Sunday, January 13, 2008

Rescuing the sick finch

This morning, I went downstairs to feed the cats. At that time, I usually pull back the curtains so I and the cats can look out the window at the birds. As I pulled back the curtain this morning, the sick female finch that I posted about a couple weeks ago was sitting right there, at my patio door, trying to squawk at the glass. She was shaking and sort of hopping/falling over, and I swear she was trying to get my attention. I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

I've been watching her for a couple months. She's blind in one eye, and I'm guessing that she has house finch eye disease, mycoplasmal conjunctivitis. While it is possible to recover from the disease, most birds end up becoming blind and then dying of starvation or predation. A while back, this finch's flock started abandoning her, and I'd see her sitting alone in the brush even after the rest of the birds had been spooked away by a person or a hawk or a neighborhood dog. At that time, though, she was still able to fly. Last week, I noticed she was perching on the ground all week, and wouldn't ever fly up into the tree. Today, she hobbled around my deck and I just thought, that's it. She's sick and she's not getting better - she's getting worse. She looked like she was having trouble breathing. This disease can be treated, and I needed to help her before she starved or was eaten by a hawk, or worse, got more birds sick at my feeders.

I ran upstairs and got on the internet. I couldn't find a recent list of licensed wildlife rehabbers, so I called the vet's office that we took my mom's cat to last year. They were wonderfully nice and gave me the number to Willowbrook Wildlife Center, a state funded wildlife rehabilitation clinic and education center. I called Willowbrook, and they gave me the names and numbers for two local privately licensed rehabbers, but said that if I couldn't get a hold of either of them that they could take the bird.

Armed with that knowledge, I went downstairs to check on the bird, and she was gone. So I kept the numbers handy and kept an eye out.

A couple hours later, a hawk flew in and scared away all of the birds - all but one. She was sitting on the ground under the feeders. I grabbed a small box and went outside. Since she could only see from one eye, I approached her from the other side. I was able to go out through the sliding glass door and walk all the way up to within a foot of her before she knew I was there. That is NOT normal. When she saw me, she tried to hop away, and hopped over alongside the deck. I cornered her there and picked her up. She barely put up a fight. She couldn't fly away. I put her in the box and brought her inside, careful to lock the cats out of the room I was in.

I called the two local rehabbers. One is at the TLC animal shelter 5 minutes from my house, but they're closed Sundays and Mondays. The other is out in Monee, and I was able to get a hold of him, but he recommended I go up to Willowbrook, since I'm about the same distance from both, and they've got a vet on staff every day. He wouldn't be able to get the bird to his vet until tomorrow. I thanked him and headed up to Willowbrook.

The people there couldn't have been nicer. With the new 355 extension, it only took 20 minutes to get there (whereas google maps had it as a 50 minute drive - the extension isn't on the map yet). They have a ton of stuff to look at and animals to visit. I want to go up there when I've got more time to check it out. As it was, I had to get back home to meet up with some girls from work.

I gave the bird to the people at Willowbrook, and they said they'd send me a postcard to let me know if they are able to rehab and release the finch.

While this all should be happy stuff, I've been completely wracked with emotion over it. I can't figure out why, exactly. Am I sad that the finch is sick, and concerned for her welfare? Am I prematurely mourning her death? Am I worried that I've done the wrong thing, interrupting nature and all? Am I personalizing the whole thing, with thoughts like, "what if she had a family here and I just took her away from her family?" (Yeah, I know... birds don't have the same sort of social structures we do). I guess it's a combination of everything.

I hope she'll be ok.

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