Last week, we had a young, tiny, injured bird in our backyard that we believed to be a pine siskin. I had attempted to catch it to bring it to a rehab center but it hopped away, under the fence into the neighbor’s yard. It was clear it had an injured right wing, holding it against its body and never moving it.
That was Thursday, and by the next day, he/she was back in our yard, hanging out under our feeder to wait for droppings from our many visitors. We also put out bowls of water and seed so it would have its own buffet.
The adorable little girl/guy would stay in the same few feet surrounding the feeder for hours, guarding the area like a sentry, even when there were no other birds around. It would hop into the bowls, sometimes standing on the edges to eat. Once I saw it bury its head in its wing feathers to take a nap next to the bowls.
Likewise, we watched over it from inside the house, checking every so often to make sure it was OK. Because of its size and our backyard being full of leaves from the neighbors’ live oak tree, sometimes we’d lose sight of it But almost always, it was right there. We also wanted to be sure squirrels didn’t sneak in to snatch the extra food. One time I caught one eating out of one of the bowls and shooed it away.
For the next four days, through Monday, we watched the little bird with amazement. How smart he/she is, we’d say. How strong and brave, we’d say. It’s injured, but it’s not going to starve, and it knows what to do to survive. We wondered where it went after dark, but we didn’t check to see if it stayed around the feeder at night.
Whenever we let our dog Maisy out to do her business, the bird would hop away to a safe distance, and we watched closely to make sure Maisy didn’t get too close to it. One day over the weekend, it started raining lightly, and the bird hopped over and up onto our railroad-tie retaining wall, almost seeming to take shelter.
Last night, Kay and I decided we’d make another attempt to catch the bird and bring it to the rehab place I called last week — Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Hutchins in southern Dallas County. On the advice of my Dallas Morning News colleague Madi Alexander, we decided one of us would put a towel over it, then gently get it out and place it in the shoebox we’d prepared.
So this morning, Kay handled the tough part — capturing the little one — while I did the easy part — holding the shoebox and closing the lid after the bird was inside. Kay did an amazing job. I would’ve found some way to screw it up or hurt the bird, as tiny as it was. Once it was safely inside, we drove over to the center, about 40 minutes from our home in SW Arlington.
When we arrived, we called from the parking lot as we’d been instructed. The lady who came out to greet us, Mary, took our contact information and told us our pine siskin was the second to be brought in this morning. Then, because Rogers is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that does its incredible work only through donations, we gave her $40 and thanked her. She asked if we’d like to look around outside, and we said we’d love to. We’ve written about the place in the DMN, but I’d never been there.
We spent about an hour walking around just a tiny fraction of the center’s 20 acres and saw the most remarkable array of rehabilitated birds we’d ever seen. I plan to write a separate post about the rehab center, hopefully Wednesday, including some photos Kay took.
As for our pine siskin, we’re glad we brought it there. From what I’ve read, they can live up to 10 years, and there’s no telling how long it would’ve taken to heal on its own just hanging out in our yard. And we worried that a predator would end up killing it at some point — we were surprised it had lived this long, injured and defenseless.
The birds we saw today stay at Rogers, which serves as a sanctuary for them because they’re considered non-releasable due to the extent of their injuries. But hopefully the center can fix up the pine siskin and release it. We’ll call later in the week to see how it’s doing.
I asked Kay tonight why, with all the care we gave it the past few days, we didn’t name our pine siskin. “We did,” she said. “His name is ‘Bird.’”
Oh, duh, of course.