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A Thrasher Goes Home

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

My car-hit brown thrasher didn't even try to fly for a week. She started by jump-fluttering from perch to perch, the way a baby bird begins to fly.

 I fed her. I let her be. Finally she began to fly low toward the other end of the tent when I'd enter the garage. Oh, yes. Good. Everything works. It hurts to fly, but you can fly.

By May 28, she could helicopter straight up from the floor of the cage to its top, a distance of 5'. And she did it without hesitation, like a normal wild bird would when a human enters its space. This is what I'd been waiting for. She'd been healing for 11 days.

So much of wildlife rehabilitation relies on gut instinct. You have to open yourself to the animal, feel what it's feeling, empathize completely, sense what they need. When they're ready to go, they tell you. I wanted this bird to be bouncing off the tent walls before I let her go, so I waited 12 days. It still amazes me that she could go from a little stunned immobile wreck back to a thrasher, big as life, in only 12 days. What a gift.

I opened up the garage at dawn and closed it at dusk, so she could take in the fresh air and sounds and scents of outside. She spent a lot of time listening to the thrasher who sings in our yard. I was sorely tempted to release her here, where she wouldn't get hit by a car.

But I knew from past experience that wild things want to be where they want to be. The last bird I took in, a tufted titmouse whose airsacs had been punctured by a cat, was ready to go in a  little over a week. I was loath to release it where it had been injured (a residence about 5 miles away, with feeders and free-roaming cats, ugh!) so I let it go here. When I let it out, it flew and leapt to the top of a birch, got its bearings, and flew in a direct line straight back toward Lower Salem, and that yard full of feeders and free-roaming "barn" cats. All I'd done is make getting home harder for it. Duh. 

It was hard to take this exquisite creature back where she'd been hit, but I knew that was the right thing to do. 

If I didn't take her there, she'd have to fly there.

Farewell, sweet thrasher, who never got a name, because I always knew you were going home.

In this video, you can see that I'm worried about her, hating the traffic; hoping she'll stay on the green side of the highway, yet knowing that bringing her home is the right thing to do. The thing about rehab is most of the time you can never really know if you're doing right by the animal. You just have to hope you are.


Good job, Julie! That's one fortunate bird. I'm glad that this story had a happy ending.

Posted by Anonymous June 7, 2016 at 9:20 AM

Just lovely. Nice video work, Phoebe. Such gorgeous birds, brown thrashers. Not as flashy as some, yet their suble ginger color and elegant lines are undeniably attractive. Good luck, Maggie May, my best wishes fly with you.

Posted by Gail Spratley June 7, 2016 at 9:38 AM

👏😇. Amazing amazing is all I can say.

That release video gave me goosebumps! You are so skilled and caring, and she is so brave! Oh, and I love that Magicicada cassini chorus in the background.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology has an article about your book. Cannot find your e-mail to send it to you.

Posted by Anonymous June 17, 2016 at 4:56 PM
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