DVIDS – News – Rescued bird steals hearts before its return to nature

Temperatures were rising 100 degrees by noon in eastern Sacramento on July 9. However, Sacramento County Corps of Engineers contractors and construction workers made steady progress on the Sacramento River East Levy project, until a contractor noticed something out of place.

Amid the hustle and bustle of activity, contract worker Roberto Navarrez spotted two gray-haired birds sitting on the embankment, right in the path of a huge bulldozer moving along a mound of dirt. He noticed several long branches of a huge oak tree extending over the dam, but he couldn’t see any nest anywhere in the tree.

Assuming the chicks had fallen or jumped from their nest, Navarrese continued watching the pair, hoping that they would soon be caught by their parents. Unfortunately, neither the mother bird nor the father appeared.

With construction equipment so long gone and the midday heat now exceeding 104 degrees, Navarrez realized that the chicks needed to move out of harm’s way and quickly. Frightened to transport it himself, he reached out to wildlife biologist Pete Morris of Nordic, the contractor for the SREL Contract 2.

Arriving at the scene, Morris noticed the birds and decided that the chicks should be taken out of the sweltering heat if they had a chance to survive. He then retrieved a small cardboard box, and the two rogue chicks were gently collected and returned to the USACE trailer.

Once inside the air-conditioned building, the two larger chicks were immediately able to climb out of the box and began to navigate, interact with the rescuers, and “peep their lungs.” However, the younger brother seemed to suffer. She remained calm and still, holed up in a makeshift nest.

Unsure of what to do next, someone brought up the name Lee Roork. Working on dams as a Quality Assurance representative for the Sacramento area at USACE, Rourke was known as a thirsty bird. He can often be seen on breaks or at lunchtime examining birds and nests with his binoculars. Rourke has also been known to take injured owls or hawks to various wildlife sanctuaries around Sacramento in the past, so he seemed the right person to call.

Rourke knew the ideal solution was to return the stray chicks to the tree they fell from in the hope that one of the mother birds would return to collect them. He mashed some blackberries and seeds, providing some food for the obviously predatory children, and then went back to put the box and the birds in the tree. But as soon as the cardboard “nest” was attached to a branch, the two larger chicks jumped out of the box. An adult scrub jaguar immediately pounced and started interacting with the chick as they both hurriedly sped to the nearby brush.

When Rourke returned to work, the smaller, weaker bird remained in the nest, but Rourke wanted to give the parents time to return and take care of their child. He said he did intermittent checks all day, but found that no parent would come near the “nest” that houses abandoned baby Jay.

By the end of the workday, Roark said, it looked too bleak for the lonely nest.

“I was sure the little bird wouldn’t live another 24 hours unless someone helped him. She was in really bad shape, so I decided to try to help her, rather than letting her die,” said Rourke.

He then sent a one-sentence text to his wife, Susan Rourke (also a USACE employee, who was working remotely from home not far from the SREL site). “Would you like to raise the peeled baby?” Read the text.

Susan, who is an animal enthusiast who also has a lot of experience with rescues, sent in a one-word response… “Sure!”

Susan got into search mode, scouring bird rescue websites for relevant information and discovering that scrub birds eat everything from soft cat food and mealworms to local berries, fruits, and seeds. What they never found out was whether “Blu Blu” (the name commented) was male or female.

“Their colors and markings look extraordinarily similar,” Susan said. So, we went with her most of the time.”

However, a bigger question remained: Will Blu succeed? For the first 24 hours, Blue barely moved. She sat flabby, holed up in her new nest. But on the second day, Susan was able to get her some food and water in, and she said the transformation was amazing.

“She started interacting with us wholeheartedly, eagerly taking water through a tiny dispenser under the skin, devouring healthy portions of food, behaving alert, responsive and curious — she was making her way,” Susan said.

From that moment on, Blu’s future did not seem in doubt. She continued to grow stronger, increasing appetite and growing faster than Susan and Lee thought possible.

“We were absolutely amazed at how quickly it grew,” Susan said. “We would go to bed and when we would check on her the next day it was like looking at a new bird—the feathers were showing up where there had been none before, their tail feathers were an inch longer, their little feet and claws were growing fast.”

