My little terrier tenderly nudged his nose toward something behind me as I brought him back into the house. I unhooked his leash, not realizing his curiosity and concern were grounded on an injured chickadee lying belly-up—just a foot from us.
Andy and I fill many feeders in our yard. Thus, the bumps of birds hitting our windows have become an occurrence more common than I like.
Hmmm, I thought, I never heard the thump.
I coaxed the dog in and evaluated the Saturday morning setback.
I inched the sliding glass door closed and observed him for a moment.
His round buff-colored belly pulsed up and down beneath the unyielding of the steel gray sky. His entire body jerked.
I walked away, took my eyes off him. It was too unpleasant to watch. Why is it when we see something unpleasant, we want to watch—but at the same time, we don’t?
Wanting the sight out of mind, I left to get my phone. At first, I considered taking pictures of him (I know, you’re thinking, Take pictures of a dying bird? Really?). Then, I thought better to phone a friend who knew more about injured birds than I do.
With phone in hand, I returned to see he had shifted to an upright position. However, his black-capped head was motionless. His eyes opened and closed as fast as the flashing of a strobe light.
This isn’t going to be good, I thought.
Softly, I set myself down on the floor. I watched him like a mother sitting on the edge of her feverish child’s bed, observing him sleep.
I considered bringing water or food, but feared he might startle and fly away before being ready. (I held onto hope that he only needed a little time to recover.) From my phone, I googled what to do for a stunned bird, hoping that was the only diagnosis.
The website told me not to feed or give him water. It added another admonishment: not to play the doting nurse (which I’ve been for over three decades).
Do I watch him die, or put him out of his misery?
My husband, gone deer hunting, held the unofficial title of “Dead Bird and Mouse Discarder.” He’s had to put more than one blue jay out of its misery.
Before calling anyone, I decided to try and handle this one. I turned back to the online advice. It said I could keep the little guy warm—put him in a shoebox and bring him inside for an hour or two. I tapped the weather app on my phone: 33 degrees and not a single ray of sun.
Would it upset him?
I decided to not disrupt him. I gave him more time.
His breathing quickened. His neck twitched. He quivered. I felt as if I was watching him die, but prayed he’d make a full recovery.
(Ashamedly, I did snap a couple photos from behind the pane of the sliding glass door.)
Moments later, I felt even sicker when I saw his black beak open and close as if he was trying to call for help. Nothing was coming out. His claws clung to the edge of the deck’s plank as if he were holding on to dear life. But then his jumpy body looked like it wanted to flee. I hoped he wasn’t caught somewhere between life and death.
At a loss, I sat there waiting on the kitchen tile floor. Just as I was about to go retrieve a shoebox, he lifted his cute capped head and turned it toward me. I could see his black bib and full face. I imagined he was telling me he’d be okay.
A house wren trilled in the distance. The chickadee looked up to the sky. I imagined he was saying, “Here I am! Here I am!”
He looked side to side, maybe assessing the situation, wondering what to do next.
The tips of his tiny wings shuddered ever so slightly. Was he preparing for flight?
I focused on him through my iPhone lens, waiting to catch the moment.
Clicking the camera several times, I missed it—not a single frame of him in flight. He moved too quick for me to capture it. Sometimes, the wait-and-see approach is what works best. Click To Tweet
I laughed out loud as I looked up to see gold birch leaves applaud in the wind.
(Photos by Sharon A Gibbs)