The brown thrasher was released last week and hung around only a day or so, wanting very little to do with me. This is a good thing; it means a) I’ve done my job and b) he’s capable of fending for himself outside the flight pen without my assistance.
The Carolina wren was joined by a house finch whose siblings fledged and left him behind. This isn’t normal, so I obviously examined the bird to see what physical issues might be at play and discovered that his right leg had apparently been abnormally positioned in the nest, so that the bone hardened at an awkward angle. (Nestling songbirds’ bones are very soft and somewhat pliable; they harden as the bird grows. This is why calcium is so essential to hatchling and nestling songbirds.) We call this a “nest injury.” To be honest, I was worried that the little fellow would never learn to perch, but buddying him with the Caro, who was already perching, gave him the incentive to try.
When this juvenile female pileated woodpecker came in (the males have red over their entire heads; the females have a black “cap” with the red crest) near dark, I was quite excited. I don’t see pileateds often—the last was 5 years ago—and they’re really fun birds to work with. She was found by the roadside, and her lethargy suggested a concussion. Nothing appeared broken, but I planned to take her to Smalley’s Animal Hospital the next morning for x-rays to be sure. I got her comfortable and stabilized for the night but I was rather worried about her, so I kept checking on her after lights-out.
About 10:30 I walked into the rehab room to hear strangled noises coming from her box. I grabbed the box and ran to my bathroom, where I could turn on the light without disturbing the other birds. She was vomiting and her poop indicated internal injuries. She died as I tried to clear the vomit from her beak.
And yes, it sucked, big time. There wasn’t a damn thing we could have done, even if she’d come in during the day so I could have gotten her to the vet immediately. Every rehabber knows and accepts that this sort of thing happens all too often, but there are times it sucks worse than others. This was one of those times.