Rehabbing Buster, A Crippled Fledgling Cedar Waxwing
by Deborah Berry
Buster When Visiting State Park July 4
My daughter works at a busy canoe livery where they found a young Cedar Waxwing July 3. A fledgling, he was on the ground in distress with a crippled, curled up foot and possible wounded wing. It's a busy place with people and dogs running about so leaving him lie there was not an option.
When they first found him he was pretty shook up and singing unhappily. She snugged him into a little nest size box and kept him in a quiet place until she finished work.
She and several customers made an attempt to locate the nest and listen for other Cedar Waxwing calls to no avail.
That evening he ate bits of fresh cherry from our fingers and began singing a little more normally. He turns his attention to my daughter when he hears her voice.
We're hoping to keep him safe and alive through the night and will take him to a friend who is a state park naturalist tomorrow.
He's a beautiful, personable little bird and we'll do what we can to help him survive. As fun as it might be to keep him, we would do him a great injustice.
We visited the naturalist today who gave us advice on how to care for the bird, and a better cage for him (we were keeping him and his 'nest' under a laundry basket).
Since the nature center is not open every day and the bird needs fed almost constantly they allowed us to keep Buster for rehabilitation. He got away from us once and perched in a pine tree, but came back when he got hungry.
Since my daughter is a busy 16-year-old with a job and a boyfriend, I have become the surrogate mother.
We've been nursing 'Buster', as we now call him, for 6 days, under the supervision of a state park naturalist.
Fortunately Buster's wing was not injured. Unfortunately, his crippled foot is a real handicap for him. It prevents him from landing safely when flying, unless he lands on a large surface.
The foot is curled under at the fore joint, resulting in twisted claws that are totally useless and a knob that is actually a bit slippery. He'd probably be better off without the foot entirely.
He eats voraciously - blueberries, raspberries, bits of tomato and worms. He's noisy and as happy as a bird in a cage can be. I've let him fly in the bathroom - he lands well on the curtain because he can catch himself in the fabric; the shower rod - not so well.
He has smacked into the wall a few times and went sliding down, fortunately he hasn't hurt himself.
Buster has developed the habit of giving his berry back to me. We'll pass it back and forth, much to my frustration sometimes, until I tire of the game or he finally eats it.
It turns out this is normal behavior, as these birds are known for passing food around to each other until someone finally eats it. Now, instead of getting aggravated I'm glad that he's exhibiting this behavior and encourage it.
We're trying to get him to look for food by leaving berries in the bottom of his cage. He stubbornly refuses and I can't let him go hungry too long. I guess it's like weaning a baby.
I plan to put some grasses and tiny twigs in his cage today to encourage nest building.