Two summers ago, I discovered a baby barn swallow that had fallen from its nest. I watched its labored swim to shore unable to help because it was out of reach. Within yards of that encounter, ripples at the edge of the pond drew my attention on August 21. A tiny bird was struggling to climb the slight embankment onto dry land (above).
With no energy left, he let me pick him up. He closed his eyes and shivered in my hand (left). The air temperature was in the 60s but that’s not warm enough for a young bird. They need temperatures near 95 degrees (F) in their first few weeks of life. No frantic parent was in the area calling for it so I knew it was facing the world alone.
Licensed wildlife rehabbers aren’t readily available at midnight so I decided this bird would have to settle for my makeshift accommodations until I could find a proper home the next morning. Still shivering in my hand when I got home minutes later, I filled the bathroom sink with luke warm water (not hot, no soap) and slowly lowered him into it. He splashed around for a minute (above) then I lifted him out warmed up and free of pond scum and parasites (I hoped). The shivering had stopped. A bath isn’t in the protocol, but it gently warmed his already soaked body.
A wet baby bird is a sad sight (right). Their bedraggled feathers don’t have adequate oil in them to be waterproofed yet. Their skin and tiny bodies can be seen through them. I checked for injuries and found none. I admired his sleek body and barn swallow shape (below). Then I snuggled him into a towel under a warm lamp in a tall, clean 5-gallon plastic pickle bucket I had. (Hey, this isn’t the Ritz.)
While he dried, I filled a jar lid with duck chow and another with clean water. Then I went online to research what I could feed barn swallows. I don’t have a ready supply of insects on hand. The answer: hard boiled egg cut into tiny pieces! Suddenly, I’m thrust into being a short order cook at 1:00 a.m. No fine china was available, but I had tweezers to imitate my house guest’s mom’s beak. He wasn’t impressed, but a couple of bites eased my fear of finding a starved bird carcass in the bucket at dawn.
Having done what I could, I left him to call upon his inner strength to endure my hospitality. Wildlife is stressed when humans are near so I made myself scarce. I quietly checked on him later and discovered quite a surprise. Read about it tomorrow.