Sunday, January 16, 2011


A woman walks into the shelter while I'm chatting with one of the staff at the front desk. She has a box in her hands and it's too small to hold a kitten, so immediatly I know it's headed for the Room.
"I found a bird." She says, looking concerned. "It was in the stairwell at work, I think it's in shock."
"What kind of bird is it?" Asks one of the staff, expecting a pigeon or some other wild bird (many wild animals are brought injured or dead to TAS).
"I don't know." The woman answers. "It's yellow."
Not a wild bird.
"Canary?" I guess.
We open up the box and yup, it's a canary. The little guy is huddled in the corner, scruffed up and looking very cold. After all, it's -8 degrees outside.
As the woman tells the staff her details and how she found the bird, I examine him for signs of injury - healthy birds tend not to be easy to catch.
He's had a lot of feathers ripped out of his neck (fight in the aviary?), he's a little dirty and he's clearly very cold. Other than that, we pronounce him healthy and take him upstairs.
By this point, he's bouncing around in the box. It's difficult to move him into his new cage, because he does not want to be grabbed by a giant hand, thank you very much.
As soon as he's in the cage and sitting on a perch, something becomes obvious.
"What's with your leg?" I ask, bewildered. It's sticking out as though broken, but he's obviously not in pain and hopping around without hesitation. In fact, he starts talking immediately, beeping and chirping his alarm at his new home. Not shy, this guy.
A staff member who's familiar with birds comes in to investigate the weird leg.
"It must've fractured at some point," He says, holding the very annoyed canary. "And it healed wrong. See, it's at an awkward angle."
"Doesn't seem to bother him," I note.
He shrugs. "Just put a note on his card and leave him be."
This little guy arrived last Wednesday. Kudos toward the woman who brought him in, because a lot of people see lost pet birds and just assume they're fine in the wild. No, they're not! This guy was way too cold out there and for all we know, he wouldn't have survived the night.
We've since named him Summer, and he's hilarious. He's not shy at all and jumps right up to people to check them out. He's also very vocal and was already singing his first day at the shelter! Canaries typically sing only when comfortable and safe, so colour me surprised.
I am extremely familiar with broken legs in canaries, thanks to my girl Carmen (above). Last December, my lovebird figured out how to get into Carmen's cage to eat her seed (since the parrots only get seed as a treat, this is a constant mission for them). This wouldn't have been a problem, except that Carmen flew at him and as a reflex, he snapped at her. His beak being the size of her head and her leg being as thin as a twig, he nearly snapped it in two. It was broken and stripped to the bone and she lost a third of her blood.
Luckily, I live close to my vet, and we rushed her there. She was given fluids and her leg was splinted and we crossed our fingers. A large vet bill and a month later, she was hopping around like nothing had happened, her leg perfectly straight and without even a scar.
These photos of Carmen were taken after she recovered from her injury. Birds are spectacularly fast healers. If they survive the initial injury, they tend to heal extremely quickly.
Obviously I don't know the exact circumstances, but I wish more people thought to take their small birds to the vet. If properly cared for, canaries can live past 10 years. Aren't they worth medical care? There are few things more gratifying than seeing an animal come back to 100% after a devastating injury.
Summer is a super little guy, and while he favours his wonky leg a bit (after all, their legs aren't designed to sit like that), he's got an awesome personality. I hope he doesn't have to wait too long, although he and the finches seem to enjoy each other's company. The Room is turning into an aviary!


Jude said...

What a sweet story, Marg! It's me, Jude, from Flickr. When I read that Carmen had died, I went to this blog to read more about Carmen & started with this story. Glad to know Summer did well & surprised to read how fast birds can heal. I love birds but don't know enough about them. Glad someone like you does who can teach us more.

Off to read more about Carmen.

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