One day last week, I arrived home a little early to get some packing done for the family's Father's Day camping trip to Westmoreland County. I was unable to get a jump on things, however, because on the cement landing of the stairs leading up to our front door was a dazed baby bird. Looking up into the tree limbs hanging over the stairs, I could see the nest about 25 feet up, leaning heavily. Apparently the wind, or simply bad design by the parents had caused the nest to tilt and drop the little fellow out.
After some discussion and consultation with a local animal rescue hotline, I built a make-shift nest from a plastic flower pot, and hung it from the tree using speaker wire and a clothes hanger. However, the little guy was apparently too young to chirp (an essential factor in the parents being able to find it), and it expired a day or so later.
In the meantime, a second bird fell to the landing from the same nest. The demise of this guy was immediate. As they say: it's not the fall that kills you, it's the sudden stop. I placed him in a few grocery bags, left the bags open just in case my diagnosis was wrong and he was still alove, then later (upon confirmation of death) placed him in the garbage along side his sibling.
Two side notes here. One, I did not check the sex of these birds, I'm just using the masculine for simplicity. Two, I was using gardening gloves to handle the birds, both living and dead. Although the lady from the wildlife rescue told us that the story about parent birds refusing to feed babies after they have been touched by humans is an old-wives-tale, I figured transmission of cooties is a two-way street.
Shortly after I disposed of the two birds' remains, the third and final bird fell from the nest and onto the landing. He seemed to be in good shape, so I moved him onto the grass and prepared a new nest. Since I did not have another plastic flower pot (the first one is the final resting place of the first bird), I cut the end off a small cardboard box that had held an electric landscaping trimmer. I poked a few holes so it could drain any water in case of rain, and dropped a few leaves in. While cardboard is not a permanent building material, it was the best I had.
This time I did not try to hang the makeshift nest, but rather wedged it between two larger branches. I used electrical tape to secure it to the tree (again making do with what I had). As soon as I picked up the little bird so I could climb up and place him in the nest, he started chirping. This sent a nearby parent (who had been closely monitoring things), into a bit of a frenzy.
The chirping worked, apparently, because when I checked back on Sunday, the bird was alive and there were droppings around the box, suggesting parents had made several visits.
Fearing that a rainstorm would destroy the cardboard nest and endanger the bird, I decided to find a more permanent nesting solution. I didn't know how long the bird would have to stay there, and one good soaking would have caused that box to turn to mush.
So Mrs. Valentine bought a small wicker basket at the store Sunday afternoon, which I then wove speaker wire through to use as anchors to the tree. I figured I would put the basket in place first, the transfer the bird over once it was secure.
But as soon as I climbed into the tree, the little bird got agitated, flapped its wings, and launched itself out of the nest, 'flew' right in front of me, then fluttered to the ground.
It also dropped some baby bird poo on the shorts I was wearing on its way out.
The parents were now VERY upset, lots of angry chirps and close fly-bys. I settled on placing the wicker nest in a lower point in the tree, quickly secured it, then put the baby back in. Spying from my front door, I could see the parents visiting by the wicker nest, but not going directly to it. An hour later, I went out to check, and the baby bird was gone. I don't know what happened during that hour I was away.
Optimistic outcome: the baby was grown enough to fly in short bursts, and the parents coaxed it out of the wicker nest and to a new location.
Pessimistic outcome: the neighborhood cat came by and had lunch.
Either way, I feel like I did my best to save the little guys. I'm sure my still relatively new neighbors think I am a nutcase, though.