Today is Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Saga of the Yellow Billed Cuckoo

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By GEORGE ROBERTSON, M.D.As I was getting ready to enter the front door of the hospital the other day I saw a beautiful bird lying on its back gasping for breath on the hot pavement near the front door. On closer inspection the bird was apparently suffering from a near fatal blow either from a passing car or running into the large plate glass window nearby. His head was in an unnatural position and its pretty yellow bill was crooked and stained with blood. It was lying right in the passenger traffic walkway in front of the hospital where patients were arriving and cars were pulling in and out, and it could easily have been crushed under their wheels. I had something urgent to do at the time but couldn’t resist moving the bird from the busy road into the shady porch behind the trash can, and I fully expected to find him dead as I popped back out of the hospital after a few minutes. To my surprise, the injured bird had not succumbed to the heat or the traffic and now had its head a little straighter and its bill squarer. So, since I hadn’t seen one up so close before and had a birdwatcher visiting my house that day, I thought he and my wife might want to get a closer look at this elusive specimen. I picked it up gently for the ride home in my car. I set it in front of the air conditioner vent and put the fan on full force. The cool air seemed to give the bird a burst of healing. It reminded me of the yellow billed cuckoo I had first heard in my youth during the steamy summer time making a strange croaking noise, which was probably made to announce its territory. I read that it’s called a rain crow because it is more likely to sing on cloudy days when it’s more likely to rain. I’d only seen it a few times but remembered its strange polka dot tail pattern decorating the long feathers in the back. It was a recluse and stayed high in the trees most of the time. When I got home with the now-revived bird and showed my friend and family, they were happy to get a close look at this elusive creature. By then it was perching on my finger but still could only open one eye. I put it outside and cooled it off with a dip in the bird bath and left it in the shade for it to finish its own recovery. The next day I saw a rain crow, which is the common name for my rescued friend, bugging in the trees behind the house. I decided to see how close I could get to it, wondering if it might be the same one from the day before. I was able to walk within 10 feet of the bird just above me in the trees, which makes me think that it is somehow the same bird that I had rescued from the traffic. I wondered if he remembered the gentle hands that picked him up and that was the reason he didn’t quickly fly away when he saw me. Editor’s Note: George Robertson is a physician with Family Medical Associates, PC, in Lebanon.
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