This past Sunday was a very cold, rainy, windy day here in Regina. For those of you not familiar with the place, that’s very unusual weather; my supervisor Martin says that he sees more sunshine here than he did where he lived in California! Anyway, Solveig and I, not owning a car, dressed up in rain equipment, brought our umbrellas, and fought our way to church. It was pretty cold, and the wind was trying to take our umbrellas away, but given that our first date was a walk in the freezing rain in February, we didn’t think it was too much to deal with.
Along the way, something caught my eye: it was a baby bird, alone and shivering on the sidewalk. It was right below a very large tree, and basic logic suggests that it likely fell out of said tree. Normally, it would probably have been best to leave the bird alone– after all, we’ve all heard that mama birds won’t accept their young if they carry the scent of a human (or some such variation of that). However, this little guy was clearly not going to survive: it was shivering, it was getting drenched in cold rain, and it could barely move. I bent near it, and it opened up its beak at me, as if expecting something. Solveig and I went around to try and find a worm. We found one, but the wind and the rain made it hard to grasp on to the thing. We tried to feed it a few times, with no luck. After a few attempts, the baby bird stopped opening his mouth. We thought that he must be becoming numb. I picked him up, and we decided to make our way to the church (even though we were very late by this point) because it was much closer, and someone might know what to do. Along the way, I blew hot air on it, cupped in my hands, to try and warm it up. The bird showed no protest and seemed quite comfortable in my hands.
Upon arriving, we went into the gym/kitchen area to see if we could get a towel for it. We wrapped it up, and allowed it to dry and warm up a bit. Those who were not attending the third church service and were in the area helped us with him. One girl in particular was very interested in him, and took him into her hold. She explained how she had found some abandoned just-hatched birds when she was younger, and her and her mother helped to raise them by feeding them and giving them water. To her credit, she was as comfortable as she said she was, because our little baby bird then pooped in her hand, and she didn’t even flinch.
After a good poop, the baby bird seemed to be coming back to his sense; he stretched out his neck, looked around at everyone, and started to chirp. It was really cute, and a sign that it was finally coming out of its numb state. We wanted to try feeding it gain, but thought that a whole worm might be too much for the little guy, and that he might need to have the worm all grounded up before he could eat it. Gross. But, it needed to be done. Luckily, there as a guy walking by who didn’t seem too bothered by the idea, and he grinded up a worm and put its contents in a cup.
Try as we might, however, the bird would not take it. He would not open his mouth for anyone. This saddened me, because he most certainly opened it when we first approached him, but now he wouldn’t and he needed to eat!
So then the question had to be asked: now what?
We couldn’t just take it back to where we found it and leave it there again; it was still cold and rainy out and it would end up in the same situation as before. But could we take care of it? A quick check for help on the issue online showed that this would be a very difficult task:
First of all, baby birds are fed every 20 minutes, from dawn to dusk. This would be very difficult for us to keep up with, even if we wanted to, because of days when both Solveig and I worked. Even if Solveig were home all the time, it would be hard to be here every 20 minutes just to give the little guy a worm. Secondly, the guy wasn’t even accepting food from us, so even if we could take care of it every 20 minutes, it wouldn’t accept our hospitality! And finally, even if we could raise it up normally, we couldn’t teach it how to fly or how to look for food, as its mother would do. So ultimately, there’s not much we could do for the little guy.
So here was the plan: we took it home for a little bit so that I could build it a little shelter. I built it from cutting up a 4L tug of ice cream (that was empty) so that there was an open face, but also a closed side and a little shelter above it. We attached it to a rag, which went under it, to give it some weight, and to provide a flooring for our make-shift “nest”, which was just an Easter basket with the handle removed, cut to half the height, and with the confetti stuff still in it.
Despite becoming somewhat attached to the little guy in a short amount of time, we knew that the safest thing to do, and the best way to take care of him, would be to put him in the shelter near where he was found. Our friend Jason took us to the place that he fell (since it was still raining out) and we put him in the same tree as the nest that he must have fallen from, though on a branch further down. Our “nest” actually fit quite well into the convergence of branches, which I was pleased with! Solveig used some stones to help stabilize it as well. When we first put him in, he immediately flew right at me in protest! (Well, “fell” right at me is a better way of putting it… Good thing I caught him!) I was worried he would keep trying to escape, so I tried to get him as “snug” as I could into the “nest” so that his instinct to stay put might set in. It seemed to work the second time, as he sat there, chirping. We said our goodbyes and headed off.
Our hope is that the mother would hear his chirping, and come down to check out the weird contraption he was held under, and then take care of him (her?). For a while we were worried if the mother bird would still care for her young, having been “contaminated” by humans, but it turns out that everything we read said that birds do NOT abandon their young for such a trivial matter, and in fact will continue to take care of them as long as they are young and alive. Birds, it turns out, don’t even have a great sense of smell.
It may not seem like a big deal overall, but it meant a lot to me personally, because I really felt the weight of responsibility that this bird’s very life was in our hands. We had to weigh the options of trying to take care of it, or trying to return it. And if we returned it, we had to figure out how to protect it, which we hopefully did. And even if we did return and protect it, we still had to be concerned about other issues: if it fell out again, would it just be in the same situation we found it? We put the nest above ground to protect it from cats, but if it fell down, it would be all for nothing. And what if the mother never found the little guy? Then would it have been better to try and keep it after all?
In the end, we had only a few options, only a limited amount of time to decide, and not much of a choice, given some circumstances. We made the decision to do what we considered to be “the best option”… But even when you do that, there are always doubts about whether you did “the right thing” or not.
If God spoke to us directly and clearly every time, decisions like this would be much easier.
As is, we’re often left with the “best of the options”… even if you don’t always feel so good about it.