Apr 242013

A female Pileated Woodpecker flew into my front window this afternoon. She was down on the concrete path when I found her, one wing splayed out, one foot curled under at an ugly angle. But she was moving her head. I retrieved my handy turkey baster and got her to drink some water, and then some more. She seemed to get the idea of the baster. Then I folded her wing back straight. And waited. She lurched finally and got her foot underneath correctly, had some more water, and then started to vocalize. Wonderful to hear. You never get close to birds like this. Very satisfying to see her back in the trees. You can see that in the first photographs she looks pretty stunned, eyes half-closed, beak open. Someone should write up the medical use of turkey basters.





  17 Responses to “What I Did Today Instead Of Writing”

  1. Wonderful.

  2. Here is my woodpecker story. Years ago, just before my children came home from school I used to go to the historical cairn in Wascana Park where I found a short story, The Woman Who Talks To Canada Geese. One day I heard an odd metallic ringing, and followed the sound to the Diefenbaker Homestead. There, a woodpecker was bashing its beak against the flagpole. The line Even the birds have gone mad found its way into the story. BB

  3. DG, lover of animals. Watch out, sharing moments like this may hurt your “shredder” rep. In all seriousness, though, what a great way to spend an afternoon.

    • Ah, the Shredder. Ben, I don’t mind torturing humans, but with animals my maternal instinct kicks in. One day I’ll share my hours of video dating from the time I raised two young squirrels. I had to teach them to climb on my kids’ swingset.

      But, seriously, we live in a world hermetically sealed off from that other world called Nature. I think we all have a strange nostalgia for some connection, some communication, with that Other. Every once in a while the seal breaks and we are vouchsafed a tiny hint of some primeval wholeness. Something like that. It’s always a kick to get close. Probably it’s only in my mind, of course. But I still like it. (I do entertain the alternate version: that the bird woke up to some giant thing trying to drown it with a turkey baster and flew away in disgust.)

  4. Wonderful story. Reading this reminded me of the day I found the hummingbird on my front porch. I’ll never forget the image of the tongue darting out to slurp sugar water from my spoon or the feel of his (male Ruby-throat) heart thrumming under my finger as I helped him turn upright just before he flew away. That last image in your story is hilarious!

  5. I love this. When I was living in Loudonville, a mountain ash tree grew right in front of the windows of the den. When the tree’s berries fermented in the fall, the birds would alight on the branches and feast on the berries, and in an hour or so would become completely snockered. They would then fly directly into the window glass. They did this by the dozens. Our front yard was littered with birds nursing not only their concussions but their hangovers. I like to think that the alcohol anesthetized them as they recovered. After a few hours, one by one, they would roll themselves upright and fly away. We should have used a turkey baster to administer strong coffee!

    • Robin,

      There is the question of why the bird flew into my window in the first place. Was it after my bookcases? Was it already stunned from hitting its head against trees all day? Was it depressed? Okay, and now, was it drunk?

      • One hates to consider the depravities of the bird population, especially when one is so warm-hearted as to administer revivifying hydration to a bird one has convinced oneself is a mere unfortunate, but one must ask the difficult questions in life. It’s possible your woodpecker was just flying along minding its own business, but it is also possible that it had just visited the bird equivalent of the neighborhood still. Terrible to think of, but, possible.

  6. So sweet, Doug. This story reminds me of when I was a little girl. I can’t recall what kind of bird he was (maybe it was she), but we had him for one whole day – we found him dead the morning after he joined our family. I think it had something to do with putting him in the cage next to the air-conditioning unit. My siblings and I buried him in the woods just beyond our backyard. Maybe if we fed him some turkey-baster water he would have lived.

  7. A day well-spent. Lucky bird. I found a less lucky (already dead) evening grosbeak on the same day. I memorialized him in watercolors, as it was too late for turkey basters. Your story is nicer.

  8. It’s nice to see the two worlds – human, bird – intersect from time to time, and the turkey baster is a great detail. Thanks for thinking of videotaping it – and for posting the videos. I hope you answered him from time to time as he “spoke” to you.

    • Julie, I have left out any mention of the conversations I had with the bird as I do not think extensive quotation would be in keeping with the dignity of my editorial position. I may, in fact, have responded once or twice. 🙂

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