Sunday, December 25, 2011

Not happy about rescuing a baby bird (July 6, 2010)

Current mood: grumpy

I helped in the rescue of a baby bird this past afternoon. I somewhat regret the effort.

The family went on a shopping trip to Soergel’s Orchards, and in the couple of minutes after getting parked, I was not sure which of the three or four buildings on the site the rest of them had decided to shop. When I did find them, they were not shopping, but rather trying to catch a baby bird on the verge of falling out of its nest in the ceiling of a porch.

It did fall, they caught it unharmed in a basket, and together with the cashier inside the store, tried to figure out how to return it to its nest. I did assist with positioning the ladder that was summoned, and gave tips for the one worker to practice reaching the nest, minus the birdlet, but it quickly became clear that this was not going to work.

Here’s the thing: The bird was a house sparrow. Healthy and unhurt, and maybe a week or so short of being able to fly, but still, a house sparrow. The right and proper thing to do with it was to summon a nearby cat, and help the cat. That did not happen. Instead, the cashier made a nest in a quart strawberry basket, placed birdlet in it, and set it on a ledge near the nest. Everyone was happy, including me for being able to help.

But I was not happy, for the cashier did not understand my comment about bluebirds. To wit: Where you have house sparrows, you do not have bluebirds. Soergel’s Orchards is ideal bluebird habitat, but is overrun with house sparrows.

House sparrows are a foreign species. Since their 1851 introduction to North America, they have decimated bluebird populations. As late as the 1920s, bluebirds were still as common as robins. By the 1970s they had all but vanished. Today only a few pockets remain.

Amy saw her first eastern bluebird, Sialia sialis, a couple of weeks ago, at the horse ranch where she helps out one day a week. They are marvelous to witness, as they seem to truly enjoy life. House sparrows, in contrast, are slum dwellers who mainly make noise, and make more of themselves to populate even larger sparrow slums.

Back where we lived in New Stanton, we annually helped several families of bluebirds fledge three or four nestlings twice a year. Every gardener wants bluebirds around. They help immensely with bug control, and are quite tolerant of nearby human activity.

Bluebirds can thrive with the right human help. All it takes are people who care for a set of dedicated bluebird houses, and who trap and kill sparrows.

Not all creatures are created equal. Bluebirds deserve to exist in North America. House sparrows do not.

1 comment:

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