From the start, Susan, Lee, and their teenage daughter Jillian approached Blu’s care with an end goal in mind – releasing her back into the wild. To do this, they tried to get Blu to do things she should do in the wild, like find her food, crack nuts, catch flies, and build her flying power. But they also found that Blu had many of these traits ingrained in her DNA, and soon she began eating and hiding it in various locations within the house for later eating.

“Our biggest concern was whether Blue was able to learn all the things she needed to survive in the real world,” Susan said. “We felt it was important to make sure she had challenges and tasks to discover, as she did when we released her, so we regularly run into problems so she can solve them. We have always been amazed at how quickly she was able to learn each one of them and master the skills involved.

In its early weeks, Little Blue was literally Susan’s pet project. While Lee was working on the levees, and Jillian went to school, Blow was working remotely with Susan, tapping on the keyboard to help her type, jumping and mischievous—along with the occasional typo—pulling her earrings, moving, stealing stickiness— Notes… only to suddenly snuggle up in a ball of fuzz, sleep on her wrist, or snuggle warmly on her neck.

“Bleu has become such a wonderful companion, and I knew I would miss her very much when we released her,” Susan said. “But even though we all became very attached to Blue and loved the experience of raising her, the ultimate plan for her release was never in doubt.”

With two months of Roork’s sponsorship, Blu’s transition has been amazing. As of late August, she had made the complete transition from a chick on the brink of death to a tough, smart scrub peel ready to enjoy the great outdoors. Blu has earned the status of an expert aerial acrobat, regularly zooming around the house, finding hidden peanuts, catching flies in the air, bathing in a blue Frisbee, and generally behaving like an adult bird. And she was spending more and more time staring out the window…

Acknowledging Blu’s progress, Susan Lee has decided that the Blu’s release date to Nature will be during the Labor Day holiday. Even knowing from the start that they would give Blue her freedom to fly, they both admitted that they were quite fascinated by the feisty, feathered creature.

“For a brief moment, we thought about turning the Great Chicken Coup into a bird sanctuary for her…but we knew it wouldn’t be fair,” Susan said. He agreed to me quickly.

Susan and Lee focused on the original plan, and began discussing the details. On Labor Day, they would take Blu’s dog cage sized hideaway into the backyard, sit with her for a while, let her acclimatize to being outside, and when they could finally swallow their doubts (and hearts), they’d open the door and see if Blu was ready for the big blue sky .

Then, just as unexpectedly as the little bird came back to its life, Blue was gone. During a visit from a neighbor, Blu made the decision for everyone involved, and walked through the slightly open front door into the nearby trees. She screamed and ran up to Susan for a few moments, but she kept going from tree to tree, moving further and further away from the house. Finally, Susan saw Blow join some other scrub peel and start flying with them.

“Although the plan was always to release her, we were heartbroken. But only because her release didn’t happen on our schedule. We were just surprised and disappointed that we couldn’t make her an official goodbye,” Susan said.

However, despite the way it turned out, both Susan and Lee said it was a wonderful once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“It was a unique experience to say the least,” he told me. “I wouldn’t have brought this little bird home unless I really thought he wouldn’t make it. I had no idea how demanding these little birds were and how much care they needed. But I think we did what we could to help it survive in the wild” .

Shortly after closing, Blu was back in some trees beside Roork’s house shortly after she left. Susan said they had one last “conversation,” as Bleu jumped from branch to branch, passionately shadowing and shadowing them as they walked down the street.

Watch Blu . Video Photo Album


The Sacramento Wildlife Service understands that there are occasions when birds and wildlife need our help. In general, if you see a baby bird that has fallen from its nest, leave it until you are absolutely sure that there are no mother birds. The mother bird is the best chance for survival. If you are not sure, leave it/be. Wildlife Welfare Society – 916-965-9453.

Appointment booked: 09.20.2021
Announcement date: 12.30.2021 16:19
Story ID: 412191
Location: Sacramento, California, United States

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