Friday, May 30, 2008

"Lucky Egg"

“My sister is a cold-hearted bitch,” said my fellow rehabber over the phone on Monday.

I laughed. “Well, I’m sorry to hear that.”

“I mean, she used to step on chickens when we were little, on purpose.”

“That’s too bad.”

“Anyway, yesterday she found a baby bird. Naked, eyes still shut. And what do you think she did with it? She left it right there, where she had found it, all night long! I told her, ‘You can’t DO that, just like you can’t do that to a human baby!’ Well, this morning she goes back and guess what? The thing is still alive!”

“Tell her to bring it here,” I said, anticipating. I have not taken any wild creatures since my mother’s surgery. I’ve realized my life is not going to be conducive to much of that sort of thing, after all, for a while.

“I just wanted to be sure it was okay with you first.”

“It’s fine.” It's my friend's sister. Have to take it.

“Okay, here’s her number. Now don’t bawl her out, alright?”

“Of course not.”

“BE GENTLE!” I had to laugh at those words, coming from a lesbian.

“I’ll just thank her for bringing it,” I assured her.

And that’s how it happened that this woman showed up, 40 minutes later, with a 4-day-old hatchling in hand. It looked just like these.

“We fed it,” she said; then seeing the alarm on my face, quickly added, “Following my sister’s instructions.” And she described what she had done.

“That’s good,” I said. “I’ll do my best.”

“What kind of bird is it?” she wanted to know.

“Not sure yet. I’ll call when I know.”

“Okay. Well, thank you!” and she and her girlfriend turned to leave. “Oh, by the way, we’ve named it ‘Lucky Egg.’”

Lucky Egg felt cold in my hand. Quick, warm it up! I had the heating pad and Kleenex nest all prepared. My guests crowded ‘round; we were in the middle of a Memorial Day cookout.

“Is it going to live?”

“I don’t think so,” I said, with a sigh.

“Why do think that?” asked Demetrios.

“Because it just doesn’t feel right in my hand. Doesn’t feel like a healthy bird.”

“How does it feel?” he persisted. Some doctor I’d make, if all I could say was the patient didn’t look right. Stop, think. Exactly what’s wrong with the way it feels, besides being chilled? It feels more like an autumn leaf than a bird.

“Dried out!” I exclaimed. “Dehydrated!”

Quick, pump it full of fluids. No, wait. Wait until it’s warmed. It can’t take the fluids until then.

Once it was warm, it still wouldn’t gape. I had to pry its beak open, very gently of course, and squirt a few drops of my bird soup down its throat, which it managed to swallow. But by night, the poor thing didn’t want to eat any more. Well, they don’t eat at night, so maybe that’s okay, I told myself.

Tuesday morning I woke up at dawn and reached over to the nightstand and uncovered the bird’s little box. Lucky Egg was still alive! Barely, it seemed, but still moving. I forced another two bites down its mouth.

Then, greatly to my surprise, it perked up. It began chirping, the softest, sweetest, most musical chirp, and opening its mouth for food, and eating eagerly.

Now it was worth trying to identify the species, if possible. Feet: not webbed. Rule out water birds. Size: rule out Robins and anything larger. Rule out Sparrows and anything smaller. It’s something in between. Beak: narrow, delicate, sharp. Not long enough for a Woodpecker; not robust like Finches’ beaks. An insect eater. Mouth: yellow inside. Flange (soft lip around beak): yellow, not huge, as in Robins or Starlings. Down: long and dark gray on head. Rule out anything bald at hatching. Skin color: dark coral. Blue-gray tinge to wings. A Bluebird? Hope leaped in my chest. I’ve never raised a Bluebird before.

It’s now the fifth day I’ve had Lucky Egg, and there’s no longer any doubt. It’s a Bluebird! I’m having a ball with it. A few more days and we’ll be able to tell by the wing feathers whether Lucky Egg is a he or a she.

When that happens, just maybe I’ll give this bird a new name.

This is what Lucky Egg looks like today. You can find a whole series of pictures of baby Bluebirds, from hatching until fledging, here.

INSTANT UPDATE (now that I examine this photo more carefully): Look to the left of the naked bird in the center. Do you see that patch of bright blue, near the bottom? That's the wing of a male. Lucky Egg doesn't have that. Gotta be a girl!


DebD said...

Oh! Oh! I just love bluebirds. What a lucky egg you are! LOL

We've been blessed that a pair has set up house in our birdhouse. I'm afraid to go close and scare off the parents, but I see them flitting in and out most mornings.

Anonymous said...

What a story! I hope she continues to do well!

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

Definitely a lucky egg !

Shamassy Monica said...

I benefit from "witnessing" your heart as you care for your little ones.