July 5, 2007

Icarus, the baby house sparrow

At right: Icarus, July 5, 2007 (Day 18, ~21 days old). More photos below.

One night I came home and heard a little chirping noise coming from the bushes in front of my house. I took a flashlight and went to investigate. There on the ground was a tiny naked bird, and nearby was the neighbor’s cat who also heard the chirping. So, I scooped him up and took him inside and put him in a towel-lined shoe box. My first thought was that he probably needed something to eat, so I thought quickly and decided on soaked cat food. He ate it up like crazy.

I looked online to find whatever information I could to help me decide what to do. I found the numbers of a few local wildlife rescue organizations and called the next morning. One woman, who was a wildlife rehabilitator, said that the best chance the bird had was to be returned to the nest. This was not possible, however, because the nest was two stories up in the gutter of my house (right above where I found him on the ground). So she suggested making a makeshift nest nearby and hopefully the parents would continue caring for the bird. I did this, but as far as I could tell, the parents did not take over. I took him back in that night and fed him a special formula for baby passerines for which I found a recipe on a web site about taking care of baby birds.

The next day I put him back out in the makeshift nest all day. The wildlife rehabilitator said that this was his only chance and that chances are, he wouldn’t make it, and that I should “prepare myself.” I was upset all day because I felt like I was essentialy leaving the bird out to die in the summer heat. After work I came home, expecting him to be dead, but he wasn’t, and I was relieved. So I took him inside, fed him, and he’s been with me for the past two weeks. I named him Icarus.

I kept feeding him, and he grew at an astonishing speed. I kept him cozy and warm with a nest made out of a ball of yarn and a heating pad. I would go home from work in the middle of the day every day to feed him, and would feed him several times an hour when I was home. He would sleep through most of the night and I would wake up at around 6 am to feed him, then go back to sleep and feed him again before I went to work a couple of hours later.

I’ve had him for two and a half weeks now, and he is now a fledgling with all his feathers. He can hop around and has started to fly. He can take off and land on his own, and takes short trips around the room. He likes to sit in the window and talk to the other house sparrows outside. We are teaching him how to eat on his own, and he is getting pretty good at eating bird seed. He should be ready to go out on his own pretty soon.

A particular house sparrow noticed his chirping and will come up to the window and perch on the windowsill or grasp the window screen and hang out with Icarus. We suspect that it is his mother. Once his flying skills are better, the plan is to start opening the screen and let him decide when he wants to go out on his own. He is a wild animal, and I don’t want him to live in captivity. Hopefully he can make it on his own, but if for some reason he can’t, I will of course take care of him. But he gets so excited when he sits at the window and hears and talks to the other birds, I just know he will be happier outside.

June 30, 2007 (Day 13, ~16 days old)

June 27, 2007 (Day 10, ~13 days old)

June 25, 2007 (Day 8, ~11 days old)

June 21, 2007 (Day 4, ~7 days old)

June 18, 2007 (Day 1, ~3 days old)