A bit of time has passed since the last chapter in the Jack Sparrow saga. If you care to refresh your memory of the story, or if you are new to Jack’s story, the previous three posts are here: (First) https://earthwisehorse.com/jack-sparrow/ , (Second) https://earthwisehorse.com/jack-sparrow-2/ , (Third) https://earthwisehorse.com/jack-sparrow-3/
Jack clutched his perch in the closet. His beak was half open as he panted. His feathers were all puffed out. I managed to close my mouth after his unexpected flight and began to think about how I would catch him. Since I had not handled him except to pick him up a few times for photos, he was not comfortable seeing a hand descend to grab him. A good thing, but now I had to catch him with the minimum of stress. I ran downstairs to get a dishtowel made from lightweight cheesecloth. I waded through the cats outside the bedroom door. They tried to practice their ghosting-through-doors ability which did not look as if it worked. I slipped inside and clicked the door shut behind me. Jack was still in the closet. I tiptoed as close as I thought I could get without startling him into flight, and draped the dishtowel over him. He struggled, but I lifted him with soft fingers and placed him back in his bucket nest. I covered it with the cloth and weighted down the edges of the cloth outside the bucket with a couple of books. For the moment, Jack was contained and could breath through the open weave of the cloth.
I took a deep breath. Still somewhat in shock over Jack as he burst from his bucket on wings, I saw our journey had turned a page and Jack was closer to the freedom I had envisioned for him. Luckily, the day I had left Jack with Mom and Dad out at the ranch to run errands, I had found a cage at the local pet store for him. It was time for Jack to move from his bucket to the cage. However, the spaces between the bars on the cage were not quite narrow enough to keep Jack inside. My boyfriend suggested that we line the cage with a wire mesh with small square spaces Jack could not fit through. A good idea and this we did. The wire mesh was zip tied to the inside of the cage. I lined the bottom of the cage with paper and wood shavings. We broke a couple of dead branches off of the golden willow tree in the backyard and situated them in the cage for Jack to perch on. Then I set the bucket nest and Jack inside the cage. I rested the bucket on its side and made sure the door of the cage was fastened securely.
Jack hopped out of his bucket and fluttered around in his cage. He clung to the wire mesh between flights. Then he landed on the branch, proud of himself as he figured out what it was for. He delighted in his branch, and hopped sideways along its length. Then his lively brown eyes met mine and he fluttered his wings and cheeped his hungry cheeps. I zipped downstairs for his softened cat food and a toothpick.
Jack balanced on his branch as I reached in the cage with his food on the toothpick. He opened his beak as usual and grabbed the food. At least this had not changed. Jack was still happy to eat as he always had. He ate his fill, then began to flutter around the cage and cling to the sides. He wanted out. I wanted to let him out. I hated to see animals in cages. Before this could happen, I had to research how to go about letting him out into the world to give him the best chance possible at life as a wild sparrow.
Downstairs, I flipped open my laptop, fired it up and got on the internet. Soon I found Big Sky Bird Rescue, in southwest Montana near the community of Big Sky. Their mission is this: Big Sky Bird Rescue (BSBR) is a non-profit organization which rescues, rehabilitates, and releases injured, sick, or orphaned wild birds. We provide essential care, nutrition, and shelter for wild bird species found in the Big Sky area. Our goals are to successfully return birds to their natural environment and to fulfill our community’s demand for rehabilitation services for the more than 400 native bird species of Montana.
This mission statement is from Big Sky Bird Rescue’s internet page, bigskybirdrescue.com. As an aside, I was surprised to learn Montana had 400 native bird species. A recent post on their Facebook page said they had reached capacity with the birds they could care for and were not accepting any more at this time. What?! I had been prepared to drive Jack 356 miles to the bird rescue people. Now, I would have to do this myself.
I called Big Sky Bird Rescue just to make sure they were full, and to beg a little if they were only close to full. The polite lady I spoke to reiterated they could not even manage one little sparrow. Well, full is full. I then asked her what I should do, and this is how she responded.
She complimented me on Jack’s progress so far. Personally, I think it had more to do with Jack’s will to survive. She said as he was flying he was almost ready to be freed. Now that Jack was in his cage, I was to set him outside several hours a day in the area he would be released. This would familiarize him with its sights and sounds. Before Jack could be released, he had to learn to eat his food by himself and not be fed by me. My heart rebelled at this. I adored how Jack asked to be fed and loved to feed him. It was a direct, visceral connection to a wild being that filled an empty space inside. But I could not keep Jack forever. He was meant to be wild. I refocused on the conversation. The lady went on to say once Jack was familiar with his surroundings and eating on his own, it was time to set him free. She suggested letting him go in the morning so he would have all day to get his bearings before nightfall. That was it. She made it sound concise, easy, and straightforward. All in a neat little package.
That afternoon, I began to place Jack’s food on a paper plate on the floor of his cage. He did not spend much time on the bottom of his cage. At night, he crept into his bucket, which was on its side in the cage, and rested under a fold of cloth. The rest of the time Jack was on his branch or fluttering around as best he could in the cage. I lured Jack down to the plate with a toothpick loaded with his food. He was still focused on being fed by the “beak” which hovered above him and would not look down for food. Gradually he began to notice that there were pieces of his food on the paper plate, and one day he began to peck at them.
Now for the familiarization with the backyard where I would set Jack free. It was also the same place I had found him, so it all fit right together. The next morning I shut the cats in the bookroom. If I had not, I knew as I carried Jack in his cage down the stairs and out the sliding door to the deck, they would mill around my feet. Chances were good Jack, the cage and I would all end up in a heap at the bottom of the stairs if the cats were out and about. While Jack hung out in the backyard, the cats were shut in the house, period. They yowled to no avail.
I set Jack and his cage on the deck and stepped away. He was puzzled and clutched his branch. He tipped his head from side to side to take in the outdoors. The sparrows that lived in the top of the fir tree chattered among themselves, as always. Jack began to sing forth calls that were longer and louder than his “hungry” cheeps. New words for him. I went inside to wash the dishes where I could keep an eye on Jack from afar. He stayed on his branch with his feathers slicked down close to his body. I splashed around in the sink, then glanced out a few minutes later. A sparrow had landed on the deck near Jack! They stared at one another for several seconds, then the wild sparrow flew off. Was it one of Jack’s parents, or just a curious sparrow? I was excited that Jack’s calls had caught the interest of another sparrow. Maybe all of this would work out after all. In a day or two I figured Jack would be ready to fly off into the wide world.
Postscript: Big Sky Bird Rescue, http://www.bigskybirdrescue.com,is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that relies solely on donations. If you are looking for a place to donate that is local and helps our wild birds, Big Sky Bird Rescue is a worthy cause. I cannot thank the lady enough who I spoke with regarding Jack’s care for her generous information. Also, “like” their Facebook page.