Posted by: Brad Nixon | July 6, 2011

Fly Away, Little One

SPOILER ALERT: If you are a cat lover, please stop reading when I advise you to stop reading. Otherwise, you will have your sensibilities wounded. And we wouldn’t want THAT to happen. I will not approve any crying and complaining from cat lovers in the comments section.

We were having breakfast this morning, looking out at a clear summer dawn that promised to turn into another perfectly golden sunny day in balmy southern California, replete with ocean breezes when WHAM! something hit the window really hard. Well, it was too early in morning even for the most die-hard fireworks fan with ammunition left over from the Fourth, and I don’t think any of the Strewers of Advertising Debris have figured out how to get into the back yard to throw out their promotional advertising, so, what?

It was a bird.

With the morning sun low in the northeast and — for just these few weeks — hitting the back windows of the house before it retreats southward from the zenith again, there was probably a glare on the window, and a sparrow had slammed into the big pane of glass, thinking it was an opening.

The little bird was flat out on concrete, its back arched up and back in the reverse of a normal pose, its beak opening and closing, obviously struggling to keep breathing and stay alive.

Oh, man. What to do? You don’t want to see a little creature suffering, and given how hard he’d (or she’d) hit the glass, it might have a broken neck or broken back or at least enough brain damage to think it could be governor of Alaska.

I knew what was going to happen. I was going to have to put it out of its misery. No choice. The Counselor was distressed. I was distressed. What could save the little bird?

I knew what would NOT save the little bird: lying there prone on the patio sending out invisible waves to every roaming neighborhood cat: “Helpless creature at 1957 W Summerland! DINNERTIME!”


So, the first order of business with any disabled creature: bird, lizard, small mammal or wombat, is to make certain that the roaming neighborhood CATS don’t turn it into today’s plaything. This bird MIGHT recover, I dreamed. Really. It MIGHT. But not if some 12-pound feline turns it into a personal toy. So, I quickly assembled a protective cage from the pool net, weighted down by a couple of 5-gallon buckets of drywall mud. I resolved that if, after my shower, the unfortunate creature was still writhing in agony, I’d grab the shovel and … well….

I shed the morning garb and stepped into shower. I recalled the other summary executions I’d been compelled to carry out here in our suburban wasteland: a couple of squirrels, apparently in their prime, left writhing on the concrete driveway; had they fallen out of the tree and broken their backs? Had they been struck by cars and crawled back up into the driveway? Have you ever seen a squirrel FALL? CATS, I say. Then there were the little lizards, squirming in agony on the blazing concrete: CATS! And the BIRDS. Little songbirds and sparrows and mourning doves: victims of the neighborhood felines. And the worst day of all: the Day of The Possums! On that morning, we woke to find the back yard looking like a real-life dramatization of Salvador Dali’s “Persistence of Memory” but, instead of melting clocks, the back yard was littered with wounded and bleeding and eviscerated bleeding baby opossums, courtesy of the neighborhood CATS! I had to round up the poor, suffering little creatures — some of them with injuries that would embarrass the Inquisition in their cruelty — and end their misery. One lonely little survivor had leaped into the pool and was swimming for its life. I took it to the local canyon and turned it loose, with  little expectation of its chances to survive.

CATS! Is there any creature more cruel and cunning in its determination to delight in the torture of the helpless? Ah, yes, there is, but cats lack the creative brain and opposable thumbs of humans, which equip us to revel in the creation of new agonies of destruction we can inflict upon the helpless. If, given the millenia of their domain, cats had been granted the ability to create engines of  torture and pain granted to humans, they would rule the world.

And so, as the  shower streamed down on me, I thought of our tiny sparrow, extended in its pain upon the stone-cold concrete and I dreaded the moment — only minutes away — I’d step out of the shower, put on my shorts and shoes, and grab the shovel to end its days, if only to assure myself that it wouldn’t become the plaything of some monstrous CAT.

And then, as I contemplated this flawed world we inhabit from my shower stall, The Counselor called me, “The bird flew!!”

Through the sound of the water, I thought she said, “The bird is through!”

