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Window-Strike Part II: Hand-Feeding a Cuckoo

Sunday, July 17, 2016

In my last post, I introduced you to a black-billed cuckoo who hit our kitchen window. Here she is!
People who work a lot with window-stricken birds and have veterinarians they can work with give injectible drugs that help minimize brain swelling. These are best given in the first few minutes and hours after a strike, and they can definitely save lives and improve prognosis. I've got no veterinarian closer than two hours away who will see wild birds, and nothing like that at my disposal. All I've got is sympathy, some basic housing, good food, and the ability to get that food down the throat of whatever needs to be fed.

That would be you, Miss Black-bill.

By that first night, I'd decided the bird had feminine energy, and it's easier for me to empathize with it as a he or a she, so she it was. Doesn't matter anyway; I could see that this cuckoo's brain was doing some mighty swelling. Her pupils weren't responding well to light. She was slow and dopey and had no interest in being active or eating. I was quite heartened that she managed to attain a low perch for her first night with me, but she was still quite a ways from being viable in the wild.

July 9, mid-day. She's on the high perch! Gaah what a gorgeous beast she is. A foot long, and half of that tail. That bronzy green, that wash of unexpected rufous in the wing. So, so lovely. She was looking good, more alert at 24 hours out from the accident. Still spending a lot of time with eyes closed. That's OK. I've got nothing but time. Just look at the proportions of that bird. Elegance in feathers.

A look at that eye ring. When she's mature, it will be brilliant carmine-red, which lends her the species name Coccyzus erythropthalmus. This yellow eye-ring is a little visual signal to other cuckoos that she's still learning to be a cuckoo. Take it easy on her.

By now in her rehab, though, she should have shown interest in picking up food. Nothing I offered: live mealworms, including freshly molted pupae; chopped raspberries, blueberries, cherries, even a couple of corn borers from dinner's local sweet corn--appealed to her at all. C'mon. Corn borers? Soft green caterpillars hung enticingly over your perch: you're just going to cock your eye briefly and then ignore them? That's what you'd be eating in the wild, Cuckoo.

All right then. You don't like captivity. I don't blame you. But I'll be damned if you're going to starve yourself. You're going to be force-fed every two hours until you either start eating or get strong enough to be released. My staple was Mazuri Nestling Formula. , augmented with increasing numbers of mealworms as she got stronger.

Liam made this video of me, the classic Jewish mother to a cuckoo. I love this video, because the cuckoo doesn't look at all upset about being force-fed. She's like, "Yum. Thank you. Waitress, more water please?"

The next installment is the best.  I know, I'm giving away the outcome in this video. But you just wait to see what this sweet cuckoo does in the next video!!

Thanks and props to Liam Thompson for expertly handling the iPhone to make this video. The kid has skills.


That is so very awesome! Wonderful to see the process...and the the video. Not bad getting to watch and hear the rescuer either. Great job.

Wonderful in every way. Love the video, good job Liam. Looking forward to what comes next.

Posted by Gail Spratley July 17, 2016 at 9:18 AM

You are an awesome steward!!!💖

Every two hours? Holy cow. That's more often than my Botetourt baby kittens. Hope you get some sleep soon!

Every two hours? Holy cow. That's more often than my Botetourt baby kittens. Hope you get some sleep soon!

So awesome, and good on you, Julie Zickefoose, sainted guardian of feathered friends in need!

If she was going to crash, she couldn't have chosen a better address. The TLC comes through to us. Thanks for the video so we can learn about and fully appreciate the process and your dedication. Excellent video, beautiful bird! Liam, good anticipation of where to draw our eyes as your mom spoke and fed. Thank you, Julie, for your care, your willingness to wake every 2 hours, and your continued effort of sharing your life with all of us. Sincerely, Kim in PA

Thanks for working so hard to save this bird and taking the extra time to show and explain how you did it.

Watching & learning in case....
I have one of those in freezer - friends window hit! Sometimes only way to see a rare bird...

Awesome was the word that came to mind before I saw the other comments where AWESOME was used. So there you go! The Great & Awesome Julie the Bird Guardian and Lifesaver. And kudos to Liam for the superb video. Question about medication birds can be given to reduce brain swelling--are you able to procure some and administer it yourself? Or is it a veterinarian only type of med?

Thanks again for sharing your magic, Julie.

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