A thud at the window

My cat threw himself off my lap as if the loud thud we heard was death crashing into the house in search of him. After realizing the thud was not followed by intruders, my cat, with his beefed up tail doubled in size to show his might,  made his way to the windows overlooking the backyard and bird feeder. I followed my little warrior to investigate what had happened. 

Peering out, nothing seemed amiss until I glanced down from the window. Hunched below, a bird sat on the ground, possibly dead. Doing what I always do when faced with creature problems about the house, I called for my dad.  

"A bird hit our window!"

I didn't wait for an answer, only made sure he was getting up to follow me. We both peered down from the window at the bird.

"I'm going to get my coat and get a closer look," I said racing for the stairs.

Crunching over snow in my slippers, I crouched next to the little guy while my dad watched from inside as the rest of the birds around scattered. Barely the size of my palm, the finch could only blink as I leaned in to look for any sign of injury. Its chest heaved at the rate of a dripping faucet, making me feel like hyperventilating just watching. 

"Careful," my dad warned in a muffled voice through the glass. I looked up helplessly, unsure what to do. I gingerly reached out and poked the suffering animal, hoping it would move and reveal any blood or distorted limbs. With one finger, I caressed its back whispering to it as I do my cats.

"It's OK little guy. I'm not going to hurt you. What is wrong? Where are you hurt?"

Why do we ask questions to animals knowing full and well they won't answer? Why do I feel it necessary to speak to a bird that is clearly barely able to process the bulk in front of it and wondering if this bulk would kill it?

The frozen grass crackled under my feet as I walked to the bird feeder. Sudden tapping on the window drew me back as my dad pointed to the bird. It had moved about an inch.

"It opened its wings. I'm not sure if the left one is OK." I stared down at the bird and didn't see any blood between the hop it took. Going back to the feeder, I grabbed some seeds and put it in front of the blinking bird. It ignored them.

"Dad, can you Google what to do?" 

"Yeah, come back inside."


As we crowded by the window, my dad quickly read off to me what he found on Google.

"Don't touch the bird." Oops.

"Most likely the bird is stunned and needs time to recover. Leave it be. If it is in an unsafe place, gently place it in a box with a lid or a towel on top. Make sure it has enough space to span its wings. If it shows sign of a broken limb, take it in the box to a wildlife rehabilitation center."

"Is it safe there? Is it too cold in the shade? Where is one of those near us?"

"I don't know. It says don't feed it." My dad held back a smile as he stared at me over his reading glasses. Oops again. 

My mom wandered over at this time and asked what was going on. Now the trembling bird had three giant audience members along with a cat peering out from a chair. 

"We should probably give it space," she said backing away from the window.

"Apparently I've done everything I'm not supposed to to help," I informed her.

"Here we go," my dad interrupted. "It says the majority of birds that hit windows end up dying either from the shock or a sustained injury, oftentimes internal. Make sure to dispose of the body properly."

We assumed this meant throwing it out in the woods at the edge of the yard, but soon were read specific instructions about putting the carcass in a plastic bag and avoiding leaving it out for predators. My chest tightened and suddenly how my day was going to be depended on how this tiny bird recovered. 

"It can take up to two hours for it to come out of shock."

"I guess we just have to wait and see then," my mom said.

Two hours was going to be a long time. Already I had a hard time staying far enough away from the window that my breath didn't fog on the glass. Two hours was also long enough to forget  I didn't lock the patio door. 

Quickly stepping into the covered porch, I went to the screen door ready to lock it. I heard a rustling noise that seemed to be coming from the covered grill sitting between the door and the bird. Opening the door and stepping back into the snow I peered around the grill. Suddenly the shocked finch flew off toward the woods in a flurry. Just like that the drama was over.

I closed the patio door and locked it. Walking back inside I told them the news, happy we didn't have to deal with a carcass even if I had scared it into recovery. My day could continue in peace. 

As I slid off my coat and inspected my slippers to ensure they were not wet from the snow, I couldn't help but ponder how my meddling did nothing. I could have been listening to music in my room, unaware of the stupid bird and nothing would have changed. And why should that bird suddenly mean so much when there are thousands that hit windows and many that don't survive? I wanted so much to keep the world I see and encounter free of pain and in its state of peace that it may not matter that this could have happened at a house two doors down, but the fact that it happened in my presence that made me care. I suppose though, if I was a bird and hit a window and someone was there to care, I would rather they care than they stay back in apathy.