Today I am keeping alive a baby girl woodpecker, a downy woodpecker, little black and white feathers, who was somehow chased to flying into my window late this morning. I heard the crash and rushed outside to find her, wings spread wide on the ground, her body smaller at less than four inches than her wing-span, shivering, head bowed under.
And there was my choice: Whoever chased her, if a hawk, might swoop down to catch her, or if a cat might run into the brush to snap her up. But if I picked her up her parents would abandon her.
These downeys are always small. This one if she lived might be able to survive on her own. So I decided to pick her up, to help her, to see if I could help her to survive. After such a crash birds are often dizzy, confused, and you cannot tell if wings are broken or even necks.
Often, usually, they hit so hard that they are gone within moments.
Her long, hard, pointed tongue dashed out rapidly with each breath. One eye almost always remained closed. She didn’t fight but she was warm, a good sign, and kept her wings mostly closed, also a positive indication. But her head remained loose.
I walked her over to the birdbath, found a small twig and dipped it in the water to pull out a drop and feed it to her. And then another. And another. These drops fell into that mouth with the tongue darting but there was no way to tell if the water was being swallowed. And no way to feed her.
But I did go to the hummingbird feeder to repeat this process and the receipt of that sugared water sent a bolt through her so I held back further additions and rested her, hidden under a fully leafed out branch, on the plane of a boxwood tree in a planter that I could keep an eye on from the house.
I checked on it each hour and then, as the sun set, I moved her to a seed feeder that no predator could reach. Just an hour ago, when it was fully dark and the possibility of a full evening cool set in, I walked outside with a cloth and went out to the seed feeder.
The branch with leaves had been moved and I was hopeful she had flown away. However, she’d only budged a bit. I picked her up. She was sleeping and still warm but cooling off. She fought me for a moment, but apparently only for waking her. I quieted her and set her in the cloth, wrapping her, blanketing her gently, and replaced her in the feeder where she could go back to sleep, safely, until morning.
And she may wake and fly in the morning if she chooses.