racerx falls in love with a stupid hoppy. . .the dead bird story

For the past week as I trudge into work through the poorly shoveled sidewalks I have noticed an adorable hoppy. (For those of you who don’t know, a hoppy is a small insignificant bird who hops along the ground before inevitably flying away, usually a sparrow.) I have quite a weakness for hoppys because they are in my mind, the cutest creature in the world - cuter than a grey kitten.

Now the particular hoppy that is near the building I work in was special. By special, I mean he would hop away from me, but never fly off. I assumed that this was due to a wing injury, and indeed noticed some ruffled feathers on his right wing.

So I noticed this excruciatingly cute hoppy a few days in a row by the same fenced in sidewalk tree. He would be there when I came to work and when I left.

When I noticed his injured wing, I made a deliberate effort not to grow attached to him, but rather greet him with the same cool regard I grant all hoppys - namely squealing about their cuteness and getting all giddy. So I purposely did not talk to this hoppy or name him, because I knew the stupid thing wouldn’t live long, living so close to the road and being unable to fly.

But my resolve eventually waned and I occasionally talked to it. I might have even carelessly dropped a few bread crumbs in his local area.

Dammit. The past two days it hasn’t been around. It’s gone. I’m sure it’s dead. sigh

Sorry to hear about your gimpy hoppy, X. I too get attatched to the little birdies, and stuff my shirt pockets with oyster crackers from the salad bar to feed to em’ at lunch (earning me many dirty looks from the lunch lady).

Off the subject --am I the only person who’s noticed that an awful lot of the little birds you see scavaging spilled popcorn in Wal-Mart and Target parking lots are missing a leg? Could it be a common bird birth defect? Perhaps a common outcome of run-in’s with stray cats?

Awwww…I misunderstood you- I thought you hated all the cute wee little aminals for some reason.

You’re funny.

I wonder if maybe little hoppy got better from some accidentely dropped bread crumbs, maybe healthy enough to fly away…
SOAR, little hoppy!!!

Maybe not. I’m sorry about your friend. They ARE really cute.

racerx, I catch birds for a living and some of them can have some amazing old injuries/deformities and still keep going. One time I trapped an adult female Black-capped Chickadee. She was in the net and her family was in a nearby bush, chirping like crazy. She had a brood patch and so I’m assuming she was reproductive. One of her legs was shaped like a cork screw, with the toes melding together. The leg was apparently useless but she was fit and hardy and bite me strongly.

I also caught a House Sparrow that had a tumor on it’s neck that was as large as his head. Weird looking, but he too seemed pretty strong. These House Sparrows are really really tough little guys. Wing injuries are hard to recover from, but who knows?

Inky-, I haven’t noticed the sparrows I’ve caught (last year we did just over 1000) having less than the usual compliment of legs. I do see them crouching over their legs during the winter, but that’s not the same. Are they hopping around on one leg or just standing there? (I thinking perhaps on cold days, they tuck in one leg?)

There are always a lot of hoppys gathered near my favorite lunch spot. They cautiously approach in groups of four or five to see if I’ve brought anything. They’re really cute–especially when they tilt their heads to the side and just stare at you until you ‘accidentally’ drop some bread crumbs or crackers on the ground.

Sorry about your hoppy friend, racerx. I know how easy it is to get attached to them.

Thanks guys. You were all really sweet to try to cheer me up. I know as soon as I assume he got better and flew away, I’ll trip over his dead body or something - and yes the glass is half empty.

Inky I know what you are talking about, but I think it’s like brachy said, they are tucking in one leg to get warm while supporting themselves on the other leg.

Jeep I know the slight head tilt you are talking about. It makes them irresistable, the cute lil’ buggers.

Racer, I was actually able to save the life of a little hoppy once! Yay.

We were camping in the Michigan UP. The morning after a windstorm we found a little nestling on the ground. Now I spend a lot of time outdoors and I’ve always kind of been known as the Animal Person in my family, and my first inclination is always Leave It Alone. I know not to disturb a fawn curled up in the grass or a fledgling sitting under a tree; they have not been abandoned.

However, this little guy <aside>We of course had no idea as to his gender, so we flipped a coin, Heads=Male, and went with that</aside> didn’t even have feathers and was already half dead from exposure. So I picked him up and warmed him in my hands awhile until he perked up, chirped and started asking for food.

I rummaged around in the food box and came up with some Shredded Wheat. I soaked it in water and made a paste, shoveling it into his little gullet on the end of a blunt plastic knife. After a while his color turned from pale grey to healthy pink. He looked like a tiny plucked chicken, with a yellow beak that took up half his head and little wispy things all over him. We guessed he was some sort of sparrow.

