How to be a crazy bird lady

Last night I was on my way home, walking from the light rail station by way of the Rite Aid where I had picked up a few things. I was dragging at that point in the evening, moaning to myself that I was too old for this, I couldn’t routinely stop on my way home for stuff any more, I wasn’t even sure I had enough gas in my tank to get home–and then I saw a bird.

I immediately stopped to take a closer look. He was lurking around the entrance to the Belvedere; he came out from under a car and hop-fluttered to hide behind one of the large flower pots. He was a raptor–specifically, I guessed, a kestrel. A very small bird of prey, but still, a bird of prey, with a very sharp beak and tiny talons.

I talked to him for a minute and he seemed basically okay; however, he seemed to be dragging his left wing. I didn’t see any wound, but it was obvious that he couldn’t take flight, or he would have done so already. I became alarmed when he fluttered up into the revolving door of the hotel. Worried that the door moving would smash him, I held people off for a few minutes while I tried to coax or pry him out. He gripped the pavement and gave me a threatening open beak when I attempted to poke him gently with my cane. A passing dude offered me a folder as a scoop, and tiny raptor flapped away to hide under a double-parked bus when he was lifted on the stiff folder.

When the bus pulled away, tiny raptor was unhurt but exposed. He promptly headed for the building entrance again and got up into a corner beside the doors. I sat down on the steps next to him and snapped a few pictures, hoping to post on Facebook about him; I was picking up the wifi of the clinic across the street. Then he escaped me again, got into the revolving doors, and was swept into the lobby of the hotel.

At that point I got up and went after him. I had a small towel that a guy who works in the hotel had given me, a heavy-duty disposable thing like a big paper towel. When tiny raptor retreated into a corner by a closed door, I accepted that it was up to me to help birb. So I threw the towel over him, dropped my cane and bag, and picked him up.

Once I had the towel around him, he was entirely still, and small enough for me to grasp in one hand. I went to the young woman on duty in the lobby and asked if she could look up and call a bird rescue. Her appeal to the older man at the concierge desk did no good; he shrugged and suggested taking the bird to the park and letting it go. So I wrapped my little friend carefully in the towel, put him in my shopping bag, and took him home.

Once in my apartment, I grabbed an empty box from my unpacking and took him directly into the bathroom. Closing the door, I placed him gently in the box and then folded the flaps over him. He was alive and awake and calm, didn’t seem likely to come flapping out of the box like a bird out of hell, so I turned out the bathroom light and left him there. I knew a small dark space would keep him calm because I had dealt with another stray juvenile bird back in the fall and asked for advice then.

I got on Facebook and consulted my local birding group, who gave me the number of a bird rehabilitator. She cheerfully agreed to come pick up my little foundling that evening, so in half an hour tiny raptor was on his way to being properly cared for. And then I changed clothes and ate dinner.

I learned from this experience that I know far more about birds than the average person walking down the street, which I guess shouldn’t surprise me. Most passersby didn’t even *notice* the bird, or didn’t identify it as a species that is not usually roaming city streets. When I showed up holding the bird in a towel, the young woman who’d been sort of helping said, “How did you do that?” I think I said, “I have a bird of my own, I’ve done this before.” But really, I just did it. Throw a towel, scoop up bird. I had respect for his beak and claws, but I wasn’t afraid of him. And he seemed to know that I was a crazy bird lady who would do anything possible to help him, including taking him back to my home while carrying a knapsack and a shopping bag and walking with a cane.

This morning my Facebook notifications are full of praise from my birding group for helping tiny raptor, and I feel very blushy. On the other hand, I also feel… kind of heroic and empowered? I did something most people wouldn’t even attempt, and it was No Big Deal for me. Because I am Crazy Bird Lady! *strikes superhero pose with fists on hips*

Here’s a bad picture I took of tiny raptor while sitting on the hotel steps about three feet from him:

20180817_185948
Tiny raptor friend

And here’s a better picture of another of his kind:

American Kestrel - Falco sparverius
Male American Kestrel, photo by Greg Hume from Wikimedia Commons. Little but fierce!