The Mississippi Kite would not eat.
He was injured but reasonably calm, a probable car hit. He had been brought in to the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia in order to be rehabilitated. Not native to northern Virginia, Mississippi Kites are beautiful hawks with gray feathers and deep reddish brownish eyes. The vet – another volunteer who works for free – gave a “meh” prognosis. The MiKi (his species abbreviation) just wasn’t thriving in spite of excellent care.
The MiKi was elegant and elegaic in his wail. He would cock his head to the side (a possible sign of neurological damage: once again, thanks to our car culture) in what seemed to be thoughtful contemplation. He needed to be force fed every day. He was gentle and easily caught. But not eating is a huge problem in the bird world.
Birds which can be rehabilitated and can prove that they are physically and mentally capable of surviving re-entry into the wild get approval to be released back into the wild. Birds which can be rehabbed but are unable to survive in the wild can be placed into an educational setting: a wildlife rehabilitator; a wildlife center; a zoo; a nature center; etc. But birds which have to be force fed every day are virtually impossible to place. Not eating is a deal breaker.
For almost a full year, this beautiful bird was lovingly hand fed (force fed) by two rehabilitators. They tried to place him, but to no avail. Not eating is a symptom of failure to thrive. Best case scenario for a bird in this situation? Euthanasia.
Most wildlife rehabilitators, including the one I work for, do their utmost to prevent this. They spend precious time and money trying to save every bird. But some cannot be saved, despite their best efforts and intentions.
I feel privileged to have known this bird. He was gentle and beautiful. He’s a species I rarely – if ever – get to see. But I’m honored to have known him, as much as a human can “know” a bird. I feel sad that I participate in a consumer culture which essentially seeks the end of nature.
Goodbye, sweet bird.