Injured bird... help!
December 3, 2005 10:14 AM   Subscribe

So I found a still-live bird trapped under the wheel of a car. It's now in my bathroom...

The car seemed to be parked on the edge of the bird's left wing. It may have been there all night in the snow, I don't know. I managed to lift the car a bit and it pulled the wing out. However, it just flopped around. I thought it might be frozen so I put it in my bathtub and left it alone.

Now, I go in there and it's sitting upright, however it's head is upside down, like its neck is broken. But then it twists its head around as it flops and tries to re-orient itself for a second and then sits like that for a few minutes. Both its eyes are open and I can't see any punctures or damage to the bird. It can flap both wings. One of the feet is tucked up close to the body but it's intact.

It looks to me like the neck is broken but I've never heard of something living and moving all its parts with a broken neck. I don't want to put it back outside for fear it will freeze and die slowly. It can't fly and can't keep its head straight (keeps reverting to upside down).

What should I do? Should I just snap its neck? Should I leave it alone longer in the warm bathroom? I'm a vegetarian and animal lover so snapping its neck ain't gonna be easy but if it's just gonna die slowly than it seems more humane.

It's a pigeon, so the vet won't give a shit I'm sure.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy to Pets & Animals (17 answers total)
My advice: if the bird looks like it's suffering, kill it quickly and then replenish your karma by doing something good for somebody else. Leaving it to suffer is probably the least-desirable option, and a bird that's supposed to fly but can't is in an untenable situation, unless you're willing to take care of it - and even then, you've got no way of knowing whether it's suffering despite your best care.
posted by aberrant at 10:18 AM on December 3, 2005

Personally I'd take it to the vet--but we've been going there for nearly 20 years and know they'd be sympathetic and helpful. You know your vet better than I do, but I don't see much harm in at least calling them up.
posted by luftmensch at 10:26 AM on December 3, 2005

I just called my vet and they don't "do" birds. I don't have a car and there's no other vet near me.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 10:28 AM on December 3, 2005

I don't know where you are but here are links for the US Wildlife Rehabilitators by State, Wildlife Rescue Resource Center, Wildlife, Wildlife Rehab Info Directory, UK Animal Rescue.
posted by fshgrl at 10:32 AM on December 3, 2005

A vet will probably put it out of it's misery, if it really has a broken neck.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 10:41 AM on December 3, 2005

That's a heavy existential weight you've taken on, You Should See the Other Guy, but if you do decide to "put it to sleep", one relatively humane way might be to put it in a plastic bag and place it in the freezer.

Myself, I would prefer that to being whacked with a hammer.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:45 AM on December 3, 2005

It doesn't have a broken neck (it would be dead) - it has a concussion and is having seizures. You may find that if you stroke the top of its head while it is seizing, the bird will calm down. In my experience, the seizures can last as long as 12 hours and the bird will then be fine, or the damage is too severe and will be dead. Keep it warm with a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel and try putting water into its beak with a dropper. Hopefully the little guy will be okay and you can release him.
posted by meerkatty at 10:46 AM on December 3, 2005

Thanks, all. I contacted the local Wildlife Rescue center and they are coming to pick him up!
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 10:55 AM on December 3, 2005

I'd be interested as to how they take care of the bird. If you find out, please post a followup.
posted by aberrant at 10:59 AM on December 3, 2005

Now read the poem David, by Earl Birney, and have some Kleenex handy.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:08 AM on December 3, 2005

posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:10 AM on December 3, 2005

It's a pigeon, so the vet won't give a shit I'm sure

Just wanted to respond to this, even though the problem is already addressed. If you're willing to pay, you should be able to find a vet who will help, regardless of whether they personally think you're spending the money wisely.
posted by winston at 11:18 AM on December 3, 2005

Glad they're on the way. I have 'rescued' quite a few such birds. They usually tell you to wrap the bird in a warm cloth like an old towel, put it into a box large enough to provide ample room, and put the box into a sheltered, quiet, dark space. Often, the birds are simply in shock after such a jarring accident. The towel prevents them from being overwhelmed by light, noise, and perceived threats. It also helps conserve body warmth. After a couple of hours, you can take the box outside and open the towel -- they'll often fly away as if nothing had happened. If they don't, then it's off to the shelter, as they probably have debilitating injuries that will require veterinary care and/or life in captivity.

