Chick Lit


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.

13 Responses to Chick Lit

  1. themarvelousinnature says:

    You know, it’s funny, starling didn’t even occur to me when looking at the photos, but it makes sense. Now here’s an interesting tidbit – starlings, house sparrows, rock doves, and all non-native birds can be kept and raised legally by whoever has found them, as they’re not covered under the Migratory Bird Act. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be raised successfully, mind you – just that it’s not illegal. The bird’s best chance of survival is still placing them with a rehabber.

    I rather suspect, from watching parent birds making constant trips to the nest, that baby songbirds need feeding more often than just once an hour. Most sources I found on the web suggested 15-20 mins, some said 30 mins. It’s true that, when I’ve been doing nesting surveys, if the adult wasn’t at the nest when we arrived to check its status, and we couldn’t see inside to check its contents ourselves, we were required to sit and wait for 20-30 mins. If the adult hadn’t returned by that point, the nest was considered predated or fledged. Trying to feed a baby bird yourself every 30 mins would keep you pretty occupied!

    Starlings supposedly make pretty good pets, and can learn to talk just like parrots or mynahs. Of course, to be tame enough to handle they need to be raised from young. Check out some of the videos on YouTube of talking starlings, such as this one:

  2. themarvelousinnature says:

    Oh, and I’m glad to hear that the wildlife centre took the bird anyway, especially given that they’re full. Summer is always the busiest time of year for rehab clinics, what with all the baby animals, and just generally higher bird abundance (since in the winter half the birds are gone south).

  3. goodbear says:

    hi lavenderbay. once again we had similar blog topics in one day! i just posted some baby birds of prey we helped at our rehab center today! hope you like the shots!

    while the bird was insanely common, i think the best part of the story is how so many people took a minute or more out of their day to help the little thing live. i may email you my starling shot….

  4. lavenderbay says:

    I’m glad you’ve tuned in for the rest of the story, Themarvelousinnature! Thanks for all your help yesterday, and so promptly given!
    The woman at the Wildlife Rehab quoted once-an-hour feedings; she may have meant that that was the minimum requirement.
    E.g. thought it was a Robin too, because she had seen Robin nestlings last week at her parents’ place.
    Since they’re cavity dwellers, the Starling could well have fallen from a hole in a shop sign, in which case the woman on the main drag would have been the first finder.
    When the nestling was pronounced a Starling, I realized that the Migratory Bird Act probably wouldn’t cover it. But we don’t need to tell future kindhearts that, do we? We’re not equipped to do rescue, and an official-sounding line would go a long way in halting our sideline as an intake desk. Nifty Youtube video, though!

    Thanks for the photo, Goodbear! We didn’t have one of a Starling, so I chose one that I hoped would emphasize all the stress we’ve been under, and the cross-eyed, resentful shrug of taking on this task. I’ve posted your happier one at the end of this entry.
    I’ve always loved Starlings for their cheery chortles — especially in Winter — but I’m overtired, I’ve had several unsuccessful experiences with foundlings, and even if the bird were a Black-crowned Night Heron, I really didn’t feel up to the challenge. While we were at the Rehab Centre, a vet examined the bird. If they fit it into their schedule, I suppose there will be three volunteers in shifts? That makes 14 people. Someday I’ll look back on this and laugh… 🙂 😦 🙂

  5. goodbear says:

    hello again. thanks for putting up my starling shot!
    they’ll fit it into their schedule.

    this is why wildlife rehab is an important community service. i think generally people think it’s a bunch a soft hearted hippies filling their time saving animals.
    but really, orphaned and injured wildlife is a nuisance to the average person who finds an animal, has no idea what to do with it, but just doesn’t want it in their yard. they don’t want to leave it to die, that would sour their conscience. yet, they have no idea how to save it themselves so they need someone to take it off their hands.

    and taking it to a skilled rehab facility is better than trying to take care of it one’s self….for scads of reasons. you did right by this bird, so rest your mind and just assume he’s ok.

  6. Shelley says:

    It’s interesting that any one of us (your regular readers) would have had no hesitation in making sure that the bird was taken care of. Its in our natures to be nurturers and that is why we read each other.

    Yet I wonder how many of the JQP – John Q. Public – would just have said, “Oh well, its a gonner – so let nature take its course.”

    It seems to go against the law of nature – like attracting like – and yet here we are seeing it over and over again.

    And BTW – I cried last week when I accidently knocked down a nest I didnt know had been built on the door to under our front deck – and killed a semi-formed baby bird in the process. At least yours has a chance to live.

  7. jamesviscosi says:

    We once found a baby opossum when we lived in New York (well, Trixie found it, and was carrying it around like a squeak toy). It was cold and wet. My wife took it into the house, dried it off with a blow drier (she said it was trying to hide its face with its paws the whole time), then took it to a nearby wildlife rehab center.

    Weren’t starlings introduced in North America by some Shakespear-lover in the 1800s?

  8. lavenderbay says:

    I had no qualms making a donation to the rehab centre, Goodbear. You’re absolutely right — they know what they’re doing, we don’t, and they need to be supported in their work. I felt like a heel for bringing the nestling when they were already over their quota, so my co-workers are jokingly calling my donation “the bribe”. I met Linda in the dog park just now, and her friend suggested we put a sign in the petstore window with the pertinent phone numbers for neighbours who find wildlife in need of help.

    That’s an interesting conundrum, Shelley, that you’re pointing out. “Nature” would see the baby bird dispatched with little delay, yet human nature would have many of us do what we could to save it. And yes, I cried when I accidentally drowned the naked baby sparrow I found about three years ago. Tape loop back to the importance of wildlife rehab centres…
    I’m sorry to hear about the nest destruction at your place; I know how delighted you were at all the traffic at your bird feeders last winter.

    Blow-dried opossums! Is Dennis the Vizsla interested in switching from dry goods to the service industry? Apparently there are opossums in our neighbourhood, too, although I’ve never seen one yet; I don’t go out much at night.
    Yes, James, Starlings were introduced in 1890 in Central Park by a homesick British immigrant who released about a dozen of them. His goal was to introduce every bird mentioned in Shakespeare.

  9. livingisdetail says:

    I am glad you all did so much for the baby bird. I have the Australian Wildlife Rescue service hotline stored in my mobile just in case.

  10. livingisdetail says:

    Also – They grow up into gorgeous looking birds with that green sheen. Great photo goodbear.

  11. lavenderbay says:

    What a great idea, Livingisdetail! Then you could call on the spot instead of dragging the critter home first. I should do that — and learn more about how my phone works in the process.

    And they are sweet little things. With a few bad habits. Altogether too human — no wonder 14 of us helped rescue the nestling.
    I should have included this ‘way earlier, but here’s a link to an even-handed posting by Themarvelousinnature on Starlings and their ways. Enjoy!

  12. What a story. Glad a resolution was found without the bird expiring.

  13. lavenderbay says:

    Thanks, Urban Thought! It helps to have Goodbear’s statement that the bird is being looked after, and everyone’s efforts weren’t in vain. And despite my crabbiness about the whole thing, that same evening while we were having a barbecue supper on the balcony, an adult Starling came and sat in the maple tree and provided dinner music. Guess I should take that as a sign…

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