view from central park

Encountering a fallen bird in the big city


For many years I have made a concerted effort to be more punctual. I used to be terrible and I really worked on it. In my mind 10 or even 15 minutes was still within the realm of punctuality. Although I’ve improved a lot, every once in a while I find myself still running a bit late. I’ve learned not to give reasons or explanations for the tardiness, but just a gracious apology. People aren’t interested in hearing what to you is a legitimate reason, but to them is just another excuse amounting to “my dog ate my homework.”

Yesterday afternoon I was walking briskly in order to complete errands so I could meet up with a friend an hour later for coffee. This person and I have been friendly at social engagements and shul, but it was our first time meeting up, so it was especially important to me to be punctual.

Suddenly, as I was rushing — plink! — something tumbled onto me. For a second I was disoriented, until I saw the tiniest feathered bird sitting on my computer. A second later the little thing tumbled to the sidewalk. A fallen bird!

It was so sweet and so fragile looking. As it peered at me, I couldn’t just leave it and walk on. Maybe the bird was injured — and it’s separated from it’s Momma Bird!

I assumed it must have inadvertently fallen out of its nest because it can’t fly yet, and it’s not really meant to be here on this busy New York City sidewalk with New Yorkers rushing by, in danger of being trampled. What to do?

followed the chirping and looked around and spotted the hidden nest that was embedded within a pipe, tucked within scaffolding high above the ground. There was no way I could reach it. A very long ladder would be required.

I sat at the top of steps nearby and tried to coax the little birdie onto my computer again, so as to hold it close and then figure out the next step. It looked helpless as it hopped and barely fluttered, when it landed on my computer for the briefest moment before it tumbled down the steps! 

Poor thing — I felt terrible! It really can’t fly!

Vaguely in the background the coffee date crossed my mind and I did some quick math, but a fallen bird is a fallen bird.

There was no question. I felt a duty to somehow rescue this hurt birdie from harm’s way.

There was a police station across the street.

I scooped up the birdie into my cupped hand, schlepping my computer and trying to corral the bird toward my chest, without smothering it. Of course, the police officer was like, uh, sorry miss, we’re the police, we don’t work with birds.

But then they did help me out and suggested I look for a wildlife rescue.

Shlepping my computer that day came in handy (because believe it or not I don’t use a smartphone!), and I Googled bird rescue.

Lo! What do you know! Turns out New York City’s Bird Rescue Center is located a few blocks away on Columbus Avenue!

A minute before I didn’t even know such a thing existed, now within minutes of the quickest taxi ride I was walking into one. By now I had the little birdie in a little container I had gotten from the NYPD.

It felt like such a unique kind of good Samaritan type of thing to do. Rescuing a bird! Who heard of such a thing?

The moment I crossed the threshold holding the bird, a staff member took one look at me and handed me a printed sheet of paper titled “I Found a Baby Bird — Now What?

So apparently tumbling baby birds are a regular occurrence here on the Upper West Side.

With a quick glance at the bird, she explained to me that the bird was a fledgling, that she is not injured, and is able to be on its own on the sidewalk at this point. But that it ought to be kept near its nest in a little Tupperware.

I returned to the nest and found the person who had also been there with me, who lived there, waiting for my return. I left the birdie in the Tupperware and this kind woman said that for the next few days she would look out for the little bird. Her husband would maybe even try and get a ladder and return the bird to nest with its momma.

I left with a good feeling as I hurried on to my coffee date. Now if this wasn’t a legit reason for being late, I don’t know what is.

But meeting someone for a first time with a bubba meyse-style story rivaling the dog ate my homework … “oh, sorry I’m a few minutes late, but as I was walking a bird fell on me and the next thing I knew I was at the police station before I found the bird rescue of Manhattan…” and risking being thought of as a complete lunatic, I just slid into my chair and smiled graciously with a simple, “I’m really sorry I’m a few minutes late.”

Copyright 2017 Intermountain Jewish News