Bird suffering, need help!
October 14, 2011 7:42 AM   Subscribe

A bird just crashed into my window and is in obvious distress and we're not sure what to do.

About five minutes ago, a bird crashed into our window. It is now laying on our front door stoop breathing quickly and not really moving. My husband is trying to track down animal control, wildlife rescue etc, and when we can get people to answer the phone, they tell us to call somewhere else.

I'm worried that this animal is suffering and it's really upsetting to us both. We both can't face killing it, but I would prefer to do that than have it suffer. Do you have any suggestions? Can you tell me the quickest way to get it over with if that is necessary?
posted by Kimberly to Pets & Animals (31 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
He just stood up and is kind of standing there and wobbling, not moving much. Forgot to mention that we're in Calvert County, MD.
posted by Kimberly at 7:45 AM on October 14, 2011

It's possible that it's just stunned and will get away on its own. Five minutes seems like an awful long time to have not flown away, though, and the longer it sits on the ground, the easier it will be for a cat of other animal to get to it. If you can't move it someplace safe, you might keep watch for hungry critters.

Quickest way to put it down? You're not going to like it, but it'd probably be breaking its neck or hitting it with a really big rock.
posted by jquinby at 7:47 AM on October 14, 2011

You might just want to give it a little time. Every time I've had a bird hit the window, it did what you described, but eventually got up and flew away. It's likely just stunned. If it's still there after about an hour, then you may try to scoop it up and get it to a rescue group.
posted by Gilbert at 7:48 AM on October 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

I've seen birds literally knock themselves out on my parents' windows. Pretty seriously stunned. Whether they survived for long after they woke up, I do not know.

If you can keep the bird from getting eaten, it will probably be okay, as far as you ever know.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:49 AM on October 14, 2011

When a similar thing happened to me, I gently gathered up the bird, put it in a box and took it to my local vet who happily accepted it. I have no idea if this is something your local vet can assist with, but it may be worth a try. Depending on the extent of the bird's injuries, putting it down may be the kindest thing, sadly.

Good luck and let us know how you get on.
posted by Defying Gravity at 7:49 AM on October 14, 2011

Umm, take it into the vet. Most vets won't charge for wild animals. That, or call animal control, though they probably won't do anything if it is not in traffic or hurting anyone.
posted by TheBones at 7:52 AM on October 14, 2011

What kind of bird is it?
posted by heyho at 7:54 AM on October 14, 2011

I would give it more time.

The nuclear option (i.e. "putting it out of its misery") will be most humanely achieved by breaking its neck as you would a lab rat. Use the thumb and forefinger of one hand to brace its head, and the thumb and forefinger of your other hand to brace its shoulders, then pull quickly and firmly. (Sorry.)
posted by phunniemee at 7:55 AM on October 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

All I can tell you is that I've often had birds knocking them up into windows and they sometimes can stay stunned for longer while than 5 minutes and finally go on looking fine again. Unless you have cats, I'd say give it some more time before attempting to manipulate it.
It's already a good is sign if there is no blood, and that the bird can stand up even if wobbly.
posted by CelebrenIthil at 7:59 AM on October 14, 2011

The nuclear option (i.e. "putting it out of its misery") will be most humanely achieved by breaking its neck as you would a lab rat. Use the thumb and forefinger of one hand to brace its head, and the thumb and forefinger of your other hand to brace its shoulders, then pull quickly and firmly. (Sorry.)

Please don't do this. Birds are not mice. Also, if you take it to a vet and the vet says it can't be saved and needs to be put down, they will administer euthanasia solution. Also, they will get in touch with animal control so you don't have to worry about it.
posted by TheBones at 8:00 AM on October 14, 2011

Not sure what kind of bird it is, but here's a picture. He has a reddish brown chest. He's less wobbly and has been moving his head back and forth.
posted by Kimberly at 8:02 AM on October 14, 2011

Quickest way to put it down? You're not going to like it, but it'd probably be breaking its neck or hitting it with a really big rock.

I'd suggest scooping into a bucket and putting that bucket under a running car's exhaust. I've done this to a mouse and it was VERY fast. Maybe a second of apparent distress and done.

I think it was the same mouse that had previously been captured but not killed by a spring trap. I had taken it outside and tried to more-or-less humanely kill it by whomping it with a shovel. I failed, and it bounced out of the trap and scuttled away. When I saw this mouse, which I think was the same one, it was dragging a leg behind it and stumbling every few steps. As you might guess, I still feel bad about this.

If you don't have experience killing animals by breaking their neck, I'd really suggest gassing as more humane than applied violence.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:04 AM on October 14, 2011

At the beach we had a humming bird perched on a pole for a really long time. Eventually someone picked it up and held it for a few minutes before deciding to set it gently in the bushes. Within about ten minutes it was up and flying away.

Basically another anecdote saying it may be okay to leave it for a little longer.
posted by sarae at 8:07 AM on October 14, 2011

For chrissakes if it's standing up, you don't need to kill it. It's stunned - keep an eye on it and leave it be for a while. We had a juvenile redtail stun the hell out of himself crashing into a window at work; it took him nearly an hour to get himself together and fly off.

People, please look at the picture before recommending humane ways (or not) of killing a bird that doesn't look like it needs killing.
posted by rtha at 8:08 AM on October 14, 2011 [6 favorites]

Birds that have flown into windows often just need time to recover - they are stunned but get better on their own. As long as there are no predators that can get it, you'll just stress it out by trying to handle it. Give it time and it will probably fly away on its own.
posted by Dasein at 8:08 AM on October 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Bird is probably stunned. If it is safe from predators leave it alone for a while. If not catch it by throwing a towel over it and quickly and calmly put it in a box and then put it somewhere dark and quiet and leave it alone. Poking it, handling it, examining it or looking at it every 5 minutes will stress the bird.

