When you come across a bird that doesn’t fly away, what do you do?
Today I found the most beautiful bird on our front landing. It was a small, frail-looking creature with delicate, powder-blue feathers on its head and wing, yellow on the breast and streaked with black and white. It was awake and standing but quite still, as if it were stunned from flying into the glass.
I knew I shouldn’t be picking up a bird and bringing it indoors, but I thought if I kept it safe from a marauding feline long enough for it to recover and fly away on its own, no harm done.
As I bent down to pick it up, a line from a book we read in 2nd-year Canadian Literature class came back to me: A bird in the house means a death in the house. I’m not superstitious, so the thought was only fleeting, and besides: that was something else. The character in the Margaret Laurence story says an errant bird flying into an open window is a bad omen. This isn’t the same thing. I’m bringing it inside. It’s my decision.
I cupped it gently and shouldered the door open, noticing how still the bird was. It wasn’t even twitching. I wondered what kind it was, too. Later K. told me it was a Blaumeise in German. So much more beautiful a name than blue tit, don’t you think?
Once upstairs and inside, I set it on the kitchen table and picked at a piece of bread to make some crumbs to lay before it. Thinking it might be a good idea to close the sliding door to the kitchen just in case, I turned around to do so and in that very moment the bird for the first time came to life, fluttering around in circles and landing atop the shelving above the counter opposite the oven.
So I stood on a chair and climbed up onto the counter with some more breadcrumbs, but just as I reached up to lay them at its feet it flew away again, this time to a far top corner of the kitchen. Because it was so high I could no longer see it, I went downstairs to fetch the stepladder, but when I returned, it was gone.
Or so I thought. Because as I was setting up the ladder I thought I heard a rustling sound from behind the built-in cabinets just to the left of the fridge. Damn. Somehow the bird had flown into a space about a foot wide and three inches deep reaching all the way down to the floor – perhaps the worst place in the house for it to go.
While angling a flashlight and mirror in an awkward attempt to find it I thought: this is the death in the house. That bird is going to die, trapped behind the shelving because there is no way to dismantle the built-in kitchen without tearing it apart.
I pulled away the flashing that runs along the bottom of the cabinets to try to find a way up behind the shelving from underneath, but the way was sealed shut. More fluttering and rustling from behind the shelves. Was it going to hurt itself?
Just as I was contemplating how long I should wait before hacking through the back of the shelving to free an escape route up he flew. He perched for a minute before flying off and hitting the window – probably for the second time within an hour – and then fell to the floor. I picked him up, opened the window and off he flew.
I won’t be bringing home any more birds anytime soon.
Flashback: hummingbird in hands