The Story of the Nuthatch

by Peter
(San Fransciso area)

Thanks for all the work you did on this website. Obviously, you're a person with heart. Birds, as I'm sure your well aware, need such champions. Increasingly, their environment is getting stressed.

I live in the SF Bay Area---green (now) Marin Co. Lots of open space and woodsy hills and lakes, over 50 per cent of county protected. Still, a lot of the birds I used to see and hear even 10 years ago I don't anymore.

That's a big reason to help.

The other day something scared a pygmy nuthatch and it crashed into my window. I heard the thump and went out on my deck and saw it on its back, helpless, fluttering madly trying to right itself. It couldn't, completely disoriented. I picked it up and held it upright in my cupped hand, calming its frenzy, though its toes were curled under its body in a weird way. Then with my index finger I did tiny bird bodywork---periodically stroking gently from top of head to tail. At first it just sat there dazed, beak agape. I thought: "This bird might not make it."

I felt the bird's incredible warmth---the 105 degrees you mention---now imperceptibly draining. The morning was cold, frosty. I thought: "If this nuthatch is going to rally, it has to be soon. Every couple of minutes, it would seem to revive a little, turning it's head, looking up at the other nuthatches flocking to the hanging feeder, etc. Then again, it would fall back into a stupor. The nuthatch was really on the brink, fighting for its life.

A chickadee saw what I was doing, trying to help, and flew past my left shoulder as sat there cross-legged, holding the nuthatch. A chickadee commiserating?...Maybe, who knows?...Investigating, certainly!...

Finally after 15 minutes, the nuthatch turned its head sideways to look up briefly with one eye up at my huge human face staring down. I talked soft words.
Maybe they helped. After another couple of minutes, it suddenly burst from my palm to land on top of a deck chair, clinging upside down to a strip of plastic webbing. "Well, its toes are working." There it stayed, motionless, gathering strength. A couple of more minutes passed. Then in a flash, this tiny hero dove downward from its perch, did a one eighty and boomeranged back to rejoin its comrades in the leafless branches of a cherry plum tree. A haiku share, Susan----

Big cool air, small warm
dynamo, feathers' peeless cloak---
who, pray, holds patent?

---Peter H


A lovely story, Peter. Thank you for sharing.

Comments for The Story of the Nuthatch

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May 17, 2011
Paper Bags do nicely
by: Jacki from Canada

If a bird hits your window and falls, put it in a dark place (like a paper bag) for awhile until it comes around. When it wakes up it won't be dis-orientated when it's in the dark. Then after a bit, just let it go.

Feb 17, 2011
Nuthatch nursing
by: Anonymous

What a great story and it was nice of you to nurse that bird. I have a HUGE front window, (12 feet wide by 7 feet tall) and I see this happen almost daily in really cold weather. I watch the birds lay on the ground lifeless but in 15 minutes they rise and fly off. I police them until they fly away.

great story

Jan 04, 2011
So sweet!
by: Hayley

That was very nice! I am happy you helped that birdie!

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