Saturday morning, I idly looked out my window and saw, as usual, my elderly neighbor Vinnie sitting on his folding chair on the sidewalk doing his sudoku. And then something extraordinary happened--a stunning, yellow cockatiel flew down and landed on the sidewalk not ten feet from him.
I watched for a few moments while Vinnie stared at it in disbelief, then got up and approached it in obvious perplexity. "Okay, so this is really happening," I said to myself.
I was still in my bathrobe, but wanted to help. Although I have no experience with birds, I must have once heard that, "to catch a bird, use a towel," so I grabbed one and headed out.
The bird, who was clearly someone's escaped companion, was very tame and let us get close to him (or her). I stuck out a finger, hoping he would perch; he only gave me a (friendly? boundary-establishing?) nip and backed off.
Vinnie then proffered his sudoku book, which the bird disdained to stand on.
I remember thinking to myself something along the lines of, "Stop hesitating, you fool! Throw the towel on him!" But I did hesitate--mainly because I wasn't 100% sure that that was the right thing to do and I didn't want to risk hurting him. Also, because I didn't know what I would do with him once I had caught him.
I approached the bird again, half-heartedly preparing to toss the towel over him as gently as possible, but abruptly he flew off. I watched with awe mingled with regret as he made a graceful, yellow arc over the local buildings, which looked drabber in his wake. Vinnie and I spoke for a few moments about how things probably wouldn't end well for him--he probably wouldn't be able to find any food, and would probably fall prey to a cat or skunk. Then I went back upstairs to resume my day.
The first thing I did was google, "How to catch a bird." A towel is, indeed, one way to do it.
I've been thinking about that bird ever since. I wish I had thrown the towel over him when I had the chance. This episode reminds me that sometimes you have to act quickly, even if the stakes are high and you don't have all the information you need. The worst-case scenario I was picturing if I attempted rescue was that I would somehow break one of the bird's wings; that would have been bad, but Google tells me it's a repairable injury--and even if it isn't, getting euthanized by a vet would probably be highly preferable to whatever is likely to happen to the bird outdoors.
As far as what I would have done with him after rescuing him, of course I would have put him in a comfortable box and contacted Cockatiel Rescue or brought him to a local animal shelter.
Wherever you are, little fellow or girl, I really hope you're doing okay.
Okay, so this is one of those blog posts I really don't know about. Is the principle of acting fast during critical situations in the absence of complete information valid? Or is it likely to be counterproductive, and I've drawn the wrong conclusion? I'd like to hear from everyone on this, and of course if you're a bird rescuer I'd really like to hear from you.