This spring has had its fair share of fledgling birds falling off their nests or having beak-to-window introductions at high speed. Last week, I noticed this little morning dove cooing forlornly (presumably in pain) outside my kitchen door. A grown bird, possibly its parent, stayed nearby and I had hoped was feeding the little one.
However, the parent bird flew the coop and, entreated by my own young (who reminded me that birds are related to dinosaurs), I set a tiny bowl of water, some pumpkin seeds and breadcrumbs next to the young bird. This was futile, I later found, as birdlings only feed on partially digested worms and such, directly from their parents’ beaks. The next morning, she was in the exact same spot, listless but petrified, and tried without success to hobble away from me.
What to do? After Googling the topic, I placed her gently in a towel-lined box with ventilation holes to allow her to rest and prevent a buildup of blood, if any, under the skull. Being skittish of bony bird bodies and wriggly legs, I was grateful for the suggestion from a bird-care website to place a tea towel over the bird, which calmed it and enabled an easy transfer to a small shoe box.
Montclair’s Cameron Animal Hospital told me they don’t take in wild birds, and suggested I try the Raptor House Rehabilitation Center instead (did someone say dinosaurs?). It didn’t occur to me that it might be a little mad to attempt a two-hour round trip to Millington township, NJ, to take a wee bird to hospital. The alternatives from the little birdie’s point of view, after all, were bleak – it would become opossum food, a cat toy, or just waste away.
And so, after an extremely pleasant drive through quiet country roads and tree-lined woods, I arrived at the bikers’ and nature lover’s paradise known as Great Swamp National Wildlife Reserve in Morris County, within which the Raptor House is ensconced. The swamp’s 7,700 acres provide varied habitats and refuge for 244 bird species, along with foxes, deer, muskrat, turtles, frogs, fish, wildflowers and other plants.
A kind man in a large lab-like room atweet with birds got me to fill out a form. He told me what kind of bird she was, said she had a broken wing, and suppressed a smile when I asked if I could come back for her and release her in my back yard (I mean, her parent was waiting for her!). He said it wasn’t likely the parent would remember the little one and he would, after she recuperates, release her with other morning doves in his care, into the Great Swamp.
Where, I trust, she will cleverly elude foxes and live a long and fruitful life!