So we took him home. Our cat, who always accompanies us on camping trips, was quite intrigued by the box with funny chirping noises coming from it. (Good thing she didn’t find him on the ground before we did!) I fed him the wheat paste every hour and he seemed to thrive on it. If he was indeed a sparrow–a seed eater–it would be like filet mignon to him.

When we got home I rigged up a little cage from a basket inverted and wired over a clay pot saucer. I got some beef baby food to add to his diet. We’d had him about a week by this time, and it looked like he was going to make it.

He’d latched onto me as his “momma” by then. Whenever he heard my voice after being left alone in his cage he’d chirp like crazy. I’d take him out and pet the top if his little skull and he’d make soft little whistling noises. He’d yawn (I’d never seen a bird yawn before!) and blink (I never knew birds blink up with the lower lid!) He loved to hop up on my shoulder and cuddle in my hair. (Yes, I had to wear a grungy tee shirt at this time, which soon got grungier.)

By two weeks he was half feathered out and making attempts to fly. He wasn’t very good at it. He’d just flop down to the floor. A few days later he actually achieved some lift, and could go until he smacked into a vertical surface, and down he’d come.

Since I was still feeding him every hour, I was taking him to work with me every day. It was summer break at the college, so there weren’t many people around anyway, and the ones that were there were fascinated by him. I’d let him out of his cage and he’d sit on top of my monitor until he felt like cuddling and flew to my shoulder.

After three weeks he was flying better. At work he took a great flight over my cubicle, over the front desk, and buzzed a student sitting out in the lobby. Fortunately the guy didn’t freak out too much and thought it was funny. At home he was able to turn in flight to avoid smacking a wall. I knew he had it down when I found him perched above the ceiling fan when the fan was ON. He was preening himself by then, too.

When we’d had him a month, we started thinking about what to do with him. We’d identified him as a Savannah Sparrow, a common breed. We started talking to a wildlife rehabilitator, who said he wasn’t considered exotic and we could keep him if we wanted. We’d saved his life, but didn’t really want a pet bird, not with the cat. We’d been pitching her outdoors when we let him out of his cage, and when he was in it she treated him with just passing interest. I knew, though, that behind my back she’d happily geek him if given the chance. He wasn’t afraid of her at all, not having parents to teach him “EEK! It’s a CAT!”

Also, though he was fond of sitting at the top of a bookcase and singing, I was worried that he’d need to hear other sparrows to learn how to sing right. Sparrows use songs for territory and mating, and they learn them from their parents.

Sigh. So we called the rehabilitor and she came and took him off our hands. She was amazed at how tame he was, and affectionate. She had a big outdoor cage to put him in, and when he became accustomed to that, planned to move him to one he could get out of if he wanted.

I hope he made it. He might have been too imprinted with humans to ever survive in the wild. Even so, we gave a him a little bit of good life. He never had a chance otherwise.

For your viewing pleasure, here is a picture of him. Note that the “plate” he’s sitting on is actually a coaster four inches in diameter. He was just a little guy.

Oh Racer, I hope that hoppy is ok.

Last year my husband and I heard little baby bird noises coming from behind our dryer (we live in an attic loft). I looked behind it and there was a sparrow nest with two TINY, starving baby sparrows. Our landlord had flushed our attic of an adult sparrow only three days before and sealed off the hole where she got in, so I knew she wasn’t coming back to these babies.

I called a vet and they said to put them in a little basket with some torn up tissue and feed them mushed up animal crackers and warm water with an eyedropper.

I felt so good! I cuddled them in my hand, against my heart so they’d be warm and fed them until they stopped crying. My husband spoke the fateful words,


One died almost ten minutes later and the second one died as I held her in my hand to keep her warm. I’m crying about it right now, remembering how sad it was to watch that tiny body struggle.

I’ll never be a good mother I guess. I couldn’t even take care of these birds correctly, and in essence, I suppose, killed them :frowning:

I just realized that I probably brought you down racer…but I just wanted to tell you I know how you feel. I’m sure your hoppy’s alright.


These are all great stories. Racer, sorry 'bout the hoppy, but from what brachy… (sorry, it’s too hard to spell) said, there is a chance it made it.

Myron, way to go. That’s a heart warmer and a fantastic picture.

And jarbaby, you shouldn’t feel bad. Hell, you did everything you could and that is more than most people would do. Given a choice, I’m sure that the little ones were glad to go to the great tweety heaven with someone caring so much for them and keeping them warm, rather than going with no one with them behind a dryer. You did a good thing.

Here in St. Cloud, we have the advantage of being close to a university which has a bird rehabilitation department, so if I find injured birds, I take them there.

Sorry about your babies, jarbabyj.

Myron Van Horowitzski, thank you for the lovely success story and picture.