so much for my objectivity...there's a sick goldfinch in my house

dirtgirl(So. Illinois)February 10, 2006

I know better than this, I really do. I am supposed to not interfere with nature, let things happen like they would naturally, without any "help" from a human.

But it's done. This morning I noticed a sick-looking goldie out in the back yard at the sunflower. His flockmates were much more animated, more vigorous, and I noticed he kept his feathers fluffed constantly as if cold while all the other birds seemed totally comfortable in the 40 degree temps. THen I looked for him later and he was not in sight so I forgot all about it. An hour past that I went out to fill all the feeders in anticipation of a front that was due in tonight, and while I was hunkered over the biggest of the three feeders slowly funneling in seed, something flashed past my head. It isn't uncommon for the chickadees to hurry me along and grab a seed even before I am through with the filling process, but somehow I had a feeling this wasn't a chickadee...and it wasn't. There sat that poor little goldfinch, right next to my flipflop. It was sitting on top of the pile of seed I had spilled and was patiently rolling a single seed around and around in its bill like they do, looking for just the right spot to split it. It was looking directly at me but didnt seem to care. I knew then it was really sick, and that thought was only underscored when I took a careful step away and it didn't flinch. After I had all the feeders done, I turned and looked at it, wondering what to do. I always seem to get stuck with a few of these every year, the "turn away, leave it alone" battles. I decided to place it up out of the snow on one of the feeders, where it had plenty of access to more food, although I also it might also get more badgering from healthier birds there. I was surprised to find that as soon as I gingerly picked the bird up (it didn't try to flee or even move away) and placed it on the feeder, it resumed feeding as if I was not even there. I walked away. I had to. I was strong.

But then I glanced out about three hours later and spotted a small form in the snow under the feeder. My strength failed me. I went out and picked up the little thing ,giving up on non-interference, and brought it in. I rigged up a glass aquarium with a thin cloth floor and went to the back room for sunflower seed. You will not believe this: I carried the bird with me since the cage was not quite ready for receiving, and when I plopped him down in the small container I use for seed he immediately noticed the seed all around him and began eating again And this is how it has been with this odd little fellow ever since he came indoors. I have been especially mindful of what I allow him to come into contact with (myslf included)and wash my hands frequently since there is obviously something wrong. But he is obsessed with eating. He looks directly at me and follows my movements but the minute you place seed anywhere near him, or even pick him up and place him on the floor, he starts toward food. He seems totally unconcerned that the food might be in your hand. I got to thinking that maybe he was having a hard time actually cracking out the seeds, and sat down and went to the trouble of hand shelling about 30 seeds. It is all the same, his face is totally covered with food fragments.

I have already decided that he goes out first thing tomorrow-- I MUST let nature decided what to do with her own- but I am completely flabbergasted with this bird's behavior. Maybe it hit a window and jiggled its brain too much and now is hard wired to do nothing but eat. Gosh, did I hit a window sometime in the last 5 years??

If you might have any insight on this behavior in sick or injured birds I'd love to hear about it.

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loris(Z6 NJ)

dirtgirl, I don't want to tell you what to do, but you haven't directly removed a meal from a hawk's mouth, and I think it's a good thing you're trying to help this bird.

Some of the people on the bird-watching forum are involved with rehab, and can give you advice on how best to handle this bird.

Once you're there, take a look at "Emergency Care For Birds and FAQs". It includes rehabbers by state, and has some general information about how to best take care of the bird in the meantime.

