We have had an insanely busy couple of months at work. This is a good thing, but it leaves me a little flaky by the end of the day.
So when I passed by the reception desk on my way between appointments and my receptionist said to me “I don’t want to tell you what’s in back.” it was with a sense of doom and despair that I went back to the treatment area to find out.
What I found waiting for me was a shoebox.
A little, pink, child’s shoebox.
And inside the shoebox was a pair of what Andrew and I refer to as “tuft heads”. Tuft heads are hatchling birds of any species who have just enough feathers to be recognizable as birds and not animated disembodied scrotums (which, you have to admit, a featherless baby bird _does_ look like). It turns out that a dad and his little girl (could you get any more stereotypical) had brought the shoebox with the tuft heads to the front desk and said “We found these when we were out walking, can you take care of them?”.
Tuft head #1 was rather squashed and bloody. I didn’t have any reservations sending that one on to the next life.
But tuft head #2 was uninjured and squawking and I hesitated…. and was lost.
Most wildlife rehab facilities don’t have the time or the resources to spend on orphaned songbirds. I knew that the local rehab would likely euthanize the little brute if we got them involved.
And Andrew and I have raised and rehabbed more than our share of baby birds so…. so……
I called Andrew.
“Tell me I don’t need to bring home a squawking little tuft head!”
So he did.
I told my staff that *I* didn’t have the time to raise the tuft head and was just about there with the syringe full of euthanasia solution when my tech, Red (her nickname), piped in with “I could help you raise him!”
And that was that. You get a bunch of animal people together and throw a helpless little squawking thing with fur or feathers into the mix and you’re going to end up with some sort of baby to take care of. It’s just the way those things work! Since Red was going to volunteer her time and since we have a garden that is fairly ideal for a suburban bird habitat the deal was made. Red would hand raise the baby until he was big enough to graduate into a flight cage in my garden and from there into the outside world.
When I got home that evening I told Andrew that I didn’t have a little squawking tuft head with me…. yet. Then I showed him a video (which I can’t, for some reason, figure out how to upload) of BirdBert feeding and he was lost too.
At first BirdBert (Red called him “Gene Wilder”, but I like BirdBert better) shuttled back and forth from work to Red’s house in a cardboard box. Then he got too big for the box so Red went and got a little Habitrail habitat for him at the pet store. BirdBert would eat a mix of our canned, high powered recovery diet mixed with a bird micronutrient supplement every half an hour or so from about 5 a.m. to about 8 p.m. then he’d shut down for the night. The whole no night feeding routine being one of the major benefits of raising baby songbirds.
I was on my way home from a garden date at Susan’s about 10 days later when Red called to tell me that BirdBert was getting a little friskier than she thought she could handle with her limited space and lack of experience. When I got home Andrew was in the garage building a bird condo. 🙂
Red showed up about an hour later and we installed BirdBert in his new quarters.
For the first week or so BirdBert would shuttle back and forth to work with me, spending any daylight hours I was at home in the bird condo. Gradually, as BirdBert required feeding less often, BirdBert graduated to spending the day at our house in the bird condo, with Andrew coming upstairs to feed him once an hour, and spending the nights in his Habitrail in my office (the cats were FASCINATED).
BirdBert got bigger, got better at flying and would spend days when I was at home beetling about the garden with me but would still spend nights shut up in the bird condo.
The first night we left BirdBert’s condo door open I was pretty much convinced that we’d get up the next morning and find BirdBert remains on the back porch. We have raccoons that frequent our garden overnight and BirdBert is still not real good at keeping himself off the ground. We got up the next morning and… no BirdBert.
I was trying to be very optimistic about the whole thing. BirdBert is a wild bird and _had_ to be given the chance to be a real grown up adult and if he got eaten then he got eaten and…. Until about 2p.m. when I was planting peas and BirdBert chased me down in the garden and danced around in my pea patch squalling for a snack. At which point I burst into tears. Feathery little idiot!
BirdBert has continued to learn how to be a big bird. BirdBert flies pretty well, still spends more time on the ground than I think is entirely safe, and has graduated to only chasing us down and squalling for a snack 2-3 times per day. It seems we’ll have an imprinted wild bird living in our garden this summer.
Considering the fauna that I might be bringing home from work I figure that a single small bird is probably of minimal impact.