Robert Kimmerle
executive branch in a nation of one

Sunday, August 03, 2003
 
I appear to be some sort of bird-magnet.

I have no idea how this happens. I'm not much of a wildlife guy, I can identify blue jays and male robins at a distance, but that's about it. But some time ago a group of birds built a nest *under* the air conditioner outside my bedroom window. I'm not entirely sure how, since there really isn't a whole lot of space, but sure enough there's a little mound of straw wedged in there, and from sunup to sundown this little family of birds chirps and twitters pleasantly. It's sort of nice.

Yesterday, however, I hear rattling in the far window of my living room. When I go over to inspect, there's a bird in there, caught between the inner glass window and the outer screen. It's a brown bird, mottled feathers, its head twitching frantically, little talons gripping the screen. Two other birds, its traveling companions maybe, perch on the windowsill outside, keeping the trapped bird's morale up and trying to devise an escape plan. They don't have much luck; the other birds take off.

Marty and Heather call; they're at the tail end of a wedding. Heather is fully and demonstrably in the bag when she gets on the phone.

"I've got a bird stuck in my window," I tell her.

"Ha ha," she says. "You're a loser."

Sometimes it's obvious why we're no longer together.

Marty ponders my plight for a moment. There was a 19th-century baseball player known as "Death to Flying Things"; this man was plausibly Marty in a former life. As far as he's concerned the entire existence of birdkind has evolved specifically for the singular purpose of shitting on his car. His sympathy, accordingly, is minimal, and his answer typically Darwinian.

"Leave him in there until he gets out or he dies," he says.

"Ewww," I emote. "Then I'll have a dead bird trapped on my windowsill in the middle of August. No, thanks."

I look over at the bird, who's come to rest in the sill but is still considering his options. The space through which he entered the window is maybe an inch wide, tops; it was bad luck to end up in here, but there's no way it can flap its wings to generate lift and still fit through the opening. I live on the second floor, but even if I had a ladder I couldn't open the screen from without. The window is stuck and then painted shut, though a bit of prying with the claw end of a hammer remedies that. I really don't want the bird *in* my apartment, but it's becoming obvious that I'll have to run that risk. The bird chirps once, weakly.

My first thought is that I'll be able to capture the bird in a box or bag and transport it to a more accessible open window, where I'll be able to let it loose. So I grab a trash bag, unfurl it, and open the window to about bird-height, with the mouth of the bag stretched across the opening. The bird thinks I'm a moron, and casts its vote by wedging itself into the far corner of the sill, as far from me as it can possibly get. I wait a bit, but the bird's not buying it and doesn't budge.

The ultimate answer is the easiest, of course. I set up obstacles on the windowsill to block most of the opening, to minimize the chance that the bird will fly in, and slide the inner window up enough to accommodate my two hands. The bird is clearly scared shitless of me by this time, and I'm not doing much better; I'm wearing gloves, just in case. Yes, gloves. I fumble with the screen mechanism, which hasn't been used at least since I moved in, but it creaks and gives way, and the screen slides up fitfully. The very instant the bird has enough clearance to get out, it tweets triumphantly and sails off.

On the windowsill I notice a couple spots of blood; the bird must have injured itself trying to scrabble its way out. As I leave my apartment a short time later I see a flock of these brown birds, dozens of them, wheeling in a great arc above the house and the street in front of it. So that's my humanitarian act for the day, or ornitharian or whatever you'd call it.


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