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A bird in the bush

As I walked to work today, I saw a new one on me: a hummingbird fluttering around on the sidewalk. I didn’t know if it was injured or a juvenile – probably injured as August seems kind of late to me for juveniles – but it definitely wasn’t going to get itself airborne. I squatted to get a closer look; its beak was slightly agape, and its body pulsated as it breathed, whether from exhaustion or its own fierce metabolism, I had no idea. Its wings blurred to no avail, and it bumped along the ground.

It was under a tree, so I stood up and looked for a nest. Nada. Given the number of cats in our neighborhood, this little guy’s (gal’s?) hours were numbered – and probably with a value less than one at that. Cats, dogs, cars, raccoons, herons, rats, foot traffic; not a great place for a flightless hummingbird. I pulled out my phone and called the local Audubon Society chapter; a very genteel woman at the other end gave me a couple of numbers to try, her voice leaving an audio impression of blue hair and polite strands of pearls.

I dialed the first number as the hummingbird bumbled its way onto the grass. No answer. I let it ring some more as the bird flopped into the shade. 12, 15 rings… still no answer. As I tried the second number, the hummingbird heaved itself out of the grass and up onto the curb, coming to rest right above a storm drain.

For four or five rings, I held my breath, watched and waited. The hummingbird twitched, and fell out of view with a soft plop. Ah, shit. I sighed and ended the call; no one had answered, and now there really wasn’t much point. As I shifted my laptop bag back on my shoulder to resume my walk to work, I headed over to the drain and peeked in. From the bottom, emerald feathers glinted like some lost childhood treasure. I sighed again, and continued on down the hill.

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