My mother has a bird feeder that attracts a lot of birds including goldfinches. One morning when the temperature was really low, I noticed a goldfinch sitting on the feeder, looking sluggish. I kept watch for a bit, but it didn’t seem to be moving much. I walked away and checked back in about fifteen minutes, and the bird was still there. I don’t know if it was eating–mostly it seemed to be occupying space–and I was worried it was diseased. (I figured I was going to have to bury the poor thing eventually and then scour the bird feeder.) A little while later, it started eating and then a while after that it perked up, ate a lot more, and then, happily, took off as if nothing was wrong with it, flying to the nearby tree and back to the feeder a few times before I lost track of it. It must’ve been sitting on the feeder over a half hour to an hour or so in total before it left. I don’t know when it had arrived there, so I’m wondering if a bird might roost at a feeder or be so cold that it moves slowly? I was just curious, and I thought someone might have some insights.
Do you think it might have smashed into something before you saw it? I volunteer with a bird rescue sometimes and we often get birds with concussions from hitting windows. After they’ve sat for a while, most of them revive.
Thanks for your reply. I don’t know. The feeder hangs by a chain from an arbor, so it would’ve been very lucky to have crash landed on the feeder, unless it hit the feeder accidentally and sort of plopped down on it. I guess it’s possible. That hadn’t occurred to me.
Sometimes it can take a long time, too. I came across a bird that had obviously hit a window (not mine), and I couldn’t walk away from it even though I couldn’t tell whether it was dead or not. I stood next to it for at least an hour so nothing would harm it, and finally it opened its eyes, then managed to get on its feet, then stood there another quarter hour or so, and then flew off.
I’ve done that too–a little bird hit a window at school, and the students called me in to help it (apparently because they heard I like animals). I watched it until it took flight again. I just didn’t realize they could knock out for so long. I guess the poor thing was stunned when I saw it. Thanks!
i think i would only be concerned if that particular goldfinch looked particularly lethargic while other goldfinches or other birds were actively moving around. i imagine that it i were caught outside during a cold night without good shelter options, i’d probably be sitting mostly in one spot, shivering, with as much clothing on as possible, and near food if possible (to fuel my shivering). so in a goldfinch, that might look like a bird with puffed feathers sitting on a bird feeder relatively motionless (shivering silently) until the sun warmed it up.
Thanks for the reply. Actually, for a long time, it was the sole bird at the feeder, so there were no other birds to compare it to, and by the time other birds arrived, it had begun to perk up. So, it might have just been a cold bird on a particularly cold day in northern Pennsylvania. I’m pretty sure that even in all my winter gear, I would beat the door down to get inside on that morning, so your explanation makes a lot of sense.
For future reference, if you (or anyone else) finds a bird that has just hit a window,
When a bird hits a building it needs a quiet, dark, safe place to rest and recuperate. If you find a bird on the ground by a building, gently place the bird inside an un-waxed paper bag or a small cardboard box. Handle the bird as little as possible. Make sure that the bag or box is closed. If you’re using a cardboard box, poke a few air holes so the bird can breathe. Use clean tissues or paper towels, rolled into a donut shape, as a perch for the bird to sit upright. Never feed the bird or give it water.
If the bird recovers after one hour, you will hear it fluttering inside the bag or box. Take the bird to a park, a ravine or another open area far away from windows and buildings. Slowly open the bag or box and let the bird fly out. You have just saved the life of a migratory bird.
If the bird remains unresponsive after one hour, take it to your local wildlife rehabilitation facility.
You can read more about how to make buildings safe for birds here.
And this reply is for @pisum and @scharf too. Never release the bird you recuperating. They can sustain injuries even though they look “fine” after hitting a window such as concussion, internal bleeding, etc. If a bird hits your window and it’s still alive, ALWAYS take it to rehab.
Question: Is there a list of rehabs somewhere? I live a mile or two from a very good one, but my mom does not–or at least I’m unaware of one.
I figured out about mine with just a simple google search.
BirdSafe.ca (link above) has a list of Canadian ones and a few in the USA. If you are outside of those areas, I’m not sure.
Thanks, I’ll look again. We tried to help a dove once that someone shot with a BB gun. So, we took it to a local vet, but the vet couldn’t help it. (The injuries were too extensive.) The vet didn’t know of any local bird rehabs, but it’s worth a more extensive online search. Northern PA is very rural.
If you’ve found an injured bird and there’s no bird rehab nearby, taking it to a vet is always better than nothing. They will do what they can and they usually know how to get in touch with the local wildlife rehab people. At least this is what I’ve been told for Australia.
The problem with vets though is that their answer is always put it down. I have had to many cases like that. At least a rehab will say, “It’ll probably die but we’re going to at least give it its best chance of survival.”
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