recovered: a bird story with a happy ending

sapsucker nursery
the sapsucker nursery tree

Yesterday morning I was sitting at my desk when I heard a loud bang, a bird hitting the big window in the living room. I raced out with a tea towel.  Sometimes it’s too late, a broken neck or head injury. Sometimes there’s no bird at all but a tiny feather on the glass and maybe a bit of noise in a nearby tree as the lucky creature counts its blessings. But this time, there it was, a male red-breasted sapsucker on its back on the grass. I approached it quietly and gently wrapped it in the tea-towel, keeping its head upright. It was blinking. Have you ever seen a sapsucker’s eyelid? I’ve read that the eyelids aren’t used for blinking but this bird was blinking and I was close enough to see its eyelids. Its beak was open slightly. I was in my nightdress (it was still early) and I walked around outside, talking quietly to the sapsucker. He’d begun to look around a little and I could feel his heart against the palm of my hand. I’ve read that keeping the head upright to allow for neurological function is important (though other sources tell you to put the bird in a quiet dark place for two hours; I don’t do that). So we walked, the sapsucker and me, and I wondered aloud if it was one of the ones that we’ve seen year after year training their young to feed on the small cotoneaster just below the stairs on the way to the print shop. Maybe it was even this one, a fledgling from years ago, all grown up now with young of its own:


After about twenty minutes I placed the bird on a piece of wood holding down our pile of old cedar shakes kept for kindling. By now he was looking around and about two minutes after I stepped back from the pile, he flew up, just like that, and went to a big fir nearby, and began to feed.

I didn’t have a camera and can’t show the stunned sapsucker or his recovered self. So imagine him, prone on his back in the soft grass, then wrapped in a blue and white checked tea-towel. Imagine his delicate eyelids, his open beak, and then imagine him flying up, the sound of him chirring a little as he found a good feeding spot on the Douglas fir.

And was that him I just saw this morning, calling, calling, as he flew across me behind the house?

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