Wildelife rehabbers don't care what kind of bird it is. I've taken seagulls to a rehab, so I'm not surprised they'll help pigeons too.
posted by Miko at 11:28 AM on December 3, 2005

Okay, so the people who were coming to pick it up now told me they don't have any services to help birds and would merely "put it to sleep". I said I'll take a pass. (This was Toronto Animal Services.)

I called another place (Toronto Wildlife Centre) and they could help the bird but had no pick up service. So I did what Miko said with the towel and the box and I took it on the subway and then they met me at the subway station near them and took the bird. He was still moving when I made the hand off.

The woman said it could be a number of things (including a concussion) and said that there is a disease (she named it in latin and I don't remember it) that can do the same thing to the bird (make it lose control of it's neck like this one). So, they took all the details on where I found the bird in case the it's the disease.

I must say it was pretty bizarre to see a bird like this with his head literally upside down. He must have been totally freaked out. He was trying to reorient his head and when he couldn't he'd flop onto his back so then at least his head was the "right way".

Hopefully they can help him. I'll call in a day or two and see.

My local vet is weird. They are fantastic with my dog but whenever I have had other animals, they've been very weird. I called two weeks ago about a cat that I've seen around for about a month and I'd been feeding. It wouldn't let me touch it and would bolt. It was pretty tiny. So finally I got it so that I could pick it up. I called the vet and asked if I could bring it in and they said no. WTF? They said they're overloaded. I called Animal Services and they said they could come in 4 hours--I couldn't keep the cat indoors as my dog would freak. I asked my vet if they could keep it for four hours and they said no, that they didn't have the space. Arrgh.

If they weren't so good with my dog, I'd switch vets on principle. Very strange.

Again, thanks all who responded. Gonna go read WGP's epic poem now. :)
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 12:32 PM on December 3, 2005

I'm sure I don't need to tell you this, but you're going to want to wash whatever the bird touched, including yourself, a lot. Psittacosis totally sucks (not to mention the other 60 diseases and parasites you can get from playing with pigeons). Teh internets says cleaning with bleach or isopropyl alcohol, with gloves, obviously, should be okay.
posted by booksandlibretti at 5:40 PM on December 3, 2005

Wildelife rehabbers don't care what kind of bird it is.

I know of one through my mother, who volunteers there. They don't try to apply any historical idea of which animals are "native" or any such nonsense. They are really no-nonsense about the fact that human-populated urban areas ARE habitat for many animals, and they will help anything that's brought it to the best of their ability.

However, there is one dimension in which they do discriminate based on the species of the animal. If they decide that the animal cannot be rehabilitated to live in the wild, they will euthanize it. UNLESS it is a specimen which they deem to have educational value, which they will nurse back to health and keep in captivity in their museum. They certainly won't afford this to more than one pidgeon at a time, if any. But if a bald eagle were to land in their care, it might be a different story. Sometimes the species that people have the least contact with can be the most "educational," just by definition. In all honestly I'm sure that hosting some impressive animals helps generate interest in their museum and, thereby, funding for their entire rescue operation.

These are sort of irrelevant nuances to this thread so I apologize.

I would like to applaud YSSTOG for heroism.
posted by scarabic at 9:12 PM on December 3, 2005

Sounds like a rather cruddy vet. My sister is about six months from graduating vet school, and knowing her, and everyone she's ever introduced me to at the school, vets are usually pretty darn caring when it comes to any type of animal. Perhaps I'm being judgemental, but at the very least, as someone else has said, if you have the money, they should have the time. Anyone have some positive Toronto/Canadian vet stories?
posted by Atreides at 9:43 PM on December 3, 2005

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