December 10, a resident of the Sunny Brae neighborhood of Arcata brought to our clinic a Fox Sparrow
who’d struck a window on her house. Imagine the shock of hitting an invisible wall while flying.
Nothing in the evolution of songbirds has prepared them for this recent development. Window strikes are often fatal. Head trauma and permanently debilitating fractures are common. Sometimes, however a bird might suffer no injury at all and a quiet safe palce to recover for 30 minutes to an hour is all that is needed before s/he is able to fly off again. For this little sparrow, though, it was neither fatal or minor. A broken clavicle (analogous to our collarbone) rendered her or him unable to fly. Fortunately the bird was rescued before anything worse happened (such as an outdoor kitty!).
You can help protect songbirds from these collisions in a number of ways. Decals, objects suspended in front of the glass, anything that draws attention the fact that there is no safe passage. Both strongly reflected sunlight and apparent clear sailing right through a structure can deceive a quickly moivng bird. Multiple startegies may be necessary. (more info
After 12 days with her/his wing immobilized (periodically checking to make sure all was proceeding nicely) the Fox Sparrow’s clavicle had healed. Bird bones heal much faster than mammals! After a couple of days in our Songbird Aviary, so that we could evaluate the sparrow’s flight, all was well and the bird was ready for release. We took the lucky bird back to the neighborhood where s/he was found.
As soon as the box was opened the sparrow darted to the nearest blackberry bramble and back to the life s/he’d known before it was interrupted by the invisible wall of glass.
If you find an injured wild animal, please call our hotline 707-822-8839. After hours? Simply follow the directions on our message and we’ll get back to you first thing in the morning. Thank you for your love of wildlife. And remember, your support makes our work possible.
(photos: Laura Corsiglia)