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Release the Goldfinch!

Monday, October 16, 2017


In the two weeks I had the young goldfinch in my studio, she was rarely quiet. She twittered through the day. One of her frequent vocalizations I couldn't recall having heard in the wild. It's the lower-pitched zraayzee call, given a number of times in this video. It's much louder and more emphatic than most of her twitters and twerps.

After hearing it from her, I heard a juvenile give it once, in the yard near the feeders. My guess is that it's a high-intensity contact call. If the bee bee bee twitters are "Hi. Hello. I'm here," zraayzee might be "HEY. HEEEEYYY. WHERE IS EVERYBODY?"




You can see in the video how she's holding her right wing. This pose must give some relief to the healing coracoid and the bruised muscles around it. When I'd see her sit like this, I'd think, "Oh no. I hope I'm not stuck with a goldfinch for the next twelve years." Having had an orchard oriole and a Savannah sparrow each make it to 17 1/2, and a house finch to 9 1/2 years, I know well what a commitment that is.

But we were both on a leap of faith here, and I told myself she'd be OK. There was nothing wrong with her wing--it was just the coracoid strut that needed to knit. (If you need explanation, go back three posts). She'd be able to fly. Well, I hoped so.

When a bird in rehab starts zooming around the cage, making it from the floor to the topmost perch without even trying, it's time for a flight test. I thought about setting up the nylon tent in the garage, but I was afraid I wouldn't be able to catch her if the wing had healed well. I'll never forget setting it up for the eastern wood-pewee I had on two week's rest for the same injury. And then that pewee zoomed around the tent so blindingly fast I had to catch him in flight with well-timed swing of a koi net!! Not. Good. This is the dilemma I face, not having proper facilities. Heck, even at Ohio Wildlife Center, they've been known to flight-test birds  in a long windowless corridor with a rehabber or two at either end. Whatever works. Had I known what was about to happen, I'd have used the back hall.

It can be awkward getting a bird to leave its cage. In this case, since the exit holes were at the bottom, I had to turn the cage over on its side, then coax the bird to leave this unnatural fortress. Goldfinches, as previously noted, are not wrens. They are not the sharpest tools in the shed where spatial relationships are concerned.

When she finally burst from the cage, I was in for a surprise!!




Circling the ceiling 20x = RELEASABLE. I couldn't believe her good luck, my good luck. It was too good to be true!

I'd learned something about a broken coracoid.

1. Given time and cage rest, it will probably heal.
2. If you can't get a wrap to stay on the bird, you might not need it anyway.
3. Flight test it somewhere it can't hurt itself (small windowless room or long narrow hallway)
4. Plan for the best, i.e., not being able to catch the dang bird when you flight test it.

I could not catch that bird, no matter how I tried. It was stressful for both of us. Finally, I had to remove the screen, crank the window wide, and shoo her out.

She didn't go far. She landed in the branches of a small American hornbeam bonsai that lives on a bench just outside the window.  There, she decided to eat salad. While I watched helplessly, she removed all the buds from two of its few branches. I was torn between laughing and crying. When that part of my tree fails to leaf out next spring, I'll remember this moment.






Mmm. Salad. 



Next year's hornbeam leaves, gone to goldfinch fodder.  Watching her denude my poor bonsai did make me realize that there is food everywhere for a vegetarian goldfinch. Maybe that's why they don't need to be all that sharp. No prey to outwit. 


Go on. Find your big world. The dome feeder's hanging out there, full of sunflower hearts. All your friends are in the yard, your parents, too!


Finally she flew into the golden arbor vitae and stayed there in the comforting shade for awhile.


A couple of hours later I saw a young goldfinch with a slight droop to the right wing land on the Bird Spa. After two weeks of living with her, there was something distinctly familiar about this bird.

Two days later I came out the front door and one young female goldfinch barely looked up from foraging. She flew to the arbor vitae, but no farther. Bright eyed, not sick. Just unafraid of her studio companion.  



Rehab doesn't always work out, that's for sure. But when it does, it is very sweet. 

8 comments:

Well done! I wonder if a similar injury is what happened to a Tufted Titmouse we have at the feeders. It has a similar sort of wing droop making it possible to recognize it when it comes in. Just returned this week for a second winter here hopefully.

Pure joy! Very happy for both of you. So sweet that she hangs around a bit -- a thank you of sorts. Kim in PA

Aw! This has made my day! I'm so glad that you are in this world, Julie!

Posted by Anonymous October 16, 2017 at 1:19 PM

What a success story! How lucky this precious creature was to have had you for its nurse and protector.

That is so lovely 🤗

I love a good story with a sweet ending like. Another wonderful success!

"Smithers, release the hounds!"

I am so glad this goldfinch got her happily-ever-after ending. Well done, Julie!

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