Good luck to you and "Goldie"

Here is a link that might be useful: Link to the Bird Watching Forum

    Bookmark   February 10, 2006 at 8:46PM
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dirtgirl(So. Illinois)

Nature did indeed take care of her own after all...I woke this morning to find the poor little thing dead, lying quietly on the pile of sunflower kernels.
Thank you for the kind words, loris.
I think as a lover of wildlife the decisions to get involved or not in an animal's suffering are the hardest for me. I guess the very hardest are the ones which are obviously in the process of dying a horrible death and you wish only to give it haste for them. Sometimes you just can't.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2006 at 12:25PM
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lisa11310(z5 MI)

OH NO, please go over to the birdwatching forum and read my post about the flufed up birds. What you have there is salmenilla. I had two that I cought and brough in two days ago. They rooseted together through the night, then died the next day. You must take all your feeders down and wash them with a bleach solution. You know the drill I am sure. Clean under the feeders and any bird baths too.There has been a outbreak in our reigon. It is highly contageous and can be transmited to humans and domestic pets. There are several good links in the post over there. This is NOT one of those things that you want to let nature take it's course with. This affects birds in the finch family the most, including pine siskins. I know how badly you felt, I go through the same dilema myself and it was so sad to watch those little birdies die, I was going to take them to the rehabber to be put to sleep, there is nothing to cure it, I am glad they had each other in a warm place to die. So WARNING to anybody in this region, pleas please keep your feeders EXTRA CLEAN especially UNDER them , this is spread by fecies. I am so sorry dirtgirl.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2006 at 1:14PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

So sorry about the little bird Dirtgirl. It always strikes me as so sad when a bird dies alone. I have had it go both ways, with an injured bird.........some die, some live. It's a really tough issue......whether to leave them alone outside, or bring them in.
If I see a bird hit the window, and it's obtunded, I will put a chicken wire circle around it, to protect it for a little while, while it's coming back to it's senses.
If I see a bird with an injured wing, I bring it in.
It's just really hard not to have "human" feelings towards it. We imagine how we'd feel outside, alone, hurt. I'm sorry about your little goldfinch. I think it felt your kindness.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2006 at 9:52AM
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Elly_NJ(NJ z6)

You know, there are rehabbers that can care for injured and sick birds. Hitting a window is not "nature."

    Bookmark   February 12, 2006 at 1:27PM
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dirtgirl(So. Illinois)

lisa, were your two doing anything strange? Like my post stated, all this one wanted to do was sit on a pile of food. It would puff up occasionally, and I noticed it was breathing heavily most of the time. .I did notice that its eyes were totally clear and bright.
I will never know if this was a bird with an illness or just one that had struck the window and was mentally affected. I do know that a goldfinch HAD in fact had a run in with the window at some point during the day as evidenced by the little tuft of yellowish feathers adhering to the pane..
Every year we see at least one or two birds acting stangely in the yard,usually blackbirds but occasionally a goldfinch.
We have been having a significant drop in the overall numbers of birds at the feeders in general although I have assumed this must be due to a good year weather/food wise. Once you get away from the yard and into the underbrush/thickets the birds are everywhere and in large numbers. I AM noticing large numbers of purple finches here, which is a bit unusual.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2006 at 12:28PM
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njtea(NJ Z6)

Yesterday I noticed a little downy who was very unwell .It took much willpower and restraint to not go outside and try to catch it. I just hoped that the local hawk would get it before it suffered too much longer.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2006 at 8:40AM
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lisa11310(z5 MI)

Dirtgirl, Yes my birds were puffed up, very slow and lathargic, One had swolen eyes, one did not. They would "bob" while on the birdbath.They ate like pigs. When they were still out they would sit (not stand) in the feeder and eat non stop. The rehabber asked me if their beaks were clean or had seed particals on them. The seed particals on the face is the give away, and yes it was having a hard time eating, I guess it causes lesions in the mouth and throat. I don't remember exactly what she said because thats when she said she would need to put them down and I was upset. I found one other dead bird under the feeder the next day and I see one out there showing symptoms.I hope our weather being back below freezing will help knock this out. The rehabber had been sent a bulletin on the outbreak in our region :( You ar not that far from me and have had the same unusual weather, same symptoms, so I would have to beleive thats what it was. I will try to find the link describing it and post back here.
Good Luck

    Bookmark   February 14, 2006 at 9:00AM
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