Another lazy Saturday morning…
This is what happened.
I got to work three minutes late yesterday. My co-worker, Linda, was talking to a woman at the cash while holding a five-gallon plastic storage bin and a bag of aspen wood chips. “Here, Lavenderbay, could you open this?” she said, handing me the bag. I could. I did. Then she instructed me to dump about two inches’ worth into the container. That done, Linda set a songbird nestling in the bin and added a tiny fleecy kiwi-shaped puppy toy, into which the baby bird immediately nestled.
All the while this habitat was being set up, the customer (?) was telling her story, taking photos, and naming the bird. Customer had seen another woman on the main drag holding the bird, and then the bird had fallen from the main-drag-woman’s hand, so Customer retrieved it. I still don’t know whether either coins or blows were exchanged in order to complete this transaction. But Customer has cats, so she brought the bird to us.
Linda, then, was at least Human Number Three since the nestling lost its avian mama, and she agreed to do something with it. Of course, every last employee at our store has cats. Linda has a few boundary issues to work out.
Customer left us her e-mail address and took our business card, promising to call about little Billy. “No problem, we’ll figure something out, you have a good day now!” called Linda cheerily, as the door shut behind Customer, at which point Linda turned to me with vanished smile and levelled eyebrows and muttered, “That bird’s gonna die.”
Customer called an hour later. She had been trying to phone everyone she could think of. Her vet said they don’t do wildlife. The Humane Society cut her off twice. Someone said they needed to know what species it was. I at first suggested she look for an e-mail address from the Tommy Thompson Bird Research Station, figuring that she might e-mail her photos to someone to identify it, but she couldn’t find the web page. Then I hit on the idea of Themarvelousinnature — but there’s no internet at work. So I gave Customer E.g.’s work e-mail, to send E.g. the photos, so E.g. could contact TheMarvelousinnature for ID and maybe suggestions.
So let’s see, Linda was Human Number Three. I was Four, E.g. Five, Themarvelous Six. Miraculously, Themarvelous was at her computer and replied immediately to E.g.’s query and forwarded photos. Themarvelous guessed it might be an American Robin, but she wasn’t sure. After all, the bird consisted of a little dark down, some bluish pinfeather shafts, a great gawping beak, and big pink legs. And its photos had been taken with a telephone.
Themarvelous also informed us that technically, it’s illegal under the Migratory Bird Act to try to raise baby Robins. But she also told us where the closest Wildlife Rehab places are, and she thought the one uptown might actually see us without an appointment. That was good enough for me.
Meanwhile, Linda nipped home and returned with her electric heating pad, which we set under the nesting bin in the staff room. Another employee, Dan, who has raised baby pet tropical birds at home, took time off from his time off to bring powdered parrot formula and a feeding syringe, and showed Linda how to use it while I served customers. When Jack met me after school, Linda showed Jack how to feed the bird.
So Dan was the eighth human involved, and Jack the ninth. Jack was feeding the nestling at 6 pm when Customer called to see how Billy was. I told her that her photos suggested a Robin.
Jack and I stayed at Jack’s house that night, since he doesn’t have a cat, and he coached me in feeding the itty-bit without drowning it. (A baby bird’s epiglottis and trachea are really close together, and it’s very easy to kill a nestling by accident when feeding it. Just so’s you know. ) I fed it at ten pm and at six this morning.
At 08:15 this morning, E.g. drove over to pick us up. Off we went to the Rehab Centre north of town. We arrived at 9:02. Human Number 10 was very, very kind. The Rehab Centre has no more room for songbirds right now, and yet she was very, very kind. They have been inundated by phonecalls regarding baby songbirds and can’t get much work done because of it, and yet she was very, very kind. Billy was examined and found to be a Starling — the most insanely common songbird, non-native, classified a nuisance bird by some authorities — and still Human Number 10 was so very, very kind. I made a donation of a shift’s pay. They deserved it.
We all got back in time for me to go to work. I hadn’t been at the petstore ten minutes when Customer phoned, asking for me. I reported cheerily that the Wildlife Rehab Centre had taken “Billy”, and all was well.
“Oh, that’s wonderful!” Customer gushed. “I finally got through to the Humane Society this morning, and they apologized for the phone trouble yesterday, and they said I could bring Billy there.”
The Humane Society is six blocks from home.
At least, from now on, we petstore employeees will be able to dissuade further kind-hearts from giving us abandoned birds, squirrels, raccoons, or aardvarks by stating that it would be illegal for us to take them. Thank you, Themarvelousinnature!
Although I’m sure Customer was well-meaning, this nestling that under normal circumstances would have been killed by a cat or a car within half an hour, has been suffering overhandling and dehydration (parrots need feeding every four hours; songbirds, every hour) for a day and a half, and — counting gas, plastic bin, unpaid-for wood chips and puppy toy, and donation — cost about $80. E.g. desperately needs a day off, and didn’t get one today. The beleaguered Rehab staff were overfull, but took the bird anyway. What cost to E.g. and the wildlife workers?
The whole incident really makes me wonder, anyway. Our store doesn’t even sell animals, only pet products. If you found a child lost in the shopping mall parking lot, would you drop her off at the grocery store check-out?
Here’s a shot of an adult Starling, courtesy of Goodbear.