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I saved a chickadee’s life

I helped save a chickadee’s life on Saturday. Here’s a photo of the little fella in the palm of my hand.

Meet Chick Norris

This little chickadee stayed in my hand for about 10 minutes until he flew away. I have since come to name him Chick Norris because he can take a licking and keep on ticking. Other name considerations: Chick Dee (à la Public Enemy).

How I came to know this little chickadee

On Saturday, following a family expedition on the Rivanna Trail, my son came running into the backyard where I was and said, “There’s an injured bird on our front porch.”

I walked around to the front of the house and a little chickadee had his eyes closed and looked as if it was dead. I’m assuming he flew into the porch light fixture since my son said he “dropped from the ceiling.”

Unsure of what to do, I asked my daughter to bring me my gloves so I could pick him up. That way, the little bird would have a soft spot to lay. At that moment, he started squirming and looked like he was convulsing into a seizure. I’m not sure if this is what shock looks like in birds or if he was just coming to.

According to our impromptu research at the time, done by my wife Allison, many birds go into shock when they get injured. Many die from shock as a result.

Wanting to avoid that, I stroked the little chickadee’s head while he lay on the patio and told him he was going to be okay. I continued to stroke his head gently once I got him into my hand. His eyes opened and so did his mouth. He looked absolutely terrified. I probably would look terrified, too, if some giant creature with a thick beard was holding me in the palm of his hand.

To keep him calm, I sat with him in the shade under our Japanese maple. My kids were nearby and Henry caressed him on his head as well. My daughter squirt some water to the tip of a medicine dropper and the bird drank the tiny drops from the end. We didn’t force it water and did no food whatsoever.

We learned after the fact you’re not necessarily supposed to give an injured bird water; but, again, we didn’t squirt it down the bird’s throat. It drank from the tip of the dropper if it wanted. That seemed to perk him up a bit. He went from looking dazed and confused with his mouth wide open and his eyes bewildered to very zen-like.

A few minutes later, he perched in my hand. I held him up to the Japanese maple to see if he wanted to step off my hand onto a branch, but he clutched onto my glove as if not right now, buddy. I’ll hang out here a bit longer.

Ten minutes and a few drops of water later, the little chickadee flew off into a nearby tree where he rested for about fifteen minutes, then flew off to join his buddies.

I’ve since learned that the little bird I call Stephen King who plays the tin whistle is indeed the chickadee. I always figured it was a swallow of some sort. Nope. Chick Norris.

This was easily one of the most touching experiences of my life: to hold something so small and fragile in the palm of your hand and watch it fly off to freedom.

I felt like it was a bit of a redeeming moment for me as well. Once, when I was young, I went with my dad hunting. On that trip I shot a bird by mistake, which I brought home and tried to save. Despite staying outside with it almost all night, I wasn’t successful. It was the last time I ever picked up a gun.

Special thanks to my son for finding the injured bird, my daughter for helping with the medicine dropper, and my wife for doing our in the moment research on how to help an injured bird.

By Jeffrey Pillow

Jeffrey Pillow is an American short story writer, memoirist, and poet. He is the author of The Lady Next Door. His writing has been published in Urge Magazine, The Nervous Breakdown, 16 Blocks, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, TheBody.com, New York Times, Washington Post, and Richmond Times-Dispatch.

He grew up in the small town of Phenix, Virginia, population: 200, and now lives in Charlottesville with his wife, two kids, and a dog named Mozzarella Cheese. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia where he was a Rainey Scholar. This is his blog.

One reply on “I saved a chickadee’s life”

Jeff, when I started reading your blog, my 1st thought went back to your 1st AND last hunting experience with the little bird you brought home that day when you were a little boy. I remember you racing in the house asking me to find a shoebox quick and together we pulled grass from the yard for a bed and you tried your best to will that little bird back to life, but failed.

I’m glad the little chickadee felt the love and regained it’s strength and was able to take flight.

I’m also glad you were able to redeem yourself from that day many years ago that left you so sad.

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