Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Summer in Wisconsin is full of wildlife and so I am extra alert while driving to avoid harming the various creatures I catch glimpses of as they dart into the ditches. I keep a weather eye, especially for turtles, and help them cross when I can. I was heading into to town when I spotted a tuft of brown on the ledge of a bridge over the Red Cedar river. Quickly stopping my car I ran back to find an adult Cedar Waxwing sitting calmly next to the guard rail. He was clearly incapable of flight and I was horrified to think of him being crushed by a car or drowned in the river or dying from a lack of food and water.

He didn't fight me as I scooped his small body into my hand and drove him back to my house. Upon closer inspection it was clear that he was unable to properly control his legs or wings. And while his appendages seemed to function he could not fly nor could he perch. My hope was that he was just stunned or temporarily disabled and with a day or two of rest he would be well enough to be released. I also knew the reality is that the shock of an incident is often enough to end the life of such a delicate bird. I tried to remain unattached as I made him as comfortable as I could. He rested on a soft towel in a cardboard box placed in a quiet room. If he made it through the next 24 hours then I felt he had a chance.

I left him alone for a couple of hours to rest and when I went back to look at him he was still alive and alert. A good sign! Whenever I have stumbled across an animal in need I've found the best way to show you mean no harm is by a peace offering of water then food. I placed a shallow saucer of water in the box but the Waxwing showed no interest. I decided to tempt him by dipping the tip of my finger in the water and touching the droplet to his beak. I was thrilled to see his throat moving as he swallowed. After another couple of drops he was reaching his beak up to drink the droplet on his own. I gave him water until he stopped reaching for the drops and let him rest again. Next I scrounged around for any berries I might have in the fridge. Thankfully there was a nice selection of raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries. Time to see if the little guy had an appetite to eat. Like the water I held the fruit in front of his beak and without further prompting the Waxwing began to greedily rip off chunks of the berries! I was more than pleased to see this very normal behavior from an obviously damaged bird. Throughout the day I gave him as many berries as he could eat and was rewarded with a lot of well processed berry bird droppings in his box.

It was still with trepidation that I checked on him the following morning. Of course I was already head over heels for the beautiful little bird and was desperately praying he would be a survivor. My heart soared as I saw him cock his head to regard me with a bright and glossy black eye. He continued to increase his appetite over the next two days but I did not see any improvement as to controlling his wings or legs. Thankfully I was able to find a wildlife rehabilitator in my area and the Cedar Waxwing has now been in her care for over a week. I received an update that he has just started to perch again so I continue to hope that he will get well enough to be released. Cedar Waxwings have always been a favorite bird of mine and I was grateful I could give this one a second chance. The video below is from the first day when I was feeding him berries by hand.