone, birds need a big variety- they need protein, fruit, vegetables, grains, and seeds.  If I had the bird longer, I would have tried adding garden greens, meat, beef suet, cereal, and nuts.  And they need it all minced very small, at least the young adult bird I had did.  It would reject any chunks too big to chew, including a whole flax seed. Spoggy the sparrow is a wonderful time lapse of a house sparrow hand raised from blind, pink, transparent infancy.

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