There was this bird in the middle of the road...
There are so many times we wind up interacting with the wildlife around us when maybe we shouldn't but we just can't stand by and do nothing. I would love hearing about some of those times even if the DNR didn't approve.
I was on my way out of the new development where we lived and the road was blocked by a lady running in circles around her car. I got out to see if she needed help and there was this bird in the middle of the road. It was a pheasant which seemed about the size of a young tom turkey and it was flopping and flinging itself all over the highway. The young woman was absolutely hysterical because she had hit the bird with her car and it was so big and it was so hurt and she was scared of it and she couldn't bring herself to touch it and it was going to hurt itself more and what was she supposed to do. I grabbed a beach towel out of the back of my car and dropped it over the bird and it started to calm down enough that I could pick it up and tuck it into the back of the VW hatchback. I told her I would take it to the vet and once she was able to stop shaking we went on our separate ways. After I ran a short errand I stopped at the local vet's office which was on the back porch of his pretty white frame house. When the cold weather arrived he would move back into his clean and modern clinic rooms but until then he was taking advantage of the porch swing. He gave the dazed and struggling bird a good checkup and announced it was healthy and uninjured except for a concussion. With a grin, he offered to take it off my hands since there was a space in his freezer that was just the right size. I smiled back and turned down his generous offer and asked for the bill. He said since I was going to play nursemaid, the exam was free. The bird was wrapped and loaded back into the car and we were off to the gas station.
You could tell this was a really small town because there was still someone to pump gas for you. While waiting for the the tank to fill I began to feel like someone was watching me. I turned around expecting to see a friend and instead found 5 men staring in the back window at my bird which had worked it's way out of the blanket. After explaining how I got the bird, I thanked them for their offers to take it off of my hands and started home. We were almost there when I spotted the contractor who built our house and stopped to ask when he would be stopping to take care of some minor problems. The bird stuck its head up and the builder, of course, offered to take the bird off my hands.
Once we were home there was the problem of where to house the bird. This was a big bird and we had a German short hair pointer/beagle mix dog. The rear porch was out because the local critters would make short work of the screens. They had managed to get through those twice before I learned not to leave the BBQ grill out there and to store the bird seed in the basement. I finally decided on the furnace room since the door could be closed. For the next three weeks that door would be the only place you would find the dog. We were greeted morning, noon and all night long with the sobbing howl of a hunting dog denied it's prey. When Linus was crying the bird joined in with a screech that put chalk boards and fingernails to shame.
I had to make an extra trip to the grocery, 10 miles away to stock up on birdseed and grit for the bird and extra treats and a toy for the dog.
Once Birdy calmed down a bit and his feathers laid back he was only the sixe of a large hen rather than the tom turkey size he appeared before. He was still a big bird though. We found out that the state had been releasing young birds in an attempt to reestablish the population for hunters. We might be forced to release Birdy at some point but we were not going to let him be a sitting duck.
A bird with a concussion is not a happy sight. When you come into the room, the poor bird is laying on it's side. It's feet may be moving at a fast trot but they aren't going anywhere. If you pick it up and set it up properly it will sit there briefly but soon it will begin to list to one side. It is a slow list but eventually it meets the point of tip over and the poor thing is on it's side again and is obviously confused by the spinning ceiling and walls. Food and water are not enjoyed when you have to catch it as it flies by. I finally rigged up a little cradle to prop the bird upright so it could at least try to eat. The problem was that if it tried to peck at a seed, it hit the pan two inches to the left. I finally got a low sided roasting pan and covered the entire bottom of it with seed and grit. Birdy might aim at one and miss but a new one would be in the way. It was the only way the poor bird could catch the flying seeds.
We had been caretakers for only a few days when I got the first call from the DNR. They wouldn't say who turned me in. They were not happy with me and demanded that I release the bird immediately. It didn't seem to matter that the bird couldn't cover a foot without falling on it's side or that there were way too many hawks for him to survive more than a few minutes in the open. Finally we arrived at the understanding that no more than two days after Birdy could stand up straight we would release him. While it was still mid summer we didn't want to mess with his internal clock any more than the accident had already. While he was healing we drove around the area searching for a good spot to release him. Finally we found an uncut field with enough scrub to hide from the hawks and three weeks later we drove to the spot and set the now alert bird next to the tall grassy meadow. He didn't seem to get the idea for a while that he was supposed to be free so my sons took a new box of bird seed and grit and laid a path of it into the grass. Birdy finally followed the pathway and we watched him disappear.
Did I mention Birdy had the most gorgeous irridesent green tail feathers? They must have been more than two feet long. The rest of his feathers were such a marvelous gold and tan. I wished I could have kept one. Linus took a while to forgive me for keeping him away from Birdy. He checked the door to the furnace room many times after that but he didn't sob any more.