A Lucky Rescue Makes A Happy Family
Driving to work this morning Ron saw a small bird walking awkwardly on the road, desperately trying to get away from a crow, while two of its friends who were trying their best to distract the crow were having no impact. Ron stopped the car and picked up the bird. He or she could not fly and it was hard to tell whether it was permanently injured. The bird was so happy to be picked up and Ron felt he certainly didn't want to be eaten by the crow. By the time Ron turned the car around and brought him home, holding him gently in his hand, the bird looked very comfortable, snug and warm in his hand. He didn't want to be put down and looked like he was going to sleep. We gave him a few drops of diluted Bach's Rescue Remedy on his beak and let him sleep in the safety of Ron's palm for about an hour.
The little chap was slightly bigger than a wren or thornbill and we thought it resembled a brown-songlark. Ron had to return to work, so we made a little soft and comfortable spot for him in a box, with some water and seeds in bottle lids in one corner, covered the box with some light net to allow for the air circulate and tied it around the box with an old motorbike strap. The bird just sat in one spot without moving. We couldn't tell if he was stunned, or sleeping or suffering from internal injuries. We thought it best to let it rest in a quiet, semi-dark spot with a nice breeze from a fan blowing over the box to aid air circulation. The bird rested for another hour or so, before moving a little bit and then it moved to the water bowl, sat on it and tried feebly to get out. I put some water on its beak tip with a teaspoon, careful not to pour any in his nostrils. The bird sat quietly with his eyes shut as if it couldn't move. A few hours later, he called out to me. In small chips at first. I gave him some more water, then an hour later, he actually perked up, began rolling his eyes and drank more water eagerly this time. I added a couple of drops of multi-vitamins to the water and gave him some, which he seemed to love. He didn't seem at all interested in the seeds, though he did sit on top of them. It seemed to me that he couldn't sit up properly. So we made an appointment with the vet and fortunately they could see us straightaway. To view the slidehsow click here.
The vets had told us that if they discovered a fracture, the wildlife policy was to euthanise the bird. I sincerely hoped we would not have to do that. The bird had started talking and talked to me for most of the 40 minute trip into town. But I thought, better to be euthanised in the hands of those who cared than be eaten by a crow (not that I grudge nature's creatures their meals...humans do much worse things to animals even though they have a choice...but still...the little fellow certainly didn't want to be caught by a crow when Ron found him).
The bird became quite sprightly in the hands of the vet. It turned out he was a fledgling, but his wings and legs were intact and he was not suffering from any injuries. The vets reckoned, that he may have rolled in the on-rush of a passing car and got stunned, make him easy prey for the crow. The two birds who were trying to stop the crow were probably his parents. The best plan it seemed was to take it back to the same place and put him in a margarine container nailed to a tree, where his parents would find him. If we kept him for another day, even with the intention of helping him get stronger, we ran the risk of him dying through stress or the parents rejecting him due to the delay. We returned promptly. According to the bird books this species was a grass dweller, so we decided not to put him a container nailed to the tree because he would be easy prey for a bigger bird to catch him.
Back at the spot the neighbourhood magpie family (of four) came over and squawked at us. We talked to them gently as we usually do, but the birds seemed particularly annoyed at the intrusion. This is unlike what we normally experience when we meet new magpies in their own territory. In the past we just speak to them and they respond with friendliness. This family did not dive bomb us or do anything aggressive, but they certainly complained long and loud. We placed the box (after removing the net) in a spot in the long grass and stepped back a few feet. The magpies noticed that we had brought back the babe and left. After a while the fledgeling started to call out for its parents. According to the bird books these species can cover vast territories (up to 10,000 Kilometres), but according to the wildlife carers, the parents would have been looking for him and shouldn't be too far away. We kept vigil ready to shoo any predators, but stayed at a distance to give the birds a clear room.
Almost twenty to thirty minutes later, a small brown bird appeared on one of the tall trees across the road. Hearing the bub she hopped over to invetsigate with her partner. The bird was soon followed by another five or six from their flock. They were babblers. They saw the babe and were so excited. The first two checked, then called the others. there was much talk and chatter while they confirmed it was their kid and expressed their delight in finding him. Two others in the group were also juveniles and flapped their wings trying to show the babe what to do. But the rescuee was too young and weak having been deprived of its normal diet of insects for most of the day. The whole family went insect hunting and brought back many insects to feed the babe. But first one of the babblers went up to the taller branches where a magpie had returned and the two exchanged some information. We think he was confirming to the magpie that they found their lost child. The magpie then returned to the back trees in the paddock. Click here to view the slideshow.
Ron went over and took the bird out of the box and placed him on the grass. The babblers who would normally have vanished at the approach of a human stayed on the lower branches and watched. We watched as the whole family made several trips to feed their beloved. They were so happy and delighted to have their kid back and they knew that we had returned him safe.
Magpies are the supervisors and the inventory keepers of the bush. They had seen Ron pick up the bird this morning and so when we returned they recognised Ron as the intruder and complained. But when they saw that we were returning the babe they were happy and left. When the parents confirmed to them that their lost member was indeed back safe, the inventory was updated and the humans were no longer treated as dangerous intruders. (Click here for more stories on babblers and magpies.)
Today's adventure had a happy ending. The joy for us was that the bird had been safely rescued from the claws of a crow, given the chance to recover from its ordeal and safely returned to its family. The concern of the magpies, the delight of the babbler family and their recognition that we had helped them were both a learning experience into their culture as well as a reward beyond measure.