Today when we went to grab the buckets to start on the pig yard, one of the other volunteers, a young girl, found two baby birds in one of the buckets. Only one was alive.
There was water in the bucket from the rain last night, and the one that hadn’t drowned was flapping around, so I reached in and grabbed him or her. Small enough to fit in the palm of my hand, and wet from the water in the bucket, he didn’t protest being held, which to me signifies distress; wild animals shouldn’t feel comfortable being handled, though the very young babies are more passive about that sort of thing. He seemed cold. I cupped my hands around him to block the wind and warm him up.
Now what? I looked around to see where he could have come from so I could figure out where to put him back. He is a sparrow, and it seemed clear to me that he must have come from one of what is likely many nests in the horse barn.
I asked Dave, who thought I was doing the right thing by warming him up. We talked about where to put him once he was a bit warm. I could feel him shaking, the way we do when we’re really cold. Or maybe just really nervous. He was sitting quietly in my cupped hands, with just his head poking out. He would close his eyes sometimes, but I couldn’t tell if he was comfortable or just exhausted from the water, the cold, the nerves.
He is a fledgling, which means he was ready to be out of the nest, but not ready to take on the world by himself quite yet. They spend a few days hopping around on the ground, testing out their wings, while mom and dad bring them food. Then as they learn to fly, mom and dad teach them more of the skills they need to be grown up sparrows. So it was certain that mom and dad would be looking for him so they could bring him food and do other sparrow-parent things.
Once he seemed warmed up a bit, I brought him into the horse barn, to a corner that is a bit protected, where we keep some of the extra hay. I set my hand down on the hay, and he didn’t move. Just stood there, huddled on my hand, little baby bird feet holding onto my finger. This didn’t seem like a good sign, but after a minute or two he did hop down, and burrow through the hay to stand in the corner.
Later we saw two adult sparrows on a ledge, and Dave was confident that once we were all gone the baby would start chirping, and the mom and dad would swoop in and take care of him. Dave and Terry will keep an eye out for the little baby. If, for whatever reason, the parents don’t start caring for him again, they’ll either raise him themselves, or they’ll get Second Chance, a wildlife rehabilitation group, involved.
I think he’ll be okay. The world is a strange and often unkind place, but this little guy seems like a fighter, a survivor.
You never know exactly what adventure awaits at the sanctuary.