Birds have a remarkable way of adapting with handicaps. We as human beings time and time again underestimate a bird’s ability to overcome obstacles thrown their way. I have included two stories below that represent a bird’s amazing ability to adapt to cruelties Mother Nature has cast upon them. After reading these stories perhaps a handicapped bird in your life will be looked upon with a new understanding. If at all possible, a few changes to their surroundings or a little extra time on your part can help provide your little one with a chance to live life to his/her fullest. I understand there are times when a handicap is too large to overcome and putting the bird to sleep is the best solution, but look at the situation with wide open eyes before making the decision to end the bird’s life.
The day the Chestnut Flanked White Zebras fledged I knew there was a problem. Three of the four were puttering around in the cage bottom while one sat alone against the corner. I scooped him up and discovered that his eyes were sealed shut: rather crusty looking. I immediately called my avian vet who said to bring him in. He diagnosed the condition as “Pink Eye”. Thought the parents had gotten food in his eye while feeding. Prescribed saline solution 2-3 times daily until the condition cleared up. I named this one B.B.(blind babe). At that time I did not know whether the chick would be male or female. Within about a week the eyes cleared up and BB began catching up to the abilities of his clutch mates. Within a month, though, the condition returned. I again called the vet. This time the diagnosis was not pink eye but an eyelid disorder. Bad draw of the cards by Mother Nature he said.
Not a genetic trait passed on by the parents. At least that gave me a little relief. The eyelids on B.B would not close all the way making his eyes dry out, which in turn caused them to crust over leaving him in total darkness. I was left with the following decisions; either put B.B. to sleep or administer saline and lubricating eye drops daily for the rest of his life. I of course opted for the eye drops.
My husband thought I was crazy. "Don’t you have enough to do?" he asked. I didn’t care. B.B. could live a decent happy life if only he could see. So the ritual began. Every morning I would call to B.B. who would hide in fright because he knew it was “eye drop time”. Within a month the lubricating eye drops worked so well he now only needs the drops a couple times a week. His clutch mates were long since adults. Agile flyers and completely independent. B.B.’s development ran behind due to his eye condition. Today B.B. is housed with the female zebras. I have been afraid to move him in with the males due to the fact that he would be picked on because of his weakness. He is not a very good flyer. He divebombs to the bottom of the aviary and then zooms straight up when he is done eating. He has never shown any interest in breeding, which is good considering he is housed with about twenty females. He is meek, timid, nature rewards him with being a king with a harem.
I am so glad I opted for the eye drop ritual versus putting him to sleep. He lives a great life in the only aviary he will ever know. A little extra time on my part allows him to see the world more clearly and to blissfully go about his every day business.
The second story deals with a handicap that can be far more difficult for a bird to overcome. Upon banding a clutch of owls, I discovered that two in the clutch did not have fully formed feet. The deformity was so severe I thought there was no hope for them. Once again, a trip to the vet. To my surprise the deformity was caused by a medication the vet had prescribed for the mother of the clutch. She had injured her foot and had not been able to grip the perch. The medication when applied would sink into the skin down into the tendon with the hopes that it would help in it’s healing. Unfortunately, the vet had not told me to refrain from breeding the pair until the treatment was finished. So here sat two little owls with terrible deformities. I thought for sure the vet would recommend putting them to sleep.
Again, to my surprise he said that birds were remarkably able to adapt with this sort of deformity if you provided them with an environment capable of handling their shortcomings. I immediately took two wood dowels and taped them together. I covered the dowels with gravel paper to provide the birds plenty of room to balance. Secondly, I took a V-shaped manzanita perch and covered the V-section with gravel paper which provided the birds with a good size platform to rest on. Today the birds are housed together in a flight cage with these special perches. Their water is kept in a shallow terra cotta bowl allowing them to drink from it without having to perch on it. Their food bowls are cat feeder bowls also quite shallow allowing them to eat again without having to perch on them. These remarkable little birds have truly overcome their handicap.
They live a happy life and never cease to amaze me. They have become so skilled at balancing that they are even able to balance on regular size perches by resting their bodies upon them.
So bottom line, folks. Think long and hard before ending a bird’s life. These remarkable creatures are able to overcome even the tallest obstacles. Perhaps we as human beings could learn a little from our feathered friends.
© lady gouldian finch.com 2011