Monday, July 19, 2010

A Foundling

I have a dog-yard just off the deck out front. It's about 24x30'. This morning Mags wanted to stay out for a while and since I had things to do I closed her in the pen. Emma was out on her own.

After a while I looked out the office window to see Emma very interested in what was going on in the pen and Mags walking behind a baby bird as it flopped around trying to get away from her. She wasn't trying to grab it (as Emma would have in a second!) but seemed merely curious about it.

Dogs' reactions to such events are interesting. Emma would have gobbled the little thing. Mags wanted to know what it was but didn't have any interest in catching it or doing anything to it. Had it been a rodent she would have reacted differently. Murphy, my beloved Rottweiler, would have been beside himself with worry. Many times he would find a baby bird or bunny in the yard and come running for me to bring me back to it. He seemed to be saying, "We oughta do something about this!" It simply wasn't in him to hurt such critters.

Anyway, I went out into the pen (keeping Emma out) and picked up the baby. It was a dove and had obviously fallen out of a nest in the cedar tree inside the pen. I try to discourage birds from nesting there but it doesn't do any good. I couldn't see the nest in the cedar so I took Mags out of the pen and set the baby in a big, flat crotch of the tree, then closed the gate to the pen to keep the dogs out.

When you find a little bird like this your first thought is that it is "abandoned," or that something has happened to the mother. This is almost always wrong. Mom is most likely there, watching everything you do, whether you can see her or not. (Try handling baby owls or hawks and you'll meet momma lots sooner than you would like!)

In about half an hour I went back out to see how things were going. Sure enough, baby had left its perch and was on the ground again. This time Mom was there, stuffing food down its gullet. When she saw me she backed off a little and huddled close in the grass. I stayed on the deck so as not to disturb them more than I had to to see what what was happening. But I must have made Mom nervous, as after a few minutes she flopped away, on the ground, in a perfect and very touching display of a bird with a broken wing. I went back inside to let her calm down. Unless a big bull snake shows up, things should be OK in the closed pen for a while. Maybe even long enough for Mom to get the fledgling up into a tree and off the ground.

I suppose I could get a ladder and try to find the nest in the thick tangles of the cedar's mid-story. But usually once a baby starts to get wanderlust putting it back in the nest is a waste of time. If they're really, really young it might work, but otherwise just forget it. (As another aside, it's an old wive's tale that if you handle a baby bird the mother won't have anything to do with it. Except for buzzards birds have no olfactory sense.)

We really don't have a pressing need for more doves around here, but that's not the point. We'll just have to let this little drama work itself out.


Anonymous said...

You are a man of good karma. Blessings will come to you from totally unknowable sources. Nature never betrays the heart that loves her.

Kansas Scout said...

Interventions are rarely successful anyway. The best we can do is observe as dispassionately as we can. Even Bull snakes need to eat.
I once found a king snake with a bird stuck in it's mouth. The bird was too large to go down and it was stuck and could not be disgourged. The snake was exhausted and the bird was dead. We killed the snake and used it to scare my buddy later that day. It seems the snake caught the bird up a tree.