The year of the injured bird

Cormorant and balloon

Injured cormorant next to balloon trash

The year 2014 has come and gone and soon the year of the horse will come to a close as the Chinese New Year ushers in the year of the sheep on February 19. For me, I’m just hoping the year of the injured bird is over.

One of my 2014 New Year’s resolutions was to walk more and stay inspired by my Fitibit set for a goal of 10,000 steps a day. While I didn’t reach that daily goal very often, I definitely walked more and it was during these walks that I came across injured birds.

It all started with a cormorant. I was taking a walk along Cabrillo Pier in San Pedro and decided to stop for a moment to enjoy the scenery, which included the ocean, a small sandy beach tucked next to the pier and waves crashing against the rocks. As I was taking in this beautiful view, I spotted a lone cormorant standing on the beach not far from a nasty mylar balloon. It’s not super common to see cormorants in that area, but I didn’t think much of it as my eyes honed in on the bright pink piece of trash.

Trying not to disturb the bird, I climbed down the rocks and walked quietly towards the balloon. But the cormorant didn’t appreciate my efforts and hopped towards the water on one leg, which is when I realized there was something wrong. I grabbed the balloon, threw it in the trash and proceeded to watch the cormorant swim in circles taking very shallow dives to catch fish. Then the bird gave up on this seemingly pointless endeavor and flew up and sat on the rocks. Every time I tried to get closer to get a better look the cormorant either hopped or flew away. It was impossible to tell if the other leg was actually missing or injured and tucked under its body; either way the bird needed help.

I called International Bird Rescue because they specialize in marine birds, but alas no one picked up. Did I mention it was almost 5 p.m. on a Friday? The message said to contact the local animal rescue center run by the City of Los Angeles, but no one picked up there either. Then I called a friend at Cabrillo Marine Aquarium to see if he would check on the bird in the morning. He texted me the next day that the cormorant was no longer there.
Failed rescue attempt #1

A couple of months later I was walking in my neighborhood and crossed paths with an injured crow, its right wing was sticking out haphazardly, clearly broken. But this time the bird couldn’t fly…so maybe the odds were in my favor for a rescue attempt. I quickly walked home and did some research on how to rescue birds. Several websites said to place the injured bird in an empty box with a towel over the top, but do not place a towel inside! Thankfully I had an empty cardboard box handy and grabbed a towel from the closet, I threw both into the car and drove back to the scene.

The crow was still there in the same place hopping around. As I approached the crow, I realized all the websites were vague on how to get the bird into the box. This was my plan: somehow get closer to the bird, throw the towel over it and scoop it up and put it in the box. But as soon as I got too close, which seemed to be about 10 feet, the crow scurried away and let me tell you that bird was fast! Capturing a crow with a towel and box required a level of coordination and skill that I do not possess, if only there had been a cowboy around. On my third attempt the crow fled towards the street, which I realized could only lead to an even worse fate. At this point another crow also arrived to caw at me angrily from a tree. That’s when I decided to call it quits, I got in my car and drove away. (I’ve heard from friends that many animal shelters just kill crows, so I thought it best to leave the bird there for someone who might be able to rescue it.)
Failed rescue attempt #2

A few months later when I was walking back from the Post Office, I spotted an injured pigeon. The bird was hanging out on the curb of a very busy street with a completely mangled wing. This bird was in the worst shape of all the birds I encountered, but I was too far from home to get a box and drive back with so many dangers lurking about. So I called the West Los Angeles animal shelter, the lady who answered the phone put me on hold and never came back. Next I called my friend Jennifer MaHarry, animal helper and photographer extraordinaire.

Jen said to call the California Wildlife Center, but I already knew that they don’t rescue pigeons because they’re not a native California species. Thankfully, Jen doesn’t give up that easily and she hung up to make some calls while I kept an eye on the pigeon. The pigeon was much slower than the injured crow, but still every time I got too close (about four feet this time) the pigeon scooted away. And since it was sitting on the curb near such a busy street, this was a very dangerous escape plan indeed. So I kept my distance. It was interesting to see how many people saw the injured pigeon and just turned a blind eye. Then a car pulled up to park…

At this point the pigeon was standing on the street right next to the curb, but pigeons are smart and I could tell the bird was ready to get out of the way. As the car backed up, the pigeon made a move to hop up onto the sidewalk, but then at the last minute changed course and walked straight in to the path of the car tire. All I heard was a loud crunch.

It all happened so fast that I found myself standing there with my mouth hanging open. The driver got out of the car and looked at me like I was crazy, he had no idea what just happened. Snapping out of it, I turned around and fled the scene. Two blocks away I called Jen and let her know to stop making calls.
Failed rescue attempt #3

Needless to say, I really don’t want to run (walk) into any injured birds in 2015. Lately, I get the sense that the birds are avoiding me…with my track record, I can’t say I blame them. Let’s hope for everyone’s sake, it’s a much better year for the birds.

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