Temperatures had plummeted below normal for several days in a row in winter of 2013. Tracy Reynolds crossed the yard of her Campbell Range acreage on the southeast edge of Kamloops to check on her flock of chickens. She grew more concerned with each step when she noticed a soft bump on the cold, hard ground outside the coop.
It was a flutter, like a leaf flipping in the breeze, but it was enough to catch my daughter’s friend’s eye. In the middle of St. Paul Street, in mid-afternoon of a September day last week, we found an injured sparrow floundering as cars passed by. I scurried over to the crosswalk and picked her up. It was a grown female sparrow. Her wings seemed okay and she wasn’t bloodied at all, but as I carried her over to a green space beside a nearby building, I realized one of her eyes wasn’t open and her neck seemed floppy. Figuring she was just stunned, I set her in some bushes where I thought she’d be safe and we went on our way. When we headed back home, we stopped by to see how she was doing. As we neared the bushes, we saw a female sparrow take off into the sky. Good, I thought. She bounced back. Then we checked on the ground and found her. She was flopped over on her back, her neck bent in an uncomfortable position. Well, we couldn’t leave her, so she came home with us. I hoped that with a little bit of time and rest, she’d get better. We set her up in a box with a soft cloth. I gave her water from a syringe, which she gulped down despite being obviously scared. Her little body was heaving with frightened breathing. I didn’t think she’d make it through the night. But she did. The next day, she was still alive. But her neck and her closed eye weren’t any better. I put some bird seed into the box and gave her more water. When I set her back down, she kept trying to fly. The wings were willing, but she couldn’t get her head up. I sought information on the web and made a couple of calls. I reached an animal-health tech at a local vet clinic. She confirmed what I feared; a bird can break its neck and not die. That seemed to be the case for this poor sparrow. As much as I hated to do it, I carried the box to my car and drove to the clinic. The tech gently took the box and looked inside. The bird was definitely stressed and not doing well by that point. She took the sparrow away to quietly euthanize her. She wasn’t the first injured sparrow I’ve dealt with. But despite all the handling, she hadn’t tried to bite me. I can’t say that for another sparrow I met when I was a kid. My brother and I found him one Christmas Day. Chirpy was flapping around the snowbound yard. His wing was broken and had healed in a way that left him flightless. But he was alive. We caught him and kept him in a cage. He lived for a couple of years, but never did tame up. Chirpy was kept by a window and was happiest, or at least noisiest, when he saw other birds flying by or he was outside in the yard in his cage. As we had two cats, he had to stay in a room with the door closed. Even after two years of living in our house, he never gave in to domesticity. If I put my hand in the wrong place at the wrong time, his pointy beak pecked at me. I’m still not sure if he was better off being kept captive but alive, or free but likely dead in a few days. This female wasn’t pecky like Chirpy was. Probably because she didn’t have the strength in her neck. I felt like I should have made her a tiny little bird neck brace or something so she could have flown off into the sky. Birds are fragile creatures and I don’t know what happened to this one that she was so badly hurt, yet not dead. She tried so hard to fly. Nothing was going to make her neck better, however, and that’s what finally makes me feel an unsettled peace with having her euthanized.