Bird rescue board

Where do you keep your bird rescue board? What do you mean "I don't have a bird rescue board?" How then do you jack up your porch roof when you need to free a frantic and frightened fowl? Maybe I should back up a little bit...

It started the other morning as I was taking photos of the crocus-chomping slug. The unmistakable sound of a creature caught in a metal tube of some sort came to me while I was on the ground with the camera...


"It's probably a chipmunk in the gutter downspout again" was my first thought. They'll make that scrabbling claws-on-metal sound as they climb up and down all summer long. It's a bit early in the year for chipmunks though.

Then it happened again and I realized it wasn't coming from the downspout, and it sounded more like wing flaps than claw scrapes. Oh crap. There's a bird inside the porch roof support post!

If you remember, this is the support post that has been topped by a finch nest for the past couple of years:

The finch nest on top of the support, March 2011

Even if I hated birds and wished them nothing but bad things (which I don't -- I love birds!) I would not want one to die inside the post, perfuming my small front porch with the unwelcoming scent of death. I've experienced this before when  a mouse died somewhere in the basement and do not want to repeat it. But more to point, I don't want this creature to suffer a minute longer, let alone die here! So rescue plans were needed.

The first solution that came into my head was not a fun one: jack up the roof a little, remove the support post, and let the bird get out.

The second solution sounded like it had much less probability of working: feed a rope down the hole into the post and see if the bird could climb out, or at least grasp the rope so I could pull it out. Since this involved a lot less work, I gave it a shot.

Do I even need to say that this was a waste of two minutes? Most birds aren't known for their climbing abilities, and grasping while being pulled to safety, well, that was just a ridiculous thought.

So jacking up the roof to remove the post it was. Sigh.

This is where the bird rescue board comes in and helps support the roof during the rescue procedure. Luckily I had a board that was long enough to do the job -- I actually had to cut a bit off to make it fit. The photo above shows so much of the aftermath: the board, the hydraulic jack, the spot on the porch where the post was located, the removed post.

Luckily my wife was around to help me that morning, and she took this video in order to capture the moment of freedom:

You probably missed the bird as it really moved quickly, so here's a glimpse taken from the video:

As my wife said and you can confirm from freezing the video in the correct spot, the bird was a sparrow. A male house sparrow to be exact. At least that's what it looks like. Does it really matter though? I expected either a sparrow or finch to fly out -- some small, common bird. If a duck had emerged, now that would have been a shock!

This is probably what the bird saw just before it flew out:

This is what I saw when looking up to where the post belonged:

Notice the chick "residue" on the walls. Blech!

The square nest remnants:

Did all of this fall into the post while the finches were making their nests, or was this stuff actually put into the post on purpose? Perhaps it was located toward the top of the post but then slid down, trapping the bird?

Getting the post back into place before lowering the jack was a lot harder than getting it out had been, as those screws meant to hold it in position at the top (see the previous photo) kept getting in the way. I finally got it though, and slowly lowered the roof back down. (I should note that I had only raised it about 1" (25mm) or less -- just enough to release pressure from the post.)

The access hole at the top was only about 1.5" (38mm) square, but I covered it with some wire mesh because I don't want to repeat this incident:

So that's the story of the bird rescue board, and how I unexpectedly spent an hour or so the other morning.

What would you have done if you had found yourself in this situation?

My advice: keep a bird rescue board handy!


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Alistair  – (March 17, 2012 at 9:23 AM)  

Well, well, I have had a sparrow fall down the chimney but this takes the cake. What would I do, don't want to think about it.

Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (March 17, 2012 at 10:34 AM)  

Now THAT is a story! Jacking up the roof, I'd never heard of that. I would have been completely helpless. Awesome job.

Anonymous –   – (March 17, 2012 at 2:10 PM)  

Good thing that bird ended up in YOUR support post!

Christine @ The Gardening Blog  – (March 17, 2012 at 3:26 PM)  

Oh my ... you are wonderful people!! What a story! I saw the bird in the video. What a moment and amazing how you captured it.

I don't know what I would have done - panic, tears and then call someone to come help me.

Sylvanna  – (March 17, 2012 at 4:16 PM)  

I'm glad you went to the effort to free the bird. I too know the bird-in-a-metal-tube sound and it doesn't always end so well.

danger garden  – (March 17, 2012 at 4:53 PM)  

Wow Alan, good job! I hope I never have anything quite like this happen as I don't believe I would be nearly as capable as you!

Rock rose  – (March 18, 2012 at 4:00 PM)  

You are to be commended Alan. Surely a place in heaven is waiting for you. We had a similar occurrence with a squirrel but it was in the bottom of the downspout that was encased in a drain. It died and was washed out several hundred feet away where the pipe emptied. I was just glad that it didn't block the pipe. Sad but! I have more feeling for birds than squirrels.

Anonymous –   – (September 3, 2013 at 9:44 PM)  

This happened to us. It was lucky I heard the bird, because it only made noise for about a half hour, and then gave up. We were able to "jack up" the roof merely by pressing up on it, it's not a big porch roof. Then three days later, I heard a bird stuck in my neighbor's column! Let that one out too. Then I went around to every house and asked if I could put cardboard over their columns (there are well over 100 columns here!) Inside the two columns we moved, there were eight bird skeletons, which included a nest, mother and three babies. :o(

Alan  – (September 4, 2013 at 6:32 AM)  

Anonymous: nice work, and going to each neighbor was above-any-beyond! :)

abby  – (March 8, 2014 at 9:06 AM)  

Thank so much! This happened to me too! Every spring birds liked to make nest on top of my column. Looks just like yours. I finally left a bottle up there so that they couldn't make their nests anymore, but today I realized that one had fell down inside and was stuck. I followed exactly the same thought process as you, hoping I could let a rope down and the bird would ingeniously find its way out. Then I turned to google and found your post. I had to borrow a big jack, so my bird had to wait a little longer than yours. We had trouble getting the column out, so it and the porch ceiling are a tiny bit worse for the wear, but the bird is free and the hole is covered. We also discovered a dead one inside :(

Alan  – (March 8, 2014 at 2:24 PM)  

Abby: Cheers for sticking with it and rescuing *your* trapped bird! I'm so glad I was able to help!

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