Italy: Injured Nightjar

October 2, 2007--Ostia, Italy
I’ve never really seen a nightjar. Sometimes when we were still living at Tar and Feathers, I would come home at night and see dark shapes flying away from the edge of the dirt road that leads to our house. I knew the shapes were nightjars but in those days I didn’t stop to see if I could get a closer view; if I were home now I would. I’ve wanted to see one for some time and yesterday I finally did. I was walking along the marina pontoon to go get clothes out of the dryer and through the corner of my eye saw something floating in the water between two large power boats. I didn’t have my glasses on, but I could see a mottled bird and striped tail. At first I thought it was a Kestrel, but a second later, even blind, I knew it was a Nightjar. I thought he was dead until I saw very slight movement. I dropped everything I was carrying and hurried back to Peregrine calling for Gene who was on the pontoon assembling a bike. He got on the transom of one of the boats and tried to bring the bird toward him by creating a current with his hand, but it was not enough and the bird was floating farther out into the channel. I ran and got a boat hook and Gene was able to push the bird back toward the transom and fish him out. I had a towel ready and carried the cold, wet, barely moving little guy back to our boat. The day before, I had just been to a bird reserve and had made an appointment for a tour. While I was there a man came in with an injured Peregrine falcon, so I knew where I could go for help. Unfortunately, we pulled Uccelli (Italian for bird) out of the water at 1:50, and the center closed at 1:00. I had an email address on the literature I picked up there so I sent an email asking if someone could meet me a the center. That was about all I could do at that point. I moved Uccelli to different sections of the large towel as each section got wet from absorbing salt water. I saw that his left wing was badly broken and he was bleeding. I wrapped him in a dry towel and kept him warm. A few hours later I unwrapped him and he was fairly dry. He was standing on his feet, which was great because they had been curled up and limp. I offered him water and soft scrambled eggs, but he wouldn’t eat or drink. I still hadn’t got a response from my email and figured that it probably wouldn’t be read until the following morning when the center opened. I made a hospital cage for birdy and used my computer transformer as a heater. I was able to get a stable 30 degrees. I checked on him several times during the night and he took water a few times but wouldn’t eat.

This morning I got him out to take him to the center and he was doing well. He managed a few ‘hisses’ at me and showed me his great frog mouth. Wow! That tiny little beak was hiding that cavern! He is such a beautiful thing. Anyway, he is now on his way to the doctor in Villa Borghessi. I will go tomorrow and ask about him. Now I’m worried that maybe there isn’t a place that cares for permanently injured birds, and I dread hearing that he had to be euthanized. Under the circumstances it’s hard to be happy about seeing my first nightjar so well.
The outcome to this story wasn’t very good. Uccelli didn’t make it, but the Peregrine did.

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