Woodpeckers seem to have a knack for getting themselves into trouble, especially those who live in close proximity to homes and businesses. Many woodpeckers make themselves right at home in our backyards, placing them perilously close to one of the biggest threats to birds - windows.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of birds are injured or lose their lives by flying into plate glass windows. Birds do not see the glass, but rather they see a reflection of the landscape - typically the sky or trees. The bird thinks it is flying skyward or into the forest, but instead it hits glass.
One recent woodpecker patient here at VINS had a very unlucky encounter with a window. This patient, a Hairy Woodpecker, arrived in extremely rough shape. He had severe head trauma and was unable to hold his head upright. His feathers were puffed up and he had his head tucked under his wing - both signs that he wasn't feeling well.
This guy was truly down-and-out, and we weren't sure he would be able to make a full recovery. We treated him with homeopathic medications for head trauma as well as an anti-inflammatory to help with any swelling and pain. He was very wobbly for a long time - his head bobbed from side to side, and he was generally unsteady.
He slowly improved and we decided to give him a chance to spread his wings in our songbird aviary. It took several days for his equilibrium to return, but he eventually gained the ability to make short flights across the aviary. And a few days after that, he was zooming around the enclosure making the classic Hairy Woodpecker call. What a joy to see this guy flying and calling with no hint of a head bob or unsteadiness! Watch this video of the healed and healthy Hairy Woodpecker in VINS' songbird aviary.
So we sent him on his way! He returned to his original home, where, we understand, his mate had been waiting for him the whole time.
To learn more about how you can safeguard your windows or how to help a bird that has hit a window, visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's webpage dedicated to keeping birds safe around windows or call VINS' Wildlife Services Department at 802-359-5001 ext. 212.