Bye bye birdie

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, June 13, 2017 8:27 PM

As of the end of 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration’s Wildlife Strike Database had reported 70,577 incidents of birds striking aircraft. They started keeping track in 2010. The amount, which has undoubtedly risen in the first nearly six months of 2017, averages out to one strike every 45 minutes. Those are just the ones that are documented. It’s possible there are more. The good news is that only 7% are actually damaging events.

One of the most famous bird strikes occurred in January 2009 when US Airways flight 1549 took off from LaGuardia in New York. Two eight pound geese flew into each of the plane’s engines, causing massive failure and the famous water landing that’s been dubbed the Miracle on the Hudson.

Birds have been known to dent aircraft. They also don’t discriminate. In 2012, birds hit Air Force Two, with then Vice President Joe Biden onboard, as it was landing in Santa Barbara.

I bring this up today not because I was in an airplane that was struck by birds. Rather, I was in a house that suffered a strike this morning.

As I have written about before, our house has a lot of glass. Glass on the front of the house, not as prolific as glass on the back, but still prevalent, looking up onto the hillside behind us from the dining room, the front door, and the kitchen. On that hillside, are birds. Ravens and falcons are the big ones that haunt everything and lord over everyone. They occasionally land on the roof but never attempt to fly through the glass. Smaller cactus wrens, woodpeckers, humming birds are more brazen. The biggest culprits seem to be doves. 

This morning, as I was sitting in my office, I heard a horrendous crash, the noise coming from the vicinity of the dining room. Kevin had already asked me earlier if I had a bird hit the glass in my office. I assured him that what he heard was me slamming a fly swatter against a very large wasp. But this noise, this crash, was obviously a bird. I came out of my office, Kevin out of his, and we met in the dining room. There, on the glass, was a lot of red, some feathers and streaks where the liquid was running down the glass. 

I gulped, afraid to look down into the portico below. As I got closer, I realized that what was on the glass was not what I feared. It actually had seeds. And was more pink than blood red. But laying in the portico, not dead, was a white winged dove. We’ve had bird strikes before, some that have killed the poor creature. Most times, though, it simply stuns them. They sit, very still, staring straight ahead. Eventually they fly off.

This bird had obviously tried to fly through the glass with a piece of saguaro fruit in its mouth. It was the fruit that splattered on the glass. The dove was lying in a pool of juice. It was breathing, its eyes were open, but we were concerned. What to do?

Eventually, it righted itself but didn’t move. A longer time later, it began to walk around. We noticed an initial few drops of blood but then nothing. It extended its head, its tail feathers fluffing up and out. It tried to fly but had some trouble, instead settling down onto the portico, in the shade. 

We checked on it regularly. We hoped that it would be OK. We felt bad. After all, someone – us – dropped a house here in the middle of its desert. In the middle of the homes of all the desert creatures. It’s why we don’t kill anything, especially if its outside. Inside might be another matter. We have killed two scorpions and several spiders. We had a red headed centipede that we had to kill. But generally we try to be respectful. And we don’t like that we have caused several birds harm, including today.

After a number of hours, when the bird hadn’t yet been able to fly, I called the Tucson Wildlife Center. They’re a hospital for rescuing, rehabilitating and then releasing all manner of wild creatures here in the desert. I was all set to scoop the bird up and drive it to their facility. I couldn’t let it stay there all night, exposed, hurting, perhaps dying.

Riley stood at the window and whined throughout the day. And then, he stopped. I went to check. The bird was gone, having flown away, finally, and hopefully to continue living it out loud in the desert above.

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live out loud

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