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Bay-Breasted Warbler Gets Hit By Bus



So, today on my way home as I perused the farmer's market downtown, I noticed a strange bird accross the street. I went in for a closer look. It was very small and squat and olive green and hopping around oddly on the sidewalk. I wasn't sure what it was, but figured it was some type of warbler, which is very odd for the city.

I followed him as he hopped along and watched as he tried unsuccessfully to fly up to the top of a bench, only 2 feet or so. It appeared the poor little guy couldn't fly. I bent down and reached out a couple of times and got within about 3 inches of it, so he seemed fairly tame, or unfamiliar with people.

He kept hopping and I kept following, he dodged feet of passing people and I dodged the people. One guy almost stepped on him, and said to the chick with him, "That would have been hilarious!" I resisted the urge to trip him. After all, I had a bird to pursue.

Some people noticed the bird as we went along, "Oh, look at the little bird!" "he's cute!" etc. Then we came to a veggie stand, and he hopped in under the tables in amungst the old asian ladies feet and the boxes of spare peppers. I almost gave up, but decided to see if I could still spot him. There he was, picking his way back to the curb, and the bus clogged street. I paused unsure of what to do, I didn't want to scare him into the street, but I seemed unable to catch him. It seemed only a matter of time if he was left to his own inadequate devices before he would be squished.

Suddenly a woman was behind me and trying to get by, I stepped aside, and as she passed by me, she scared the bird who was in front of me on the sidewalk. He jumped off the curb just as a bus was pulling up and then flew up into the bus' windshield. I made an audible and retarded sounding noise, as I thought I was watching the bird's last seconds. But he landed on the windshield wipers of the bus.

I hesitated for a split second, and then ran up and grabbed him. I'm sure others saw me, at least the bus driver must have. Who's that weird chick grabbing the bird? I looked at the tiny fluffy morsel in my hand. He seemed so calm, didn't struggle at all like you think a wild creature would. I wondered what now? But I had been secretly planning this all along, even hoping for the chance, I quickly tucked him into my Marshall Fields bag with my extra shoes and ran accross the street.

My bus miraculously was just coming up the street, and I jumped on and settled in for the longest 15 min. bus ride of my life. I kept peeking in the bag at the bird, and he would look up at me perched on my shoes. Cute as a bug's fuckin' ear as my friend Bill would say. I was a giddy little girl who couldn't wait to get home with her new pet.

Finally the bus came to my stop, and I walked the couple blocks home. Luckily Chuck was home today working on his movie, so I could show him my surprise right away. "You'll never guess what I have in this bag", I said. "A puppy!" he said. "Almost." I brought him into the kitchen where the light was better and let him peek in the bag. A look of shock and wonder lit up his face. "What? Where did you get that?!"

And I quickly and excitedly told him the story. Chuck wondered what we were going to do with him, and I said I didn't know but we may be buying a bird cage. First though, we needed to get him out of the bag and in a more suitable home.

We took him out on our screen porch and shut the door on the curious eyes of the kitties. I reached in the bag and gently plucked him out, and he immediatly began to hatch an escape plan. He tried all the screens and windows and the floor, round and round again. He could only fly a couple of feet at a time and often fell short of his target, or bonked his beak into the windows as he landed. His left wing seemed a little lower than the other and could be injured.

We made him a little temporary home out of a beer case and some metal screen for the top. It was a bit of a trick getting him in the box, but almost as soon as he was in there he settled on the branch we'd provided, yawned a little bird yawn, and stuffed his head under his wing to go to sleep. (third picture)

I guess he'd had quite a day, and so had I. I'm not sure yet what to do with him, he seems like he might recover enough to be set free in a couple weeks maybe? The only problem, is he's got to migrate right about then, infact that might be a tad late. I'd hope he'd still be able to make it all the way to South America. I'm going to call the Avian Nursery at the U of MN tomorrow.

Here's some info I found about the Bay-Breasted Warbler at Birds of Nova Scotia:

This warbler is not normally seen in settled districts except briefly during migration. The male in spring attire with his striking chestnut breast and black face is readily recognized, as is the duller female, but in autumn dress, identification becomes problematic. The adult male still retains traces of brown on his flanks, but females and immatures are quite nondescript and closely resemble immature Blackpoll Warblers. The undertail coverts of the Blackpoll Warbler are pure white but those of the Bay breasted Warbler are slightly buff. The back and head of the Bay-breasted Warbler are more vivid green.

This warbler favours rather dense coniferous woods for nesting, and in summer is more common on Cape Breton Island. Migratory waves occur from late August through September, and it is generally last seen in October (average 14 October, latest 20 November).

Range: Breeds from the southeastern Mackenzie Valley, northern Alberta, central Manitoba, south-central Quebec, and Newfoundland, south to central Vermont, northern Michigan and northern Minnesota. Winters in Panama and northern South America.

September 23, 2004 | Permalink


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What a wonderful story and a sweet looking bird. Lorika, we need more kind souls like you.

Posted by: Marie at Sep 25, 2004 1:12:55 AM

nice uplifting story. what a pretty bird. well done on your rescue efforts. surely it will improve your karma!

Posted by: mike at Sep 27, 2004 4:39:44 AM

It was uplifting until I heard about the outcome. So sorry Lorika, you guys tried your best!

Posted by: Sharyn at Sep 27, 2004 10:57:29 AM

Yeah, I'd do it again though, I just can't stand to see an animal (or human) in danger. I think the bird may have been sick already and that's why he couldn't fly very well, let alone continue his journey to Panama.

Posted by: Lorika at Sep 27, 2004 11:27:39 AM

Good luck with rehabillitating the creature. Its possible that its feathers are damaged to the point of making flight difficult/impossible. I had a robin fledgling in simular condition, and it only took 3 days to recover fully, fortunate since they take so much damn work to take care of. anyway, good luck, remember to find as much info as you can on these particular birds.

Posted by: Ian at Oct 2, 2004 2:09:42 PM