Rescuing a wounded bird

Yesterday at the library where I work, a patron walked in with a sparrow that appeared to have a broken leg. The bird couldn’t fly.

The guy (who is a bit strange) said he was going to nurse it back to health.

I responded by getting the security guards to tell the guy to leave since you can’t bring animals in to the building, unless they are guide animals and I really doubt he had a trained helper sparrow.

Would the man, who did not appear to have anything to feed the bird with or any sort of veterinary background, been better off just leaving the bird behind and let nature take care of it.

As it is we had someone bring a live animal that was still well enough to poop all over the furniture.

I’m looking for a factual answer I hope and not a debate on the morality of rescuing this animal.

IIRC, small wild birds such as sparrows are quite difficult to keep in captivity, even without injuries. (unless you have access to an aviary) They get quite stressed, and often dehydrate very quickly.

On the other hand, I once dealt with a chickadee that had a broken leg (from an accident while being captured in a mist net). We let the bird go, and over the next few months, observed the bird
a) lose the leg
b) build a nest
c) successfully raise nestlings

So on the whole, I’d say that the bird would have been better off left alone.

Morality of rescuing animals? Whole other discussion.

This bird was being “rescued” by a guy who has no home, apparently had no food or water to give to the bird, and no means of treating it.

His principal occupation seems to be shoplifting.

I used to work in a wildlife rehab center in the Bay Area, CA. We’d get alot of injured birds. Truth be told, it’s extremely difficult to nurse a bird if you don’t know what you’re doing. For one, they’re very sensitive to stress, which is the most common cause of death. They also require a specialized diet. We used to call it Mockingbird Mush. If I remember correctly it was mainly Science Diet Dog Food, with some water to soften it, another form of dog food, some ground hamburger and calcium supplement.
Anyway, if it couldn’t fly, then it had more problems besides just a broken leg. Besides, I know that in California, cliff swallows and their nests (the clay ones under the eaves of buildings) are protected by law. So taking one home might be illegal. In any case, the best thing to do with an injured animal is to bring it to your local rehab center.

Next time you see him, ask him how it tasted. :wink:

It may be illegal for him to pick up the bird, depending on the species. Cecil says

What Bibliophage said. Without a license, you may not perform bird rehab (except, in theory, on non-native species). There are some people who have licenses in almost every city of any size. Most of those will not rehab birds that very abundant. Some rehabbers will take a common bird from you and then let it go out the back door, or euthanize it if it seems appropriate. If it was an English sparrow, as seems likely, the best thing to do would be to wring its neck. It is really illegal to even pick up an injured bird to give to a rehabber, but I have never heard of anyone ever being prosecuted for such a thing. I once was transporting in the back of my Dodge Raider a white pelican that had been hit by a car (talk about nasty - damn thing crapped all over the place, as I knew it would before I put it in there. By the way, pelicans eat a lot of fish and shrimp). I got stopped by the conservation officer. I told him where I was going with it (I had the address and phone number of the rehabber that I had called ahead of time). He just waved me on. But I suspect that if I had been taking it home to nurse it back to health, things could have gotten sticky.

I agree with all of the aforesaid. In general, it’s best to let an injured bird be and let nature take it’s course - unless you are willing to euthanize it. In the case of a rare or endangered species, however, the best - and legal - course is to take it to a wildlife rehabilitator.

As an ornithologist, the type of call I most dread is someone asking me to take some injured robin or sparrow off their hands and nurse it back to health!

A wounded bird is part of the circle of life. Leave it alone, and it will become predator food.

I suppose the bird didn’t present any hygiene problems to the people in the library, although I can’t imagine the droppings were good for anyone.

Sparrows aren’t carriers of disease very often are they? If they were, I suppose we’d all be in big trouble.

When finding a wounded animal, I call the local rehabbers.

Today I found a seagull that couldn’t fly. I grabbed it, kennelled it and started making phone calls. Today I learned that the Department of Wildlife in Washington State doesn’t rehab seagulls and I was to just let “nature take it’s course”.

Which is fine, I understand the reasoning. I released it. According to the people I spoke to today, only raptors are really rescued and rehabbed here.

It’s not the first seagull I’ve rescued (I’m a wounded seagull magnet for some reason) but the first one in the US. I was hoping that at the very least someone would offer to euthanize it.

What’s illegal about bringing a wounded bird to a place designed to treat such animals?

Charleston is a relatively small city, but we have a rehab center for birds of prey and a local veternarian is given funds to help treat injured animals.

Several years ago, while running on the James Island Connector, I saw a wounded young seagull, which was obviously just hit by a motor vehicale. I picked it up and headed back to my car, two miles away, to drive it to the vet who is paid to treat such animals, when a van approached. The driver offered to bring the bird in himself after I gave him the appropriate info. (I suspect that it was this van that hit the gull.)

The next day I called the vet to ask how the gull was coming along, and they said, “Which gull?” They had many gulls that people brought in, finding them, apparently, injured on the roadside. Anyway, I was informed that all of them were doing nicely.

(BTW, it was winter time and I had my nice Goretex running suit on. It still has blood stains on it.)

I work as a wildlife rehabber, and would like to clarify the illegality issue about handling wild birds. There is a 24 hour period of “holding” birds, after that, you must be a licensed wildlife rehabber to have possession of a native bird. So, don’t be scared that you are doing anything illegal in transporting an injured bird to get proper care.

Non-native species, English sparrows and starlings the most common brought to wildlife rehabbers, are not covered by the law, as Cecil says. The WL shelter I work at has decided not to rehab sparrows and starlings, because they outcompete native species. I’m a soft heart, so it’s hard for me to accept not helping any creature; on the flip side, I’ve seen the damage sparrows can do to other birds. In particular, a nest of baby bluebirds had come in, pecked almost to death by sparrows wanting the nest site. It was horrible. Our WL shelter euthanizes sparrow and starlings, but we explain it to the folks who find them,on the front end. It’s hard, but is a decision made with a lot of knowledge about the environmental damage caused.

So, some moral decisions,BobT, regarding the species, in this case. In light of that decision, I would let nature take it’s course. For someone inexperienced to raise the bird will probably cause it stress, and improper diet or veterinary care(bird bones heal fast, and if not set right quickly, will not heal properly) will kill it eventually. The bird may end up as hawk chow, but it’s better as a meal than a useless death in the overall course of things. It’s hard for my soft heart to say this. And many wildlife rehabbers will take in non-native species.

If it were a native bird, the guy would be breaking the law, as well as doing a grave disservice to the bird for all of the above reasons. Wildlife rehabilitation has come a long way in the past decade, and a devoted veterinarian (like ours) could set the break right. It could be nursed back to health. So, I wouldn’t just let nature take it’s course in the case of a mockingbird, or other native species. Always worth a try.

And, Gulo gulo, our shelter in NC has rehabbed seagulls to good effect. We also carefully explain to the person who brings an animal in if euthanasia is the likely outcome of a patient, and provide that service in the most humane way possible.