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Bring A Box! Bring Gloves!

August 23, 2009

Today the kids were outside playing, and Lucy had her friend Grace over, and I’m just about to get in the shower when I hear this screaming from far away, “Dad! Dad!,” and I’m thinking that sounds like Lucy, because when you have kids you evolve this unique ability to isolate and identify their cry from a wall of noise. Next thing, she’s tearing through the front door and she’s panting and she’s riled and she’s talking so fast I can’t make out a word she’s saying. “Slow down. Again.”


So I got myself dressed again and I followed her down the street to a house about a block away where Grace and Isaac were losing the battle to keep a hungry cat away from an injured bird.

I put on these big asbestos fireplace gloves, which are the only thing I could find on short notice, scooped the bird up and placed it in a cardboard box and we brought it home. The whole time I’m thinking what do we do with an injured baby bird? How do we care for it? I am not paying for this f-ing bird to go to the vet. I am not.

The kids are totally digging their little Avian E.R. They’re putting grass and sticks in the box, to keep the bird comfortable. They’ve given it a bowl of water, which it has promptly sat in. They’re feeding it seed, along with random insects they pluck from the garden. They want to touch the bird too, a lot, and I’m like “leave the bird alone. Stop touching it. Touching it is not good. It needs some space. Plus, it probably has lice.” I don’t know if any of this is true; maybe, maybe not, but its consistent with my uncontrollable impulse to bleed the fun out of any extraordinary experience my children are having with my incessant caution and pragmatism. What is wrong with me? Jesus.

When the excitement wears off and the kids disperse to other activities, I try calling animal shelters and bird sanctuaries, but none are open on a Sunday. Woe to the bird who injures itself on a Sunday. I go out and don the fireplace gloves again and gently pick up the bird. I want to see if it’s ready to fly. It appears to like the big red gloves, and nestles itself in my palm, showing no inclination to freedom. I consider placing it under some thick brush in the backyard, giving it the opportunity to fend for itself, to live or die of its own accord, and telling the kids “it must have flown away. When I came out, it was gone.” But I don’t have it in me. I can’t lie. We’re bound to this bird now. Our fates are tied.

There is no end to the story. Not yet, anyway. It’s a Cedar Waxwing, that much we know (thank you Google). Its probably starving, since baby birds eat abundantly and often, their parent feeding them their meals in an easily digestible form. I can’t help there. Tomorrow, if its still alive, we’ll drive it to an animal shelter. We’ll leave it in their capable hands. If all goes well, it will survive and thrive and grow to be a very important bird. It could be the next Obama of the bird world. We can only hope.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Michelle Riggen-Ransom permalink
    August 24, 2009 12:22 am

    Having been in this same situation before (though not with your children), I feel confident enough to instruct you on what to do.

    First, it is not true that you can’t touch a baby bird. Our local Bird Expert said it’s fine, within reason. I don’t know about lice, that part could be true and I will be the first to admit that feathers gross me right the hell out. But touch away.

    Next, the thing you need to do is see if you can find the tree from whence the bird came. Even better, the nest. Then, wade through four years of piled-up crap in the garage to get to your folding ladder. Have your spouse come cursing and reluctant out of your house to help you. Shyly knock on the super mean neighbors’ door because the confounded nest appears to be in a tree in their yard. Have spouse climb up said tree cradling bird in naked, licey hands. Your cat and your children will run around underfoot, screaming and climbing each other and trying to respectively kill and look at the bird. Your other, crazy neighbors will join you! They will shoot a DVD of the whole thing, which will be slipped without a note under your door the next day, set to an original soundtrack by the crazy wife. Gently place bird back into nest, or if the nest is too high or can’t be spotted, some sort of “fake nest” or a nest of some other bird that your crazy neighbor happened to have in her house (?) Go in and make lunch, forget to wash hands.

    The bird will die.

    • seantabb permalink*
      August 24, 2009 5:43 am


      That’s a DVD I would like to see. Can you send me a copy, or a link on youtube or something?

      Good call on the crazy neighbor. A woman who just moved into an apartment across the street was attracted by the commotion. When she discovered the reason, she went back to the garden behind her house and dug up some earth worms, big juicy ones, which she then tried to hand-feed the poor bird. He’s got his little mouth open and she’s stuffing this huge earthworm down his gullet and whacking him in the face with it and I want to point out that the worm is bigger than he is and maybe this isn’t working and maybe if she’d just eat the worm first then try feeding it to the bird, maybe then everything would work out fine.

      And the bird did die. I sure hope he wasn’t the next Obama bird, or we’re screwed.

  2. Bill permalink
    August 25, 2009 11:02 am

    1. Birds are fragile.
    2. It’s good for kids to experience the hopelessness of survival rate of home-nurtured small birds vs the cost of veterinary rehabilitation.
    3. It makes me happy that kids try to save doomed little creatures.
    4. If I started a blog exclusively about neighborhood animal encounters there would be no shortage of material.

  3. September 22, 2009 9:04 pm

    Oh sad about the baby bird that might be the next Obama.

    I don’t know if I was always this maudlin about baby life before having kids.

    So this last weekend, instead of flying to Maine to set our feet on the ground where we are senselessly fantasizing about moving, we went to our little cabin up outside Asheville in NC. When we aren’t there (which is most of the time), the mice caretake for us. In a big way.

    Our old arthritic beagle Max was looking for a place to lie down so I went into a back closet and fetched out a big old puffy comforter and brought it into the living room and shook it out to lay on the ground. Six little gray/pink things lobbed out and landed on the rug at even distance from each other. My mind was blank. Leeches? Huge bugs? Bits of quilt stuffing? Food? It’s amazing in a moment like this how long it takes for the brain to catch up.

    But now they’re squealing. Quietly. Because they’re very little. The size of take-out Chinese food dumplings.

    And now I hear Max prodding his arthritic bones up the stairs. It’s a matter of seconds before he’s on them.

    I actually said out loud “Oh shit. What do I do now?” Like I had a movie audience.

    Fast as I could, I picked them up one at a time (and let me tell you, baby mice STICK with their paws to the nap of the rug) and nudged them back into a fold in the blanket. The fell together like furry magnets. I stuffed the wadded nest material (no idea what it was) back around them and got the whole affair up in my arms just as Max came over with his hugely effective beagle nose.

    I went back to the closet and tucked the entire comforter, mouse, nesting material bundle back onto the shelf and shut the door. And then I opened the door one more time and lifted the fold of quilt just to see their little breathing bodies all tucked in together. Shut the closet door again.

    That’s okay, we don’t need that closet.

    • seantabb permalink*
      September 22, 2009 9:43 pm

      I had mice for pets when I was kid. One was named Fonzie, the other Nestor Dupuis (long story). It came as something of a surprise when Fonzie gave birth to a litter (?) of tiny, wriggling pink mice babies. Because we just kind of assumed Nestor was gay.

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