Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Downy Wooodpecker

I really hate it when a bird flies into a window. Part of it is the sound thwak when they hit, part is the smudge left on the window with the occasional downy feather. The worst part is finding them some feet away from the window they flew into, dead or watching them die with their last few breaths. I have buried many, many birds over the years at this house. I have two ceremonial burial grounds I alternate between. I wrap the poor things in a paper towel and lay them gently in the hole. I think about our brief moments together and then cover them up with soil. I usually am more distraught over the 'pretty' birds like the warblers or gold finches. There seem to be fewer of these kinds around and then, one less. 
Yesterday I managed to save one. Well, probably not save since with enough time he/she would have lived anyway, but I still like to think of it that way. It makes up for the ones I have buried.
Yesterday a Downy Woodpecker flew into a window and I found him on the front porch with the cat. It was not a pretty sight. Poor bird on his back, tongue hanging out of its mouth, and the whole body rising and falling with breath. I thought I was about to watch another one die. I picked him up and put him on the patio table away from the cat. When the wind almost blew him off the table I found a box to hold him while we waited. Downy's are very small birds. Smaller than I thought, since they are usually a good distance away when you see one. About the size of my hand and maybe smaller. This one was beautiful as the pictures show. Waiting can be hard. I watched him breath with his mouth open. From time to time he seemed to spark and have some idea of where he was. Noises and the wind would perk him up too. I tried speaking to him when his eyes had been closed awhile to keep him conscious like you do for people with concussions. ( I know it sounds silly, but that's what you do when it's just you and a bird) It took over an hour for the Downy to really be aware. Once you hit that stage it all happens so quickly, they start moving around and suddenly fly off. And so it was in this case.

A very unhappy camper

Just starting to move about

Almost ready

See you later


  1. Oh Patty, that's fantastic! I am so proud of you. The photos are great too. Fortunately because of our window set up we rarely have them fly into one.

  2. Most birds that strike our windows are going too fast to survive I think...
    You're the bird whisperer!