The lucky unlucky Ovenbird

posted in: Updates | 4
Ovenbird, May 10, 2016. Photo by Anouk Hoedeman.
Ovenbird, May 10, 2016. Photo by Anouk Hoedeman.


This little Ovenbird had a very bad day.

Cynthia first spotted the warbler when it flew right at her face when she peered into a trash can.

We often check trash cans because passersby and maintenance staff sometimes toss dead birds in the garbage. But as you can see from the photo, this particular bird was not dead. Most likely, it was knocked unconscious when it collided with the building, and someone swept it up with the cigarette butts and dumped it into the trash.

Anyway, it must have woken up and was startled into flight when it saw Cynthia (who’s really not so scary looking in the morning to most of us, but most of us are not injured little songbirds).

She tried to catch it — standard procedure whenever we find a collided bird, because being able to fly or escape does not mean the bird is okay. Usually they at the very least have a concussion, and may be suffering internal injuries.

Despite having been left for dead, this Ovenbird was lively enough to elude Cynthia’s net and fly up into a tree, out of reach and soon out of sight.

We continued to check in on the courtyard during patrols, on the chance that the Ovenbird would reappear, but saw no sign of it.

On my third visit to the courtyard, I spotted not an Ovenbird but an American Crow acting strangely. It flew up to the edge of a window as if trying to retrieve something. I raced closer to see what that might be, and realized the Crow was in hot pursuit of the Ovenbird, chasing it around the courtyard and through the trees.

The poor Ovenbird was flying erratically, trying desperately to stay ahead of the predator, and seemed relieved when I scared off the Crow.

Not so relieved, though, when the Ovenbird realized I wanted to catch it. I got out my collapsible net, cornered the warbler and tried to capture it. But the net flopped around oddly until I noticed the loop wasn’t fixed to the handle, because the shock cord that holds the contraption together was loose.

So, slight pause to fix the net.

The Ovenbird, meanwhile, was clearly exhausted and flopped onto the ground, but since the Crow was long gone, there was still a songbird to catch once my net was fixed.

On my third or fourth try, I got the net over the Ovenbird, then got a bag ready with one of Vanessa’s awesome crocheted nests inside. I extracted the bird from the net, gave it a quick once-over for injuries (the tip of its lower mandible was broken), and snapped a quick cellphone photo — the latter is not our protocol, but the circumstances seemed to demand a photo.

Finally, I got the bird safely into the bag, but not without a struggle — even after its long ordeal, the Ovenbird was not ready to give up. (Remember: injured birds don’t know we’re trying to help them; they think we want to eat them.)

The Ovenbird was soon on its way to the Wild Bird Care Centre with Jacquie, where we hope it will recover from its very bad day.


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4 Responses

  1. Roy Watson

    So even if of the bird seems able to fly off, you try to take it to the Wild Bird Centre for observation?? How long do they hold it before release and under what circumstances would it be euthanized???

    • Anouk Hoedeman

      We release some birds, but never downtown, where there is too much danger that they will collide again. (One exception: We release House Sparrows where we found them because they are downtown residents; most other birds are just passing through.) Most collided birds, even those that can still fly, have some internal bleeding and/or other problems, so their chances of survival are greater if we can get them to the Wild Bird Care Centre for treatment. They are assessed, treated and released when they are ready, which can be anywhere from a couple of hours to weeks or even, in some cases, months (e.g. a bird rescued in the fall may have to overwinter if it can’t survive the cold). A bird might be euthanized if its injuries are so severe that it will not recover, but those decisions are made by the skilled staff at the WBCC.

  2. Will Knight

    Nice work — thanks for helping these injured creatures!