We spent today worrying about a female house sparrow in our yard. She clearly has an injured wing and spent most of the day splayed on one of our feeders. Every time we tried to have a closer look, she would attempt, and fail, to fly away, usually just landing in a heap on the ground. By nightfall (when birds should be in their nests), there were eight inches of snow on the ground – with just as much more forecast by morning – and she was still there, limply resting on the feeder. Knowing that she would freeze to death by morning, we placed a call to the wildlife rehabilitators up in Roanoke who helped us with our baby squirrel situation earlier this summer, who gave us some suggestions about how to capture her and bring her inside. The suggestions were irrelevant; in her exhausted state, she didn’t even put up a fight. For tonight, at least, she is warm and safe with food and water in a cardboard box in our downstairs bathroom. We shall see how she is in the morning. The injury doesn’t look life-threatening, and she doesn’t appear to have any eye problems like the wildlife rehab person says they’ve seen with sparrows around here. The Preschooler was enthralled with this whole situation, watching her father capture her outside through the living room windows, and then insisting on having a look at her once she was moved inside. She’s been asking a lot of existential questions lately about life and death, which are hard for anyone, harder for those of us with out-of-the-mainstream ideas and beliefs. We’re hoping the sparrow makes it, so that we can avoid some of those Hard Questions for a while longer.
During all this bird-rescuing chaos, my father-in-law called and thought we were crazy for going to all this trouble to help a common bird. Certainly house sparrows don’t get much love from me, as far as local birds go. They are ruthless in their role at displacing the disappearing Eastern bluebirds, and while they’re not as horrible as say, cowbirds, they definitely aren’t the kindest, gentlest species. Still, there was just nothing else we could have or would have done but this. Nothing at all.
Happy Ending Postscript:
House Sparrow seemed to be rejuvenated this morning, with no sign of any serious wing injury. So we all just released her into the yard, where she promptly flew away quickly and eagerly. Good thing, since it doesn’t look like there’s any bird rehabilitators within a two-hour drive of here!