Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Not-So-Helping Hand

This week gave me another opportunity to help an animal, or so I thought. I drove home from work one afternoon and sitting there in the driveway was a bird. I drove slowly, thinking it would fly away, but it just sat there. I parked my car and walked slowly toward it.

The bird was young. It had most of its feathers. Was it hurt? It looked up at me with its deer-in-the-headlights expression as I tried to remember what I had heard about taking care of a lost bird.

I vaguely remembered that sometimes you’re supposed to help and sometimes you’re not. Sometimes you put it back in the nest and sometimes you don’t. For now I could at least get it out of the driveway. So I slowly crouched down and reached toward the bird, planning to set it next to a nearby bush.

When my hand was just an inch from the bird, he sprang to life and started running, his legs long but his wings stubby and flapping. Obviously he was too young to fly, and I ran after him to keep him from running into the garage.

Safely on the other side of the driveway, he again sat and stared at me. Where did he come from? Our trees had no nests, and neither did the neighbor’s. While I stood there, a mockingbird landed on the wall above the bird and started talking. The baby chirped in return and flapped his short wings.

Upset by the worry of the mother and the sad sight of the lost baby, I went inside and got on the internet. And I found my answer.

Apparently, baby birds who leave the nest (called fledglings) are the most kidnapped of animals, due to well-meaning humans who find them and think they need help. But the truth is that birds leave the nest before they can fly, and they spend two days to two weeks on the ground foraging for food. The baby travels up to a two-block radius and the mother keeps track of him and feeds him. They cannot fly at this stage, so it’s no wonder that people find them and think they’re doing the right thing by taking one in and caring for it. By the way, if you find a pink, obviously too-young baby, you should put it back in the nest. Or better yet, google “found a baby bird” and read what to do before you act.

We heard the baby and mother talking that night and the next morning, as the baby made its way around both sides of the house and on toward other adventures. George even got a little excitement when the baby wandered into our back yard. Luckily I grabbed him in time.

So I guess the point is that we should help, but we need to be educated in what we do. We shouldn’t assume that we know what an animal needs. It’s a good thing I did a little research. This week, google saved a bird from being kidnapped!

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