Photos copyright 2013-2016 Regina Rickert. All rights reserved.

I'm going to try firing up the blog again for 2016, especially the nature/landscape side of things. It is in desperate need of a redesign so I will be working on that while shooting for KSTV. Unfortunately the slideshows on older posts have been disabled by flickr. You can find all of my work in my gallery.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Peepers


As I mentioned, we went out to Waveland to do some portraits. As we walked up the front steps, we noticed something on the ground. We first thought it was a dead mouse, but it moved as we approached. It was a baby bird. It was shivering even though it was in the hot sun on concrete. It looked pathetic. We weren't sure what to do. We looked around and couldn't find a nest but did see a large ledge above the door. We figured he had fallen from there. We have watched baby bluejays and cardinals in our yard in the past. Compared to them, he looked too small to be a fledgeling and didn't even have all of his feathers yet. Since he wasn't really moving, we thought he was probably injured. We decided we couldn't leave him there on the hot concrete to die. 

We searched our van for something to put him in. We found a ball cap and an undershirt. We gently used a plastic bag to scoop him into the cap. We took him into the shade and went a distance away out of sight to see if a parent returned to care for him. After nearly two hours and no parent in sight, we decided he must have been abandoned. We left and went straight to a local pet store that is good with birds. They told us a bird rehab. specialist would be in in about an hour but they thought he was probably too tiny for much to be done for him. Most birds that are hand-raised do not survive I was told. With the kids getting hot, hungry and tired, I decided to just take the poor thing home and see what we could find on the internet. Before I did, I stopped off at one more pet store near my house. A girl there helps feed baby birds for a rehab. specialist. She said the rehab. person was overwhelmed with the number of birds she was currently caring for and was not taking on new "patients." She told me to feed the bird a mixture of soggy cat or dog food blended with a little applesauce, but to be very careful since it is easy for birds to aspirate.

While all this was happening, the bird began chirping loudly, opening his beak wide and hopping around a little in the cap. We were shocked at the turnaround. The best we could figure is that in those couple of hours, the warmth of the shirt and cap had stabilized his body temperature. When he was on the hot concrete, he had to be frying, but he was shivering uncontrollably like he was cold. I guess he was like a newborn baby and had little way of controlling his body temperature. All we knew was that this little guy was hungry! He started getting very animated. It was pretty cute watching the kids' reaction to him.

We got inside the house. My daughter prepared a shoebox for him and started making him some food. Once it was the right consistency, we put it in a medicine syringe. As soon as we tapped it in front of the bird, he opened his mouth wide and gobbled it up. We repeated this until he lost interest. A few minutes later, he was calm and peaceful. He fell asleep and we placed some extra tissue over him to make sure he was nice and warm. 

While he napped, I did more research online. Apparently it is actually against the law to keep a baby bird. You are supposed to contact a licensed rehab. specialist. I also discovered how long the road to rehab. would be for this little guy-feedings every 15-30 minutes from sun up to sun down for weeks. Oh boy! What was I getting myself into?

After a couple more feedings and careful observation, we noticed the baby bird did not seem to be injured at all like we had first thought. He was hopping a little and moving both wings some. We did more research, went through a couple more feedings and decided it was best to try and reunite him with his parents. We constructed a makeshift nest as instructed by several websites. We returned to where we had found the bird. By this time the kids had named him Peepers. ;D 

Once again we looked around for a nest. My daughter noticed a dark area next to a shutter on the upper window. I used my zoom lens to get a closer look. Sure enough it was a nest directly above where we had found Peepers. We placed the new "nest" in a nearby window and hid quite a distance away in the garden area. We saw one bird approach the "nest", but quickly flew away. After about 20 minutes, we started hearing loud chirping. A mother answered with another chirp from a nearby tree. We discovered the chirping wasn't coming from Peepers, but from the nest high above. Peepers had a sibling still alive and well! We were thrilled because this meant his parents were probably nearby still tending to the other baby. What I didn't tell the kids in my research, was that sometimes mother birds will push a weaker bird out of the nest or will refuse to feed a baby she thinks does not have a good chance of survival. We will never know if he fell or was pushed, but he seemed feisty and unharmed once fed and warm. 

A large percentage of hand-raised birds do not survive and if they do, they are not taught the necessary skills to survive on their own in the wild. I decided being reunited with his parents was the best shot Peepers had at survival. We watched and waited. When we had almost given up, we saw the mother return to feed the bird in the original nest. We were happy to see the birds were not abandoned at least.  After careful consideration, we decided to leave him in his new nest and let Mother Nature do what she does best. We left a note in the new nest with Peepers that informed others that he had fallen from the nest high above and that his mother and sibling were nearby. We didn't want another well-meaning family to go through what we did if they found him. While we never actually saw the mother feed Peepers, she stayed nearby and was probably keeping an eye on us the whole time from what I had read. When we last saw him, he was warm and cozy and resting peacefully. 

It was heartbreaking to just leave him there. My daughter took it the hardest, but I really think we gave him the best possible chance at survival with his mother and sibling. I had to fight the urge to go and check on him the next day. My husband was out of town and I feared walking up and the kids seeing something that would be devastating. They got so attached to that bird in such a short time. We don't know what type of internal injuries he might have had from the fall. We tried covering him the best we could and placed him up high enough to keep cats and other predators away, but a larger bird could have easily found him. 

I really hope he survived. Although it was pretty stressful, it was a valuable lesson for the kids. I was so impressed with their empathy and so proud of how they lovingly cared for such a tiny creature.

Peepers in the ball cap for size comparison

The window Peepers fell from. It is much higher than it looks from this photo.

1 comments:

Pam of Always Artistic said...

Wow what an experience, he is so lucky to have had you rescue him. It sure sounds like you did a lot of research and learned a lot. I hope he will be ok. Thank you for sharing this with us.

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