Wild on…My Front Steps? We Found a Forager (Fridays)

It’s been a wild and wooly week of storms. We in the Bay Area were treated last night to a thrilling (and rare) display of thunder and lightening. As we went to bed last night, Fern’s eyes would widen with every KABOOMBATHUmblerrrrrrrrr, and snuggle in closer saying, “It’s ok. Don’t worry.”. This morning she awoke and said, “It’s not dark. Where’s the thundah?”

As you might guess, it hasn’t been such an inviting week for foraging. That turned out to be fine, since our adventure for the week came to us.

Oh hi. I waj jusht checkin to see if my nesht waj up here…

Tuesday night, our housemate Kristy dashed in from the rain and said, “Uh…there’s a bird on the steps and it’s not really moving. What should we do?”

If you know me well, you may have observed what happens to me in the face of animal endangerment. I become a focused and purposeful beast. I Know Just What to Do. And Please Get Out of My Way So I Can Do It.

If you find what appears to be an orphaned and/or injured bird, first you need to determine if it really needs your help.

In full rescue mode, I quickly dumped out a box full of felt pieces, and placed a clean dish towel in the bottom. I turned on a low light in my room and we sequestered the cat. Then we quietly opened the front door and made our way slowly down the steps.

There are certain first steps to take in attempting to care for any wild animal. The most important thing to do is to immediately decrease it’s stress level by limiting your contact with it, and keeping it in a dark and warm place.

It was pouring rain and quite dark, but we could see a little shadow hunkered into a bottom step. I thought of the cliffs that rock doves evolved to live on, and how our urban structures make a good alternative for habitat.

But the whole sight was pitiful. This was not a night to be exposed to the elements, so something must be gravely wrong. As we approached, the bird did not move. Without making any sudden movements, I lowered myself to a crouch. I kept my gaze at a sideways glance, since the placement of our two giant eyeballs on the front of our face alerts birds to the fact that we are predators. Then, keeping my own stress level low, I slowly reached out my hands to gently enclose the bird.

No, I wasn’t wearing gloves. The idea of pigeons as “flying rats” and disease vectors is a myth, perpetuated by pest control industries. There are three respiratory diseases that MAY pose a small risk to humans who already have respiratory issues. And that’s only if there is a large amount of bird crap festering in piles near your dwelling. Otherwise, your chances of getting cat scratch fever from your pet fluffykins is much higher than the health risk posed by feral pigeons.

Just as my hands were about to make contact, the bird fluttered its wings and hopped away. I got an intuitive hit…it’s just barely a fledgling and the wind probably knocked it out of its nest. I slowed my movement even more, and then was successful in cupping the bird in my hands. As I brought it towards me, it squeaked with a little Peep.

And then I fainted from the cuteness and we weren’t able to rescue the bird, the end.

No, I was actually able to keep it together without squealing and Kristy and I got it into the box. We brought it inside and placed it in my room, much to the consternation of the indoor cat, who must have felt like we were blocking her access to the most excitement she’d had in 11 years. I took a minute to take in its overall state of being…it’s standing strongly, it’s eyes are alert and I don’t see any injury. It’s either very dirty, or its adult feathers are not quite grown in. And then I left it alone.

 A wounded or orphaned animal does not want our weird love. Using a gentle voice sparingly and refraining from petting it is the best way to show care.

I didn’t have high hopes, but I knew we could take the bird to WildCare in Marin if it made it through the night. Many wildlife rescue associations in the Bay Area won’t take “invasive or pest” animals, and often will only take the animal if it is native. But the dear hearts at WildCare carry on in the spirit of Mrs. Terwilliger, and give equal treatment to all critters.

If you live in the Bay Area, here is a link to local wildlife rescuers. If you don’t live locally, google “Wildlife Rescue” with the name of your town, or contact your local humane society.

But it’s just a pigeon, I hear you saying. Yes, and it’s not only just a pigeon, but it’s probably smarter than both of us put together. 

Pigeons are as smart as primates when it comes to learning math. It took me three times of taking Algebra II to pass the class, so who’s the one with the bird brain?

Pigeons never forget a face. 

Pigeons (along with flamingos and emperor penguins) “lactate” and feed their babies milk. As a breastfeeding mama, I say RESPECT.

Pigeons one up other birds who can “only” migrate using the same route year after year, since they can find their way home using a different route each time.

Along with a lot of other evidence of their intelligence, Pigeons were also Steampunk before it was cool.

As Fern and I were snuggling in bed the next morning, I told her the tale of the night before, and she leapt out of bed, “Let’s do it! Let’s go see the boid!”

I opened the door a crack and more than half expected a sad ending. Except the bird wasn’t in its box. Or on the floor. I felt a twinge of panic and then I looked up at my altar.

