Blackbird in the bathroom

There is a lot of bird life in our new neighbourhood and many homes which own several cats, ours included. I always find myself very torn by the debate about outdoor cats and their affect on wildlife, as cat owner and bird lovers it’s always a heartbreaking moment when one brings home the latest victim of this conflict.

Looking out of my bedroom window early one evening, I spotted one of the local cats (not mine, fortunately) batting a small creature across the road with a paw. In a nearby tree a pair of blackbirds were making an almighty commotion, alarm calling furiously but watching on helplessly as their youngster attempted to flee.

Unable to just sit back and watch the inevitable, I leapt out of the house and scooped up the baby blackbird out of harms way whilst shooing away the feline. My attempts to return the young bird to the tree with it’s parents were sadly unsuccessful as the attack had left it unable to use one of it’s legs. Left with little choice I brought the blackbird inside in the hope it could be saved.

Fledgling blackbird with yellow gape still evident

Leaving the blackbird in a box in the dark to recover overnight my hopes weren’t high that it would survive the night. To my surprise the next morning the blackbird was alert and waiting open gaped in the hope of a meal.

The bird was a fledgling, probably around 2 weeks old and nearing independence. Blackbirds of this age are able to make purposeful flight and begin to find food for themselves, although the parents will supplement this for a little while longer.

Bright eyed and alert
Begging for food

The blackbird was now able to hop around and bare weight on both legs, although the foot was still knuckled over and effectively useless. Without the ability to perch or grip branches, this youngster would be at a huge disadvantage and unlikely to survive.

Using some cotton wool and micropore tape I gently manipulated the toes back into the correct position and strapped up the blackbird’s tiny delicate food (an incredibly fiddly job) in the hope that this might just provide enough support for the foot to heal itself.

The foot prior to bandaging
Foot back in the normal position and supported

One week, several packets of cat food and a whole lot of bird poo later the fledgling was now able to feed itself from a dish, and was now responding increasingly aggressively to my advances, clicking it’s beak in threat.

The time had come to remove the foot bandage and to my relief the blackbird was now able to bare weight and grip with the foot. It wasn’t perfect, and the foot would probably always be a little impaired but hopefully the repair would be sufficient to give this blackbird a chance at surviving in the wild.

Now able to perch, not perfect but good enough

A test flight around the bathroom and a final hearty meal to send it on it’s way, it was time to release this little survivor.

Releasing the blackbird where it came from was the ideal scenario but just not an option, and so I took it a short distance away to the Vicarage Lake. A lovely, peaceful spot which would offer plenty of food, trees to shelter in and most importantly no cats!

Opening up the box for release, the blackbird was at first hesitant to leave the safety within. With a chorus of birdsong all around, the youngster soon perked up and let out a few excitable chirps of it’s own before hopping out onto the grass. A few moments to get it’s bearing and it took flight, heading immediately for the safety of the nearby trees. Success!

Peering up into the tangle of branches, I was able to locate my little blackbird high in the sunlit canopy for one final photo. Good luck little one.

Returned to the wild

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All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography © 2022

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