I tried to save a baby bird today. Don’t know if I did. I saw it while walking two unruly dogs. The poor little thing was flopping around in the street curb, under the warm Alabama sun. Today it reached 87 degrees. My heart sank when I saw it, and I told myself to walk on and that birds die all the time, even when I’m not there to witness it. But even as I passed it by, I knew what I was going to do.
I took the dogs home, got a wash cloth, and walked back to the piece of curb where I had seen the little thing. I wrapped it in the cloth, it didn’t even struggle. My first inclination was to set in down on the grass not far from where I had found it, but then I thought, if I were going to die, I’d rather do it under the shade of a tree. So I took it back to our house and set it under a shady bush. It couldn’t hold up its neck. Perhaps it had a broken neck, or wing. Every twenty minutes or so I went out and checked on it. Eventually, its eyes opened and it looked right at me. I let myself believe that it knew I was trying to help. Then it occurred to me that maybe it would like some water. So I got a little dish and took it out to the small bird. It couldn’t seem to drink, but it started chirping. I thought that a good sign. After an hour or so, it was able to hold its head up just a little, and I had hope that it was getting better. Maybe it was hungry.
I googled what to feed a baby/hurt bird. That’s when I learned about the fledgling stage. And how well-meaning people often mistake baby birds learning to fly as injured birds. Several articles said that fledglings live on the ground and hop around trying to get the hang of flying, and this stage can last anywhere from 5 to 15 days. I also learned that you’re not suppose to give them water or feed them. Just put them under the tree where their nest was, because mother birds still feed fledglings.
Dammit. Everything I did was wrong! I moved it from its tree, I tried to give it water, I was going to try to feed it, and meanwhile the poor mother was probably searching for her baby. The mother? Then I remembered that when I went back for the bird there was a fat robin sitting on the curb near the baby, but flew off when I walked up. Must have been the mother.
So it started over. I got my wash cloth, took the baby back down the street and placed it under a tree in a neighbor’s yard that was not far from where I had found it. The tree sat on a slight hill, and if I were a crime scene reconstructionist, I would guess that the bird, after jumping from the nest, fell to the ground trying to fly, and rolled down the hill, landing in the gutter on the street. I put the baby under the tree, between two big roots, so that it wouldn’t roll away. At that point, the baby was able to sit up on its own. Proving to me that it wasn’t injured, just originally uncoordinated. I left it, hoping that I had put it under the right tree. But who knows? A couple of hours later, I checked on it, and again when I walked up, a big fat robin flew away. Please, be the mother. The baby was still in the same area where I had set it, but it had moved and was facing a different direction.
I’d like to think it will be okay. I guess I’ll check on it tomorrow, and pray that tonight no stray cats find it. I’ve been telling myself that, in the end, I did the right thing. Left alone, the baby probably wouldn’t have been able to get itself out of the street before getting hit by a car. I have no idea why trying to save this little creature struck me so hard today, but I was simply unable to leave it flailing in the street. And tomorrow, if I should find that the little guy didn’t make it … I will remind myself that nature has to take its course, even when I don’t want it to.
UPDATE: Unfortunately, the little birdie didn’t make it. I found it at the bottom of the hill. I don’t know if its original injuries were too great to overcome, or if it fell down the hill again. This may sound crazy, but I buried it in the backyard. I just couldn’t leave it dead on the sidewalk, and it didn’t feel right to throw it in a trashcan. So, it’s buried among the azalea bushes. I’ve been thinking recently how insane it was for the mother bird to build a nest on a hill, near the road. How are any of her babies supposed to survive? I feel like reporting her for child endangerment. Maybe this was her first chick. Maybe she’ll learn. Hope so.