We have happy bird news and sad bird news today.
First, the happy: I called Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Hutchins this morning to find out how Bird, the injured pine siskin we brought in Tuesday morning, is doing. The young lady I spoke to — who, when I asked if she’s figured out male or female, said she’s not very good at making that determination — said Bird is still weak but getting stronger.
She said his right wing isn’t broken, but was “swollen on impact,” and they’ve been giving Bird steroid injections. We often have birds fly into our windows, so it’s possible Bird did that, or as I mentioned in my first post last week, the injury was sustained during a scramble with other birds at our tube feeder. The staffer felt confident it shouldn’t be too long before Bird recovers and can be released, at which time he/she no doubt will fly back north for the summer.
Although many of the thousands of birds at Rogers are deemed “unreleasable” because of their conditions, she said the staff commonly treat “quick turnarounds” like Bird who can return to the wild in a fairly short time — at least that’s our hope for our little striped pine siskin.
Now for the sad news: This morning, Kay was in the backyard and, to her shock, she saw another pine siskin that appeared to be either hurt or sick. He was hopping around, not flying, but he was able to get up to the birdbath — which Bird wasn’t even able to do.
When the new bird was on the ground, Kay was able to get within inches of it before it would finally skedaddle. We kept an eye on it for a couple of hours and saw it moving slowly and cautiously around the same small area, but it was hard to tell if it had a wing issue like we were certain Bird did.
A little before 2 p.m., I decided to step away from my editing work and go into the backyard to check on the new patient. At first I couldn’t find it, but then I did, near a pile of leaves Kay had cleared out of a flower bed a couple of days ago. It wasn’t standing but lying still, and as much as I hoped it was sleeping, I knew it was dead. I moved it around with a stick just to be sure.
At that point, I was almost certain what had been wrong with this bird wasn’t an injury: It’s what my Dallas Morning News colleague Madi Alexander and niece Stacy Simanonok had alerted us about when we first started caring for Bird — the salmonellosis outbreak that’s been killing pine siskins this winter, especially on the West Coast and in the Pacific Northwest. As you can see in the photos, this bird was pretty puffed up, and that and the fact that it let Kay get as close to it as she did are indications I’ve read about this disease.
So I put on a glove, picked it up and put it in a baggie. I’ve been talking to Kay in recent days about whether we should take down our two tube feeders (we’ve added a second one in the past week), which is what experts recommend until the salmonellosis threat has passed.
She wasn’t wild about doing that at first, thinking it unlikely the disease had made its way into our yard. But not long after I picked up the cute little one who’d flown to birdie heaven, I heard Kay making noise in the backyard. I peeked through the blinds in front of where I work in our bedroom and saw that she’d taken the feeder off the shepherd’s hook in the yard and the other off the ceiling hook on our patio. Thank you, sweetheart.
We’ll wait a few weeks and put them back out again. This all being pretty new to us — the thrill of having so many winged visitors, thanks to our finally getting our hands on the right kind of food from Wild Birds Unlimited — it’ll be hard not to look out the windows and see so many birds flitting about. We saw one sitting atop the shepherd’s hook after the feeder had been taken away, and Kay imagined it thinking, “I know there was food here earlier!”
But it’s for the best, for the birds and for their safety. They’ll be back. They won’t be pine siskins because they’ll have migrated, but there’ll be others to take their place. We’re not birders, so don’t ask me what we’ll have. But now that word’s gotten out, all the birds know where to go for some great vittles in southwest Arlington, Texas.