It was sitting on top. In a bird nest I found two years ago.

After breakfast, we bundled him up in a bigger cardboard box. Fern and I stepped out the door with our peeping parcel and I said, “Fern, this is Operation Bird Rescue” and she screamed, “YEAH! LET’S GO!”

Upon arrival at WildCare, our bird was whisked away into the back of the animal hospital while we filled out a report. The staff were so relieved that I had followed the correct rescue procedure and said I should join their triage team. I’ve rescued critters and volunteered to feed baby birds before, but I had never considered the possibility of being on a first responder team,. The idea is exciting. I can’t wait until Fern is older so we can both volunteer.

The woman who helped us was so warm and friendly and asked if we wanted a status report, which of coure we did. After checking on him, she said his vitals were good and that he was probably an “almost” fledgling who got knocked out of his nest before his wings were strong enough to fly. With some rest and recuperation, he was a good candidate for release. Hooray!

So then we got our wildlife on. Although I neglected to get any pictures, two dear families, and old friends who I have not seen for ages, responded to an invite I put out on FB and met us up there for a lovely morning. (Much love to Anne, Skye, Sarah, Cordelia and Calliope!)

WildCare has a learning center inside their main building, and the grounds are home to rescued animals who would not survive release.

Vlad the Turkey Vulture was stolen from his nest as a baby, and imprinted on his captor. He is perfectly healthy, but cannot be released since he doesn’t know he is a bird. When one of the staff sat by his cage, he flew down to coo at her and try to nibble her hair through the cage wire.

We were able to stay long enough for feeding time.

Buttercups! said the flower fairy.

We purchased some rainbow stickers at Walgreens to get cash back for the toll, and then headed home for lunch.

Not a bad way to spend the morning.

Inspired? Your local rescue shelter needs volunteers during the spring baby season…look ’em up!

I hope you have your own wild and wooly weekend!


10 thoughts on “Wild on…My Front Steps? We Found a Forager (Fridays)

  1. bird rescue is my specialty. i saved a nest of baby birds from an evil cat once, and another time a hummingbird got trapped in the kiosk i worked at over at the watershed in Livermore, and he was so afraid that when i held my hand out, he jumped in it and snuggled it. talk about awesome, holding hummingbird is one of the cooler things i’ve ever done.

    1. i love it when animals transcend their normal wariness and really “get” that they can trust us in that moment. those moments of crisis create a different awareness i think. i love the image of you holding a hummingbird…what an auspicious event! xo

  2. love this story! this reminds me of both a baby hummingbird and a baby quail that i have rescued and turned over to sierra wildlife rescue. amazing and unforgettable experiences, i bet fern might retain a sweet memory of this. i LOVE pigeons. my dad used to raise homing pigeons as a kid and he is still really good with birds. happy weekend you cuties!

  3. oooh, I love me a great big storm. Heehee you got me laughing thinking about weird human love – the squishy, claustrophobic, sloppy, ownership type love that we must exude to those poor animals. That pigeon found you amongst every other place there, he/she must’ve known that you’d be the one to help. I can’t say that I’d have known exactly what to do – i certainly did not know that pigeons lactated. That in itself is so profound!

    1. ha! yup, you get it!

      i also had that thought that the pigeon “knew” where to go. i used to attract wounded animals like it was a curse…but for all the years i had leo, i didn’t find one critter in need of rescue. i think i had a “no vacancy” sign above me. now that he’s gone, i’ve been wondering if the broken wings and the babies would start showing up.

      and i didn’t know about the milk either! i am simultaneously delighted, but also sad that pigeons get such a bad rap. they are amazing!

  4. What a totally awesome story! I’m so impressed with your calm, cool collectedness in the face of adled animals. We have wildlife encounters all the time out here in the park and some of them involve injured animals and I have to say that I’ve definely had to brush up on my skills in dealing with them. We’ve saved deer that have been in shock from being driven into water by off-leash dogs (pet. peeve.), had to restrain ourselves from aiding stranded seal pups (they have to learn) and C. has even had to kill an injured deer that could not be saved. C. just had a really cool encounter with a hummingbird that knocked itself unconscious on a skylight. He thought it was dead, because it was still for so long, but picked it up and held it for a long time, until it opened it’s eyes and he said it looked him straight in the eye, slowly go up, sat there for a while, then took wing and flew around him and off he was.

    I’m so happy that you shared you adventures and witty, fun wisdom. That bird must have known exactly who’s stoop to fall on. Lots of love to you and yours. Off I go reading all the posts that surely have piled up since I last visited.

    1. ah, i imagine it would be super intense trying to work with wounded deer, and heart wrenching to be hands off with the seal pups. i love all the stories about hummingbirds too…you, heather, brigit…y’all must be hummingbird people.

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