Saturday, June 6, 2009

This little bird is flying with the angels

Animal care manager Krista Unser examines a sparrow who had a head-on collision.

I chastise my cats for extinguishing the lives of tiny creatures. But yesterday, I was the one who caused a casualty.

I had just turned my car out of the driveway and started down the road when two birds flew straight into my path, dipping and swooping in an airborne ballet. Suddenly one bird changed direction and turned, diving straight into the center my windshield. I slammed on the brakes, but couldn't stop in time.

The bird bounced off the glass and dropped to the road. My car passed over her as I skidded to a stop. In my rear-view mirror, I could see the crumpled, lifeless brown lump lying there in the middle of the pavement.

Throwing the car into park, I ran out to retrieve the bird. She was still alive. I picked her up gently. Her body fit right into the cup of my hand. Her terrified eyes looked straight into mine. I cradled her and carried her back to the car, cooing softly.

I contemplated keeping her on my lap so I could tend to her, then quickly disregarded the fleeting thought. What if she was simply stunned because of shock? Chaos would ensue if she snapped out of it en route and decided to test her wings.

Instead, I placed her in a towel in a box kept in the back of the vehicle specifically for this purpose, and we headed to the shelter.

Krista Unser was on duty when we got to Whatcom Humane Society. She opened the box and took out the bird, but it was over for this little one. She was dead on arrival. Her neck had been broken.

Now that she was free from pain and stress, we could indulge our human curiosity and examine the bird more closely. We both looked her over, and even reached out to stroke her feathers a little. The chance to touch wildlife that usually won't let people come this close was too much for us to resist.

Krista knew a little bit about this bird, because the same species hangs out in her garden. She told me she was an English sparrow, and speculated that mating season might have been the true cause of her demise. The other bird who chased her into danger was probably a male hoping to mate with her, proving that love may be blind, but its force is capable of dropping you in mid-flight.

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