By Ann Marie Falcone, assistant editor
Keeping a lookout for injured birds was never a plan when I was a child, nor is it part of my everyday adult life. Though, I happened upon an injured bird outside my apartment building during senior year of college. This living space was in a house adjacent to the L outside of Chicago. Maybe the little bird lost its balance in the wind and crashed into the side of the house as the subway flew by. I do not know, but when I found her, I put on gloves, scooped her up, and took her inside. She couldn’t move and looked at me with longing eyes. She was as big as my hand, about six inches, and I didn’t know what to do with her. I didn’t see blood, but her feathers were rumpled and slimy, and the outlook didn’t look good. I looked through the Yellow Pages, as at that time, I didn’t have a home computer and tried to figure out whom I could call to help. The little bird’s eyes closed, and I wanted to make her comfortable. I thought that maybe dipping her in a lukewarm bath in the sink would soothe her. She seemed appreciative, opening her eyes and looking at me, floating in my hands, until I watched her die in the sink a few minutes later.
She came to mind eight years later, when I found another injured bird outside a different apartment in Cleveland Heights. This bird was about the same size and also couldn’t move. Quickly, I found the number for a Wildlife Center, and they told me to bring her to them. I placed her on some clean washcloths in a cardboard box and sped through town to the highway. It was thirty-five minutes away on the West Side. I sang to the bird. I heard her peep and chirp a few times with me. There was hope. The thirty-five minutes seemed like two hours, and I didn’t hear a peep for the last ten minutes of my drive. I peeked inside of the box that was next to me on the passenger seat, but I couldn’t tell if she was still alive. When I arrived, a nice man with a winter hat on in spring said she was dead, that she was just a little house sparrow. I looked at him with clouded eyes, “I don’t care if she was just a little house sparrow. This bird was counting on me.” He looked over my head and said, “Thanks for trying.”
Maybe I cared so much because I’ve had a pet cockatiel for over twenty years. Maybe I have a soft spot for longing eyes. In any case, it’s important to know where the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is near one’s house. Since I’m new to Pittsburgh, I just looked it up according to my own recommendation. There is the Animal Rescue League Shelter & Wildlife Center on Hamilton Avenue, and a website called Humane Options Pittsburgh in case anyone near Pittsburgh reading this ever finds themselves trying to help an injured animal.
According to Audubon New York, injured birds go into shock, and can die from that alone. You should never feed or give water to an injured bird. If you happen upon a house sparrow with a broken wing like I did, seek your local wildlife rehabilitator to find out what they recommend. Wildlife Rehabber offers a state-by-state list of wildlife agencies, and you can find more immediate information on the care of orphaned or injured wild birds at Audubon New York.