Thursday, November 23, 2006

My heart is breaking...

...for a family of choughs that lives just outside our apartment.

Only three of them are in this photo, but I think there are four adults in the group. This spring they have often been accompanied by three little fledglings, presumably their own, although not necessarily, since choughs like to steal babies from other groups. It's been fun watching them doing their communal parenting thing.

Until Tuesday. On Tuesday one of the baby choughs got run over. I saw it happen. And the others in the family were inconsolable. They wouldn't leave the dead baby and were hopping around on the road next to it making mournful noises. Eventually the inevitable happened and one of the other baby choughs who was nestled up next to the dead one got hit by another car and killed too. I left then, because I couldn't bear to watch them all get killed one by one, and couldn't see how I could get them to leave the road.

The next day I was glad to see that the other birds had all survived. The remaining fledgling was hopping strangely, but I couldn't get close enough to see if it was injured.

Today Geekman found it, trembling on the doorstep to our apartment. The parent birds were watching from a few metres away and they were all calling back and forth, but it looked like the baby was not going anywhere. On closer inspection, its leg was hanging funny, so I think it must have been hit by a car on Tuesday after all.

So I called the RSPCA, and they asked me to catch it and bring it in. Which has got to have been one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. You try stealing the one remaining child from a family which has just lost two. Those birds were MAD. But I got it wrapped up in a towel, shielded myself from the attacking adult birds, and managed to prevent them following me inside.

I put the baby chough in a box and drove across town to the RSPCA. The poor thing cried the whole way.

The vet there diagnosed a broken leg and said they will splint it and call me when it's healed. They say bird's limbs set quickly and it may be ready for release again by Monday or Tuesday.

But what is totally making me cry every time I think about it is that when I returned home a couple of hours later, this is what I found:


They saw me take their baby through that door, and they are waiting at the door until it comes back. The one on the right is even holding food in its mouth like a coming-home present (or, given that the "food" is an enormous huntsman spider, perhaps it's meant to be some sort of sacrificial offering). And the others are making this soft keening sound that sounds like puppies whimpering.

Taking that photo, I wondered where the fourth adult had got to, but then I turned around and found it had decided to employ a hostage-taking strategy.


Poor little birdies. I wish I could explain to them that I'll be bringing their little one back again. They only have to wait a few days.


Update: That last bit isn't true anymore. The vet just called to say she had to euthanise the baby chough, because it turned out s/he had a broken wing as well as the leg and the wing was too damaged to fix. Sigh.

7 Comments:

Breena Ronan said...

Wow, I didn't know bird legs healed so fast, that's something at least.

Jana said...

What a traumatic day! I'm really impressed that you took the baby chough to the RSPCA, though - lots of people wouldn't have. I'm sorry the story doesn't have a happier ending. Are the choughs still holding watch at your door?

StyleyGeek said...

Yes, they were still there when I got home at 7:30 tonight. That means they've been waiting for around 10 hours.

I really hope they are gone tomorrow, otherwise this is going to turn into one of those horrible dog-won't-leave-master's-grave stories.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

How sad -- you need a Dr. Doolittle who can talk to the animals, if only to tell them that their little one didn't die in pain.

shrinkykitten said...

Oh that is so sad. Could you let them adopt you? Don't you like to eat spiders? Then you could have three new parents!

StyleyGeek said...

Mmmm... spiders :)

ZaPaper said...

omg, that's such a sad story...

I once rescued a little bird from cat that was playing with it. The little bird was still alive but it was pretty banged up and I couldn't figure how to get it away from the cat other than taking it inside. But it died over the night. So then I wasn't sure whether I should have rescued it at all.

Always kind of thought that birds have an easier time in the modern world, seeing as how they can fly and all, but maybe not...