Sunday morning was interrupted by that awful sound of a bird slamming into the glass doorwall. It happens about once a year. A White-Breasted Nuthatch lay motionless on the leaf litter of my balcony. He was panting as his mate or foraging partner strutted around him looking to see what had happened. Birds show concern for their colleagues, at least for a couple of minutes. Then the partner started looking for food in the leaf litter, the heartless bastard.
The panting stopped by the time I got my shoes on and prepared a cracker box to retrieve the bird. The standard procedure for helping a bird that’s collided with glass is to place a box over it to reduce its stress and protect it from predators. In cold weather, it’s good to warm them while they recover, if they recover. It all depends upon how they impact the glass. Often they break their necks and die immediately if they hit head on.
I warmed him in my hands and he woke up. Good! He wasn’t dead! But he was dazed and seemed to like the warmth of my hand so I brought him inside and we stood at the doorwall for a while. Then he hopped down to a piece of rigid insulation I keep against the doorwall during winter to reduce heat loss. As he stared out, his buddy appeared on the outside of the glass to check up on him. Maybe I was wrong about him being heartless.
The visitor didn’t stay long and the bird was still not acting normal so I let him perch where he wanted.
He liked hanging upside down on the doorwall frame to stare at me. That’s when I took the shot I posted yesterday as a teaser. He wasn’t stressed by being around a human at this stage, a clear signal he had not fully recovered.
It probably cost me a dollar in heat lost. I kept the doorwall open so he could keep contact with the outside world. He chirped a few times but no answering call came from his foraging group which included a couple of chickadees and tufted titmice along with his buddy.
We stared at each other for a while and his behavior improved. He made short flights around the room so I decided it was time to return him to the wild knowing he was going to be alright.
That turned out to be a task. I should have followed directions and kept him in a dark box. It would have been easy to take the box outside, open it up, and he’d be on his way. Instead, I had a wild bird in my living room that decided to play hide and seek with me.
I always thought that birds are drawn to the light. Nope. This fellow scurried under a dark cabinet where dust bunnies live. He stayed there for 15 minutes. Nuthatches are cavity nesters. Maybe that’s why he sought dark corners. I guess I should thank him. He came out covered in cobwebs so he did some feather dusting while he hid.
Then he flew 20 feet and slammed into the doorwall screen. Luckily, the screen is cloth so it wasn’t a hard impact. It acted like a trampoline and bounced him back. He lay motionless on the carpet for a minute and I was overcome with regret that I didn’t keep him in a box. Now I was sure he was dead. When humans intervene with nature, the results are often like this. Damn.
But I was wrong again. He woke up and immediately dashed under a table. Now I was intent on getting him outside before I killed him in some way. While he rested on the carpet right in front of the doorwall, I tiptoed around him and slid the screen open. He had a four foot wide gateway to freedom. He took a few steps toward it and looked up at me as if he was saying, “I’m not going out there. It’s crazy cold out there!” and then he made a beeline under my computer desk.
After another lap about the room, I was able to corner him. He tried to bite my fingers when I held him and that was a good sign he was fully awake and ready to face the world again. We went out the still-open doorwall after BTUs had continued to rip money out of my wallet in energy loss and we said our good-byes. Ever so grateful that I had saved his life, he presented me with a gift before his departure (below).