An Injured Red Cardinal Named Cisco

We live in the woods and birds sometimes fly into our windows. The most recent casualty is a red male cardinal. We’ve had several of these, but no female cardinal casualties yet, so it seems that the male cardinals are the feisty fighters. Some of them attack the glass and dash away, thinking they’re tussling with another male cardinal. These don’t usually get injured.

Other cardinals seem to think the glass is sky and fly into it hard enough to injure themselves, or worse.

We’ve had a few fatalities over the 30 years of living in the woods. Some died instantly of a broken neck. A few died minutes later, likely from internal hemorrhaging. This is always distressing because we love all animals.

The good news is that we’ve rescued and released far more birds than we’ve lost!

And more good news: we found a fairly effective solution that has helped tremendously. It doesn’t look great, but if it saves the birds… we’re all for it!

You can read more about our bird crash prevention system here in this article on our gardening site.

However, we still have a few accidents here and there.

Our latest is a very feisty male cardinal that injured his wing. When he tried to fly away, one wing clearly wasn’t working as well and he couldn’t fly. He could scoot around on the ground really well, so we had to scurry to try to catch him again. We couldn’t let him go because he would most definitely not have survived. But we did learn an important lesson:

Wear gloves when trying to capture an injured bird!

Typically, when we pick up the birds they’re stunned, so they’re docile and quiet while recovering. The feature image at top is actually one of our previous rescues and he flew away after awhile. Cisco is still in recovery.

But this little guy was fully awake and aware and was definitely unhappy and scared. So when captured he bites, and very, very hard! Imagine… birds can crack nuts and sunflower seeds with their beaks, so they are definitely quite strong. The effect was like being pinched to a blood blister. Fortunately, the beak isn’t sharp enough to break the skin on most adults, but it sure can hurt a finger, and definitely not advisable for children to come in contact.

It turns out he broke his collarbone and needs to stay overnight for observation. After that, he’ll stay in recovery until he can fly again. Not sure how long yet, but we’ll post an update.

Meanwhile, we’ve named him “Cardinal Francisco”… “Cisco” for short :-), and he’s enjoying eating good wildlife birdseed, drinking water and in general, making a mess and talking a lot!

Update on 2/19/18: The vet said he’d need to stay there for about 4 weeks before we can bring him home and return him to his yard to be with his family.

It’s illegal to keep songbirds in captivity.

I know what they say: if you name them you end up keeping them, but that’s definitely not going to happen here! We love to help birds be free to fly, plus it’s illegal to keep songbirds in captivity1), even if we were inclined to.


Meet Cisco the Red Cardinal

We didn’t have a bird cage but our small pet carrier, with towels placed inside is working out really well. We feed the birds in winter, so had a wild bird seed blend on hand and placed a dish of that along with a bowl of water into his cage. It was good to see him making good use of both as an indication of feeling well and even safe enough to eat and drink.


Cardinal “Cisco” in recovery.


Here’s a video of a previous cardinal rescue. He was only stunned and stayed to visit for awhile.



Wild Bird Rescue Stories

If you love birds, you may also enjoy reading some more wild bird rescue stories, and this one.

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