The Bird in the Box in the Basement: How I rescued an injured bird

A still from the video I shot of the bird I rescued, flying free.

A still from the video I shot of the bird I rescued, flying free.

Yesterday afternoon—after a work-filled morning—I took a short break and curled up with the dogs in my family room to read. A loud bang startled me, and sent the dogs leaping onto the bench in front of our picture window. I knew instantly what had happened; what we had just heard was the sadly familiar sound of a bird hitting the window.

We keep a dozen bird feeders in the shade garden outside my family room, and provide a heated bird bath for our avian friends. I love watching the birds and other creatures who visit, and it’s great entertainment for the cats—and even the dogs.

I’ve done everything I can to prevent bird strikes: outside, I let bushes grow in front of the windows and put mobile sculptures in front of them to provide depth. I leave the accumulated dog snot on the inside of the windows so the glass doesn’t create a smooth reflection.

But sometimes—often when a hawk flies through the shade garden and startles the birds—someone hits the window.

After I heard the crash, I bundled myself up against the sub-zero cold and stepped outside to see if the bird was okay. It could have already flown away, or it could have hit hard enough to sustain life-threatening injuries, and anywhere in between.

Sure enough, huddled under the rhododendron and barely moving, was a small bird, a sparrow of some kind. He looked alive but hurt. I knew that if I left him out there in the cold, he would have no chance to recover. He’d freeze to death or die from his injuries.

So I ran inside, pulled a shoe box from a collection of such items that I keep for just this purpose (much to my clutter-abhorring husband’s dismay), grabbed a pair of gloves and two old washcloths from the laundry room and hurried back out. I put the washcloths in the box and then, with gloved hands, carefully picked up the bird, who tried to get away, but only managed to perform a weak somersault.

I brought the box inside, carefully shielding it from the enquiring noses of my dogs and cats, and put it in the warmest, darkest, safest place in our house: our finished basement. I closed the door so no inquisitive kitties could disturb our winged patient.

And there I left the bird, checking on it only once in the evening to see if it was still alive. I tipped the shoebox cover open, heard a flutter against the cardboard, and assured that it seemed to be recovering, I closed the lid and left.

Last night, before I went to bed, I created an alarm on my cell phone labeled “Don’t forget there’s a bird in the basement.” Just in case I got too caught up in the day.

I didn’t forget.

All this morning, while I took the dogs out, and after I fed the crew, and after I took the dogs out again, I thought about the bird in the basement. Finally, after everyone in the household was fed and finished with their morning routines, I suited up and went downstairs to get the box o’ bird. When I picked it up, I heard strong flutters and scrabbles and squawks. Sounds like our bird has recovered.

Now, with the sun out after a morning snow shower, and the day warming up, it was time to see if the bird was able to go back to the trees and the sky and the feeders in my garden.

I placed the box on our deck rail, and slowly opened it, hoping that the warmth and rest had done its work.

There is so much joy in watching a wild creature fly free.

The Bird in the Box in Our Basement: Rescuing a bird and setting it free

What to do if you find an injured bird

  • Find the number of the closest wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organization–before you need it. Store the number in your cell phone. The National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association lists several ways to find rehabilitators on its website.
  • Observe, don’t disturb. If you find an injured bird, wait before you act, unless it’s in immediate danger. If it’s spring, the bird may not be injured, but may be a fledgling–and Mom may be nearby, waiting for you to leave. Is the bird able to move? Wait before you do anything. Unless the bird has to be moved (for safety reasons–yours, your pets, or the bird’s), leave it alone for awhile.
  • Call your local rehabilitator with information; he or she can give you the best advice for your situation.
  • Only handle a wild creature if you have to (to make it safe) and with some kind of barrier between you and the animal (like gloves, a blanket, a box).
  • No, you can’t keep her. It is illegal in most cases to keep wild animals, even if you intend to release them. Licensed wildlife rehabilitators are trained to care for native creatures; it’s best to let them nurse orphaned or injured wildlife back to health–and hopefully release them back into the wild.
  • Read what to do if you found a baby bird from the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association.
  • If you aren’t able to reach an expert, and
    • you find a nestling (a baby bird with no feathers), try and find its nest to return it to. If there’s no nest, try to make one (I once made one from a basket), and secure it in a tree. Watch from a distance to see if the parents come back. If not, call a wildlife rehabilitator.
    • you find a fledgling (a baby bird with feathers, but might not be able to fly), leave it be, unless you need to move it to safety in a bush or tree. It’s normal for fledglings to spend a few days hopping around on the ground and in bushes–with Mom and Dad feeding her–until she can fly.
    • you find an injured bird, or determine that the baby is truly orphaned, use your gloves to put the creature in a secure box. Never touch a wild animal with your bare hands. Keep it warm, quiet and safe until you can reach someone who can tell you what to do.

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2 Comments on "The Bird in the Box in the Basement: How I rescued an injured bird"

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  1. Wow, how great that you helped that bird. We’ve had some hit our house…unfortunately the outcome wasn’t as good as yours.

    • Aw, thanks. Yeah, we’ve had some that didn’t make it, either because their injuries were too drastic, or because my dogs made it worse. I always treat each casualty with care, even the ones we lose, and place them gently in our woods, letting Mother Nature take her own back.

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