The other night I went out to rescue a great big Red-tailed Hawk, who turned out to be a tiny little Sharp-shinned Hawk. The woman did call me, for which I am grateful, although she did it after she spotted the little bird standing on the floor of her garage and swept it out the door with a broom. I often wish I could do this with people who irritate me, but there’s the size issue. Anyway, when the hawk just stood there on the ground instead of flying away, she tracked down my number.
The sharpie was a skinny juvenile who needed a few square meals. He was too thin and tired to fight, so I reached into his crate a dozen times over the next two days, picked him up, fed him, and put him back in his crate. Sharpies are so little, compared to Red-tails and Great Horned Owls, that I tend to get careless and not wear gloves. I knew this one was feeling better when I reached into the crate and instead of staying put, he rushed toward me and grabbed my hand with all eight of his little needle talons.
Accipiters are demon birds who don’t care that you’re sixty times their size, they’re going to try to kill you anyway. Once they’re on the road to recovery, they glare at you as if you’re a Hatfield and they’re a McCoy; they act as if you’re the embodiment of everything that has ever gone wrong in their lives, which they can now set straight if they cause you pain. You’d think this would make wildlife rehabilitators resentful, but instead it brings us great joy.
“Guess who’s feeling better?” I asked my teenaged daughter, grinning and holding up my hand, which was covered with tiny puncture wounds. “He hooked me big time!”
“Why do you do this?” she replied. “Seriously, have you ever really asked yourself that?”
I talked to my rehabber friend Veronica, who runs Native Songbird Care & Conservation in Sebastopol, CA, and who gave me her version. “I always know when adult grosbeaks are feeling better,” she said. “They chomp down on that tender little fleshy part between your thumb and first finger, and won’t let go. I always think to myself, “Oh, wonderful, he’s feeling better!’ through the pain, as I’m trying to pry him off.”
I emailed my rehabber friend Jules, who lives in New York, and she agreed. “Oh, yeah,” she wrote back. “Once I was totally nailed by a cormorant – I had nerve damage in my hand for months. It. Was. Awesome.”
Oh Suzie – you are such a great writer! ‘Demon bird’ nails it without expletives. Thanks for another great story.
Oh, how I agree about the accipiters! I love working with them, but I always tell my new interns and volunteers that a happy, healthy Coop or Sharpie is like a Jack Russell terrier on espresso
This is so true. I get so excited when any raptor becomes aggressive. I have been told how crazy I am by many, but ehh, bitten, footed either way, it’s all good. To me it,s a sign that I am doing the right thing and that the animal in my care is making progress in the right direction. Great story!
Precisely expressed! Although I have to add that you haven’t been bitten until a Coot nails you. Been nursing this thing along, gently forcing small meals regularly. Think you have him wrapped up safely in a towel. Suddenly you notice a gleam in the eye where before he looked drowsey. Good! Then like lightning his head strikes out on a snakey neck that had been hidden in feathers until now. He clamps on and twists. Youww! Ouch! OUCHOUCHOUCH! OK, you win! Now letgoletgoletgo! PLEASE LET GO! Please let go before I smash you against the wall! WALL-WALL-WALL! You don’t eat meat, REMEMBER???
It’s remarkable how quickly one’s assessment of a Coot’s condition can change. I think he’s ready to release!
Mikal: I’ve been thinking of writing a story about flesh-eating Coots — a sort of avian Jaws, if you will — and you’ve inspired me.
Suzie: I loved this entry, the line about “they act as if you’re the embodiment of everything that has ever gone wrong in their lives, which they can now set straight if they cause you pain” made me laugh for real.
AAAYYYEEE,YAEY,YAEY,YAEY,YAYYYYYYYYE!!!!!!! i theeenk you reeehabberrrs lieeeek a leetle esss’n’mmmm!!!No???????
” and swept it out the door with a broom. I often wish I could do this with people who irritate me, but there’s the size issue. ”
You’re going to need a bigger broom. 🙂
Or use a standard broom but shriek like a banshee and run at them waving standard broom.
We once tried to capture a Red-tailed Hawk that couldn’t fly. It sure could run fast and hopped/flapped through the prairie poplar stand faster than we could. It was also very intimidating when it made its stand and opened its wings and beak full, and called. Very impressive…gave you the impression it could take out one of the cows if it got hungry enough.
You guys are seriously cracking me up!
A Jack Russell on espresso, flesh-eating coots, the gleam in the eye at the end of that snakey head .. a redtail taking out a cow … LOL
I think I’ll get a bigger broom and run at people waving it and screeching what Jo said. That ought to do it. Although I’ve been portrayed that way by numerous people already.
Thanks, Peggy, glad I nailed the phrase after the sharpie nailed me. But as Lisa said, ehhhh, it’s all good!
Carrie, write up that Avian Jaws story, and then you have to send it to all of us! (I can’t wait! )
PS. THanks to Google, I now know what a pingback is. Duh.
Do scroll up to the sixth comment and check out Chuq Von Rospach’s very cool site – gorgeous photos. Thanks, Chuq!
This was fantastic! 😀
Jules! You. Are. Awesome.
I ADORE this post! This proves that a) I’m totally normal or b) still perhaps a bit questionable but in good company. I admire a bird on the mend that’s dishing out chomps like a prize fighter!
Ahhh, just throw in the towel, admit you’re nuts, and welcome to the group!
The same thing happens to me whenever a skunk I’ve nursed back to health or I’ve raised from a baby stomps, or, um sprays me. In the face. I’m so so proud and then so so stinky.
I’ve never had the pleasure (!) of being sprayed in the face by a skunk! I think that one-ups having vulture vomit land on your lap.