Freeing a wild bird 1

Back in college, I had a part-time job as a clerk in the Biology Library. The blocks of time for student workers were after 5 or weekends, when the “real” librarians had time off and when the library was pretty quiet anyway. Because of the timing of my shifts, I was often in the building when there were few others around and the library was quiet. It was a great job, I mostly just did my studying and research and got paid for it.

At the time, the library was on the second or third floor of the older biology building. The stairwell to the library was often stinky with the sickly sweet scent from the fruit fly research on some lower floor in the building. Sometimes in nice weather the unscreened windows in the stairwell were opened to the breeze.

photo of a mourning dove

A mourning dove, close up

One spring Saturday morning or afternoon, as I climbed the stairs to the library, I heard a panicked flapping and fluttering. As I turned onto the landing with the windows I saw that a mourning dove had come in through the open window, and was trying to get out but could not. She kept crashing into the closed upper window sash, and didn’t know to go down to escape. Escaping up seemed to be her instinct.

I watched for a moment hoping she’d get it, and then, without thinking too much about it, walked up to her when she’d perched and got my hands around her body. I pushed my closed hands holding the bird out the open lower sash, and I let go enough so that I had one hand below her, and her wings and head were free. She sat for a moment quiet in my hand, facing the open sky and trees, perhaps she was stunned or paralyzed with fear. I lowered my hand a little, the way you might drop back a bit before tossing a ball, but I did not toss her. After a moment, she lifted off my hand and flew away.

I have no bird-handling skills or experience, but my need to free her from her trap overpowered my unease about finding a way to gently trap a wild creature. She was so light for her size in my hand, and she and I were both so scared. I continued up the stairs to my library shift, astonished.

Mourning dove photo made available through Creative Commons license by Flickr user Cotinus. Thanks!


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