I was in the kitchen doing the dishes.
“Aaron! There’s an injured bird on the sidewalk in front of the house!”
I quickly dried off my hands and rushed through the house out the front door. Sure enough, flopping rather pathetically on the sidewalk in front of our house was a tiny brown bird. Is his wing broken? Leg? My mind flashed through all those cartoons and PSA’s I saw as a child where the adult would show the kids how to make a splint out of popsicle sticks, bandage the bird up until its wing healed, and then set it free. Would I have to do that?
As I approached the bird, it continued to flop around. It was desperately trying to stand back up on its legs, but for some reason it kept falling over to its right side. I must have looked like a predator to it – although I suppose when you’re that small, anything larger than you is likely to be intimidating.
The bird was a brownish color. I have no idea what genus/species it would be; I’m no ornithologist. When it blinked, it had a translucent sheath cover its eye for a moment. As it tried, with great effort, to upright itself, it would often get onto one or both feet, only to fall back over again. I didn’t see any broken wings though, but I would have to get a closer look to know for sure; To do that, I was going to need gloves.
Melissa was holding Sullivan and standing in the doorway, door closed. I mouthed the words “I need gloves” and pantomimed pulling a glove onto my hand. I continued to squat, and then kneel, next to the bird. It would rustle a bit, then just lay there and rest, as if it were accepting its own mortality. A young boy and girl were walking towards us on the sidewalk. They glanced at the bird, and at me, as they passed by, but said nothing. After a couple more minutes, I heard the door open, and Melissa had a pair of yellow rubber dish gloves.
“No, I need my gardening gloves – I’m afraid he’ll scratch and peck me,” I said.
“I couldn’t find them,” she was cautiously staying on the porch, not wanting to approach the sidewalk.
“I think they’re on the back porch, wait here and watch the bird.” I quickly ran through the house to the back porch, found one glove and then the other, and ran back out, pulling them on as I moved. The bird was still there, nothing new.
I slowly leaned in and tried to gently caress my hands around the bird, intending to pick it up. It seemed as though it was shaking. After a couple attempts, I was able to gingerly pick it up. I tried to cup my hands around it to suggest to it It’s ok, you’re safe now. I’ll protect you.
It continued to shake and struggled to free itself from my hands. It was as if it expected me to open up wide and tear into its wings at any moment. As it writhed around, I got a better look at its wings: I didn’t see anything that looked broken. It’s right wing looked a little ruffled, and its tail feathers seemed slanted to one side, but the bones seemed intact.
Eventually, the bird calmed down and I used my finger to gently pet its head and neck. It seemed to like that and was very docile in my hands as I sat on the front porch steps. I was really excited to show Sullivan. I pecked my nose on the front door, imagining that from the bird’s perspective, that probably looked rather odd. Melissa looked at me from inside and I motioned to her to come outside. She came out, carrying Sullivan.
I showed Sullivan and he really wanted to touch the Bird. Having seen how he pets the cat and dog (“pets” is putting it nicely. Gentle is still something he’s yet to learn), I thought it might be better if he didn’t get that close; He wasn’t very happy about being brought this close to a little feathered creature and then being denied the chance to touch it. The bird seemed rather alarmed by the new faces and started squirming again. I continued to pet its head gently with my finger and we sat down on the porch steps again.
Melissa went back in for a bit and then came out with the camera to take some pictures. She got two shots and then, surprising us both, the bird leapt out of my hands and flew up to a branch of the tree in front of our house. Apparently, its wings were fine! No popsicle-stick splints necessary!
I think what happened is that the bird was flying near the tree and a gust of wind blew it into a branch at an awkward angle. It was a pretty blustery afternoon so that seemed reasonable. The bird was stunned, or shocked, or maybe just a little sore. Whatever it was, I got to hold it and help it get back to normal. It hung out in the tree for a while and then went off to do its bird things. I checked back on the sidewalk a couple more times to make sure it didn’t have a relapse; somewhat hopefully thinking that I would get to hold it again. I wondered if the bird would tell its bird friends that the giant brown feathered human in that house was an OK guy.