And then I learned that she had LEAPED to the computer and searched on “stunned bird” or something and learned that birds that fly into solid surfaces sometimes require as much as 2 hours to recover, but often do bounce back. This was, in fact, the case with our little sparrow who, by the time The Counselor took a look again, was up on its feet under the cover of the netting and pecking away at the enclosure that covered it. Once she lifted off the net, IT FLEW AWAY.

I thought that poor bird was dead, or worse.

It still doesn’t make me like cats any better. They owe me three lizards and two squirrels and numerous birds. I’m keeping score.

Fly, little sparrow, and look down upon us here with pity.



  1. Thanks to both of you for taking care of the little critters. Reading this reminded me a bit of the end parts of “Freedom”.


  2. Hey, Big Cat, glad to see you’re back! Hadn’t seen you for awhile. Keep up the good work. And hats off to l’il Piaf.


  3. Between Cats, Birds and Mr Pig, this blog is turning into a menagerie. Glad to see that, while it might not have the brain damage to be governor of Alaska, it had the braun to be governor of California.

    Have missed the alarming regularity of your posts, but still enjoy them (in spite of being a cat lover – Up the Little Wild Vicious Ones)


  4. I have to point out the fact that one day Phil saw some movement outside his window at the office and there, at the stairway entrance to the lower parking lot, a squirrel had jumped and attached a bird (sparrow, or finch) and ran off with it in his mouth. I saw it just as it was leaving with its prey. Amazing, I thought they just ate little acorns and berries. Perhaps the El Segundo Squirrel is a particularly tough breed . . .


  5. Next time you have an injured bird– or a raccoon–In PV you can call “The Wildlife Rescue” at 310-378-9921– they will return your call! I brought a stunned pigeon there once– he had a concussion from hitting our window– and he was better & released in 3 days by the Wild Life Rescue Folks!

    Re your latest blog–Wow! I can understand your reactions to the slaughter of little creatures— especially the baby possums purportedly by cats!! Being a lover of all creatures great and small, I share your sorrow at Nature’s cruelty… No defense of felines intended, but did you actually “see” the cat(s) doing the dastardly deeds? 🙂 Reason I ask is that cats and possums generally get along….if they are truly “feral” cats, however, then they might attack a “baby” possum– but the viciousness of the bites you described sounds more like raccoons or coyotes at work!! Coyotes and racoons are quite brutal in their killing– yes, worse than cats who typically go for smaller prey like mice or small birds!! And often toy with them before beheading them!! My friend in Long Beach told me that her neighbpr’s elderly cat was torn in half by a coyote– she lives near a golf course and they roam around in the early hours. Re your dead squirrel sightings, we have had a squirrel fall from a branch by our bird bath! It fell and did not move– it definitely was dead after the impact–They sometimes fall –but not often– and break their windpipes according to our vet– I have no clue why you see more bloodied ones around…This morning John witnessed a dove whisked off by a red tail hawk in our yard….the dove hit the glass window trying to escape but the hawk (which appeared to be a young one per John) was no match for the dove…as for baby possums, we had them born in our pool shed one year! Yep, and Momma possum bared her teeth at us even when we gave her dry cat food for nourishment which she devored– after awhile she put them in her pouch and wandered off… BTW– Our neighbors have 2 indoor/outdoorcats who live next door who often roam around our yard and hill– but to date have not witnessed any bird or other casualties attributable to them. They are well fed by our neighbors for sure! So are not starving!! Our three felines are strictly indoors but admittedly enjoy watching the critters ouside through the “floor to almost ceiling” windows!

    Over all, Nature is just Nature I guess….and we stand in awe of the lives it gives… and takes away….John & I have a real circus in the back yard with the doves, sparrows, a pair of scrub jays, black phoebes, lesser goldfinches, hummingbirds and squirrels– raccoons too at night who like to wash their hands ( Oops– I mean “paws”!) in the pool! We have been lucky though because we have never seen the carnage you have…
    Hope your next encounters with critters are all happy ones!


  6. Here in Canberra it is often the CATS who have to watch themselves! Our native neighbourhood possums (who live either in our tree or our roofspace, depending on the season) have seen off more than a few prowling cats over the years. I’ve been stared down by a possum challenging me to just TRY and reclaim my veranda, and have on occassion felt (through thick clothing luckily) the hypodermic needles which they grow for claws.


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