The bird is most likely stunned, give it chance to recover. If it doesn't show signs of improving in a few hours then ring a wildlife rescue group, they will be able to suggest best what to do next in your area.
posted by wwax at 8:10 AM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Let nature take its course; I would not intervene in this situation. If it had an obviously broken wing or leg, I'd say if you want to rescue it, take it to the vet. If its neck were broken, I'd say end it. But this looks like something I'd just let nature take care of.

Life is chaotic. Humans shouldn't always attempt to bring their idea of order to it. I'm sorry this is upsetting (I don't like to see them suffer either), but he'll likely recover just fine.
posted by heyho at 8:10 AM on October 14, 2011 [5 favorites]

Just want to say that the whole "killing it" thing was while it was laying on it's side with it's head bent halfway back towards its tail. Once it stood up, that was no longer something that was even remotely an option for me. I could barely face the idea when I thought it was really suffering.
posted by Kimberly at 8:12 AM on October 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Another vote for leave it along until it can fly into a nice tall tree. Here in Chicago, we pretty much have to capture stunned birds and take them to a center in the suburbs for release because they'll just fly into another building (we have bird monitors that walk the whole of downtown every morning to find stunned birds.)

But you've got a lovely bird habitat right outside your door, so no need for catching and relocating. It is migration season, which can lead to a greater number of birds who don't know the area flying into stuff.
posted by Wulfhere at 8:17 AM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

It is probably stunned. You can put it in a paper bag (seriously), close the top, and set it in a quiet, warm place for a bit. It will likely snap out of it. Then let it go.
posted by bolognius maximus at 8:20 AM on October 14, 2011

What to do when you find an injured bird.

Some wildlife rehabilitators in Maryland that may be able to give you more specific advice.
posted by Dojie at 8:31 AM on October 14, 2011 [4 favorites]

If he's gone by now, he'll very likely be ok. If not, you might want to find a local vet to take him in, or if you aren't able to do that, try the carbon monoxide exhaust poisoning trick. He's easy fodder for any animal passing by right now.
posted by zug at 8:41 AM on October 14, 2011

Also some tips to possibly prevent this from happening again. Really, there are a plethora of products.
posted by DisreputableDog at 8:42 AM on October 14, 2011

try the carbon monoxide exhaust poisoning trick. He's easy fodder for any animal passing by right now.

No. No, no, no, no, no. Good grief.
posted by heyho at 8:43 AM on October 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Get off the internet and take it into the vet to be properly checked out.
posted by TheBones at 8:51 AM on October 14, 2011

Looks like a starling; hard to tell without brighter light bringing out the iridescence but I can see some of the typical markings around mid-body.

Leave him alone. If he's standing he'll probably be okay. Where he seems to be he's not likely to get tormented by a wandering cat; if something eats him it'll be serious about it and as entitled to its continuing existence as the starling is his. And to be quite frank and heartless, one less starling is a good start. They're an invasive species that shouldn't be in our area.

Wild birds are estimated to live about a year, though genetically they should be able to live way longer. It's a tough life. You're sweet to not want it to suffer but beyond that I think you should let nature take its course.

Of course, that's coming from someone who drove a baby chipmunk 20 miles to a rehabilitation specialist when we found her half-drowned after those crazy rains a little over a month ago, so take the hard-ass with a grain of salt. The universe rewarded us with getting to meet some baby flying squirrels and see our little rescue eat a piece of apple so THAT lesson was counter-productive...
posted by phearlez at 9:03 AM on October 14, 2011

We had a finch fly hard into, well, something, and acted like your birdfriend. It took him a good 24 hours to stop shaking, and to this day we see him around with a deformed head, but he recovered completely otherwise with no intervention from us except to make sure there was food and water nearby for him and that no predators got him (we don't tend to have any so this part was easy...)
Not an animal specialist of any kind, but from our experience, at this point if he can walk around, he'll be fine on his own if you keep cats etc. away.
posted by dust.wind.dude at 9:25 AM on October 14, 2011

I am happy to report that the bird just took a big crap on my porch and flew away! Thanks for helping me remain calm and out of the way.
posted by Kimberly at 9:46 AM on October 14, 2011 [24 favorites]

When we had an injured bird in our backyard (it was dragging its wing and kept tipping over onto its side. Aww.), we called a wildlife rescue group that told us how to capture him/her without stressing him/her out too much (apparently they can have heart attacks pretty easily). We then drove it over to the rescue group where, after it was whisked away, we visited with some of the other happily chirping creatures that were hanging out and then had a nice chat about birds with the woman working there. It never even occurred to us that breaking its neck was an option.

Anyway, if, at some point, it seems to be hurt rather than only stunned (and if you are able & willing), take it somewhere that can help it.
posted by eunoia at 9:50 AM on October 14, 2011

Next time, take it to the vet. I killed a bird after my cat roughed it up, and I still feel as though, even if it had died of shock, leaving it to die its own death would have been better than what I did.

So, if in doubt, next time let the vet decide...

Also maybe apply a bird silhouette to your window so no-one tries to fly through it?
posted by tel3path at 9:58 AM on October 14, 2011

Yay! For future reference, if this becomes an issue there are inconspicuous stickers you can buy for your windows that will deter the birds. They're called UV Decals. Here's another source, including some plain square stickers. I remember reading here about one person's remedy for a hummingbird who crashed into her window, including feeding it some sugar water, if that comes up. Bonus: mojitos!
posted by therewolf at 3:39 PM on October 14, 2011

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