Caring for a cardinal that collided against a window pane

posted in: Collision-Reflection, Rescue | 0

The guest post “How to attract Northern Cardinals using birdfeeders” attracted the attention of a reader from the US who wrote a detailed comment that deserves the full attention of visitors to this blog. We managed to get a couple of images and is posting Sharla’s account in full…

“I had another adventure with an animal recently. A young male cardinal hit my patio door window (hard … harder that I had ever heard before) a few Sundays ago. I went out thinking I certainly would see a dead bird there. But he was alive… on his back convulsing so as to look like a baby crying. I picked him up to hold him as he died, but found that his neck was not broken and he became a little alert. I brought him in the house and got and old sweatshirt to make a little nest in my lap for him and although he was as weak as a dishrag, 20 minutes later he attempted to preen himself a bit. I took this as a sign that he didn’t know how badly he was hurt and that I should keep tending him. Next he pooped blood twice and my heart broke again. But… he seemed to become more and more alert and started looking around to assess his location.

“I got some of my own birds pelleted food, added water to soften it up.

“Then I got out my ‘Marvel Aid’. It’s a vitamin and broad spectrum antibiotic liquid you give to birds as an only source of water if they appear sick. He took both ravenously, the liquid with an eyedropper and the soft food with a flat dentist tool. …noticed that he quit pooping blood after the [earlier] two times. I held him most of the day thinking he would never survive and that I would have to put him down myself because he was clearly suffering. But then I decided he might need some rest in the dark. So I got a box and put him in with his sweatshirt nest so he could sleep. Later he looked a little better, he had actually moved away… to poop while he was in there. Plus he actually tried to stand up to ‘greet’ me, but immediately fell over on his breast. I therefore named him Perky. Food and Marvel Aid again and back to the box for the night. Just before that though he WAS able to stand without falling over… but then took a step… fell over. Just a tiny improvement.

“The next morning I prepared everything to be at hand for me to feed him and give him his Marvel Aid, but still fully expected to open that box to find a dead bird. No dead bird. Perky was true to his name, looked up and stood at attention. Now, at that point, I was getting really hopeful for him.

“So for a week, it was food, marvel aid, a little walking (each time he was able to go a little further without falling over), and back to the box. He NEVER protested going into that dark box. I kept it clean and changed sweatshirt and old t-shirt nests in there for him.

“He was improving with each feeding and I was amazed. I got in touch with a re-habber (who informed me I was technically breaking the law). I didn’t care. She said at this point I had to get him some protein (more than what’s in my birds pelleted diet), so she sent me out for meal worms. O man… did he go for those. And his improvement seemed to escalate …yay! Also she said he should be acclimated away from the box and to a cage. That was hard at first but he managed to relax in a cage top placed on a towel (left).

“Day by day I started offering him the seeds my outdoor cardinals eat from my hand and then on a towel on the coffee table with the cage top over him. He just was amazing me ten times a day. On the floor he would run from me and seek a hiding place, but when in my hands, he was not fearful at all (he knew where his food was coming from like any good animal would). He would try to fly also, and plop on the ground which worried me, but a wild animal will do what it will do. All his behavior seemed to point towards him going ‘home’ to the outdoors in time.

“Next we put him on the deck with the cage top over him food, water, a little perch for a few hours, late afternoons. This was for him to remember the wild and not just be tossed out there suddenly. No cardinals got close but one female did stare at him in there once from just inches away (his mom?). One night an hour before dusk just when we were about to bring him back inside… right out there on the deck was our local fox staring at him too. YIKES!!… we shooed him away and told him to help himself to any chipmunks he might see. I had never seen the fox on the deck before, but my husband had… eating bird food. We think he noticed the caged cardinal by accident, but left alone I figure he would have tipped over that cage and had my Perky bird for dinner. Or he may have spotted the thing from the treeline and came for him on purpose. We won’t ever know for sure.

“By the 11th day his flight was really improving, but navigation was not so good. We planned that on Sunday morning he would be ready. So I really loaded him up with worms and the Marvel Aid based to bolster him up. That way he could acclimate before becoming weak. We were right. Sunday morning (the14th day), he actually navigated a flight under my bird’s cage avoiding the crossbars he had hit the previous day. He was now really wanting to escape me when not held, and though a little scruffy looking, It was his time to be free. He held the left wing down a little lower than the right; his left leg was still a little weak, but we perched him on a branch with a view of the house and he flew away pretty quickly… keeping low. He had not shown a lot of lift during flight in the house, but did not need much so I thought that he would only re-learn that skill in his own world.

“I have many cardinal families that come to my deck. I searched them for days trying to recognize him. No dice. Then on Thursday morning amongst the groups I saw a little scruffy male youth… alone… behaving terrifically normally and once he turned away from me, I saw that the little left leg was held out at the tiniest of angles with a nearly unnoticeable limpy hop…….IT WAS HIM…there was no doubt!!!! I don’t think I will ever have an opportunity to be SURE that I am looking at him like that again, but that is alright. His beak will soon turn orange and he is going to be as OK as I could ever hope.”

PS: “In the …photo you can see how Perky spent some time flopping around in the cage. He did that when saw other cardinals in the trees and clearly wanted out. Then he would settle down and sit on his perch, eat, drink until something excited him again. I didnt mention it, but the very first time I placed him on the deck with the cage over him, he almost immediately pecked down at an insect (probably an ant) that crossed his path. He surely went step by step back to his natural life.”

Sharla Morgan
Northern Illinois, USA
15th October 2010

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