This morning I stepped out of the front door and was immediately greeted by a tiny baby bird, standing in the middle of the concrete walkway that is the path to the front of our house. It just stood there, its head looking up at me, this towering human in front of it. The bird just shook a little but didn't move.
The first thing I noticed was that it seemed disoriented, wobbly even. It was standing on two feet but having a difficult time. And it didn't run - or fly - when it saw me. It just sat there, moving his little wings a little and blinking its big eyes at me.
I called out loud to my wife for help - she used to work for a pet rescue center - and she suggested we call the Irvine Police Department to get ahold of animal control. At this point my two sons ran out to see what all the commotion was about, and my wife grabbed a soft, clean towel to scoop up the little guy so he wouldn't get trampled by a toddler. My older son asked if he could help by holding him, and my wife and I both thought it would be OK with some guidance. My son held him as gently, with a touch as soft as anyone could possibly hold a fragile little animal, while I made the call.
Within a matter of minutes the Irvine Police Animal Services officer arrived, a professional and an expert. And thank goodness. I was an emotional wreck over the little bird being stranded, and I was trying my best to pretend I was strong and that everything was going to be fine. The Irvine animal services officer was calm and collected, and we were basically a group of emotional humans that were worried about what to do for this little guy. Was he sick? Hurt? Did he fall out of a nest? What do we do? How do we help him? Can we help him? Do you take him for rehabilitation? You're don't euthanize him, right?
We had a million questions. And she patiently, and thoughtfully, listened to us. She helped us to understand a few things:
First, the little bird wasn't hurt or sick. His feathers weren't all quite in yet. We're guessing gender right now, so I'll stick with a pronoun picked at random. She also pointed out that she can't take an uninjured bird or their nest; Both actions are illegal and a federal offense.
Also, he was either a pigeon or a dove, and most likely the latter. At this size it's a little hard to tell, but we have five nests in the exposed outdoor rafters of the walkway to our front door, and I know that at least three of them are dove nests. I've seen the mom or dad bird peeking over the edge of the nests down at me from time to time, and I've even seen them return when it's time to feed the little ones.
The animal services officer explained: "At the right age, when the baby birds are mature enough to set out on their own, the parent birds kick them out of the nest. If they don't, a single predator could get them all. Their chances of surviving go up if they're already out on their own."
Apparently the little ones still get fed by mama bird for a few days at least. The baby bird cries, the mama finds it and feeds it. She concluded by saying that the best thing to do was find a relatively safe spot close to where we found him.
After the animal services officer explained this, I checked with my son to make sure he heard and understood what she had shared, before releasing the little bird back into the "wild". He nodded, and gently started handing the baby bird, still snuggled in the towel, to the officer. She cupped him gently with both hands and found a nice little spot underneath a big bush, just off to the side of where we had found him. He just stood there a little, flexing his wings, and seemingly testing his balance, wobbling a bit on his feet.
As the officer walked back up to the driveway with us, my older son started asking a lot of questions. He was mesmerized by the entire event; Here was a police officer who spent her entire day with animal life? How is this possible? I'm sure up until that morning he though police officers simply waited for bank robberies, wreckless drivers and the like. She grabbed some Irvine Junior Police stickers for the boys from her truck, posed with them for a photo, then bid us farewell.
As she drove away, my son told me, "Papa, when I grow up I want to be a police officer that helps protect animals. They need our help."
I couldn't agree with him more. And I was proud of him for a different reason. For the first time ever, he matched up a profession with a cause.