For the Birds Radio Program: Birds Laura Is Taking Care Of (Placeholder)

Original Air Date: Sept. 11, 1989

What birds is Laura taking care of? 4:04

Audio missing


This summer I’ve taken care of 15 injured birds, and several listeners have been asking how they’re doing.

The bird I started out with, an adult male nighthawk had broken his wing on an electrical or telephone wire, probably while swooping in his courtship display I set his wing and hand-fed him a mash of Purina high-pro dog food, applesauce, raisins, gelatin, and bone meal along with vitamins and minerals formulated for birds. In the wild, nighthawks eat only flying insects, and so my poor grounded bird was at an utter loss how to eat without the use of his wing. For 6 days I had to pry open his fragile bill with my fingernail, put the food in his enormous soft mouth, and stroke his throat to help him swallow before he got the hang of it. He never did figure out how to pick up the food by himself. Six or seven times each day all summer I fed him several mouthfuls. He was released a few weeks ago.

At first, I had named him Danny after a well-known, handsome human whose mouth is also bigger than his brain and who, when he’s gotten into trouble, has also hidden under a bush. But I changed his name to Ashley when I got Katie Scarlett, a lovely little female nighthawk who I won’t be able to release this year because she’s imprinted on me and now turns her beak up at natural food. I’ve had two other baby nighthawks this summer—they both were bigger than Scarlett and were released before they had a chance to become tame.

I had two baby robins in July. The first had a punctured beak and internal injuries, perhaps from being hit by a car. It died within a day. The second had a sprained wing. The first day I let it outdoors after the wing healed it was adopted by a neighborhood robin family.

I lost several birds. A flicker that broke its beak hitting a picture window died three days later. A Semipalmated Sandpaper found in the Duluth Harbor suffering from an unknown disease or poison died the next day. And an Evening Grosbeak attacked by a cat died after nine long days. Most of her extensive wounds were healing, and she was taking great interest in everything happening around her, until on the ninth day she reopened an internal wound and hemorrhaged. After she died I felt her bones. Her rib cage had been shattered. She must have jostled one of those bones and pierced her lung.

But another bird injured by a cat, a baby Pine Siskin, recovered completely, in spite of the fact that the cat’s sharp teeth had pierced her lungs in several places. I washed the wounds with Bactine and gave her three drops of amoxycillin—the same pink liquid medicine small children take for ear infections—three times a day. At first I didn’t know what to feed her. In the wild, siskin parents feed their young regurgitated seed, but then I discovered a baby bird mash at a pet store which did the trick. We started letting the siskin outside three weeks ago. At first she flew home quite often for food or companionship, but after 10 days she started sleeping out, and now is done being dependent on us for good. She still stops by every day or two for a friendly chat, but then whizzes back into a tree and disappears again. A young Cedar Waxwing we released does the same thing. But the moment I released a Wilson’s Warbler I had treated for an injured foot, he disappeared and I haven’t seen him since.

Right now I have a crow with a broken wing, the baby Blue Jay that was poisoned by lawn chemicals, and Scarlett the nighthawk, and it looks like I’ll have all three through the winter. Come next summer maybe no birds will get hurt, if people stop letting their cats outdoors, stop spraying their lawns with poisons, and get rid of picture windows. But I won’t hold my breath.