Column: On an early morning run, an encounter with two entangled birds


PUNGO — Sometimes my 11-year-old daughter and I get up early to go run. Actually, she runs. I walk. 

It’s barely light when we’re out, so we drive to the middle school she will soon attend and run on the track. It’s perfect. She can speed while I meander, and I can keep an eye out.

One day this past week, about an hour later than usual, we drove to the school and chose our lanes. She took of running. I took off walking. She started her second lap as I made it halfway through my first. 

I noticed two little birds flapping near the chain-link fence at the base of the stadium seats. I wanted to see them before they flew away.

But I noticed tangled twine wrapped around one of the bird’s legs, tethering it to the fence. I approached. It flew a moment before the foot-long tether brought it crashing back into the fence. Then the bird hung upside down by its leg. The other bird was tangled, too.

It took me a couple of tries before I was able to cup it in my hands. I hollered to my daughter to bring me my keys. She sprinted to the car.

The other bird, agitated, grew more entangled in the twine, but I could not reach it on the other side of the fence.

I told my daughter to try to cut the twine with the keys. We tried not to hurt the bird I held. My daughter took care and succeeded.

I passed the bird, which still had twine wrapped around its foot, to my daughter and climbed the fence to reach the other bird. My daughter might have handled the climb more gracefully, but these were high stakes. I kicked off one of my shoes to climb over it.

I was able to scoop up the other bird and remove most of the twine, but this one had it wrapped around its neck, twisted somehow beneath its feathers. My daughter and I each held a small bird.

I called Virginia Beach Animal Control and was forwarded to non-emergency dispatch. The lovely woman on the phone listened to my dilemma and suggested I call Wildlife Response, Inc., one of the local organizations with volunteers who help in such situations.

I left a message. We still each held a bird. We were unsure of how to get the twine off.

My daughter suggested we try our veterinarian’s office to help us. We headed that way, but they were not yet open. I called my husband, said we were coming home with two birds, asked him to have our eldest daughter find her tiny sewing scissors, the ones that are shaped like a crane, and have them ready.

My husband came outside when we pulled up. He cut away most of the twine and used the thin end of a metal file to pull the twine out from under the feathers at the neck of one of them. He cut that twine, too.

But the last bit of twine was too tight against the other bird’s tiny foot, wrapped in and out of the toes, to cut away without snipping off a piece of the animal.

Our eldest daughter brought out a shoebox lined with a towel and with air holes poked in the top. I reminded my youngest that their wings were still in good working order. We had to get these little guys in the box on the first try.

One. Two. Three.

We slid them both in, slammed down the top, hoped for the best. 

Someone from Wildlife Response called and suggested we take to birds to a 24-hour vet that accepts rescues. She even called ahead to make sure they would accept them.

My daughter and I took the box in the car and drove to the vet. On the way, we chatted about how quiet the birds were in the box.

“I hope we don’t open the box and find them dead,” she said. 

I reminded her that we couldn’t peek. They might fly around in our car.

The receptionist at the vet was expecting us. She asked me to fill out a short form detailing the particulars. She said thanks. We left.

“I hope they make it,” my daughter said. 

Me, too. I told her it was good for the birds she had wanted to run that morning.

That afternoon, amid my work day, I stopped to read a new text message:

“Hello. I am the rehabber that has the two finches you brought to Bay Beach. I just finished taking off the last of the string from the one baby’s foot. Thank goodness you saw them and brought them in.” She even thanked us for the directions to where we found the birds so they could return home. 

Karen Roberts, the rehabber, later told me the birds were fledgling finches. She released them where we found them, and they flew to a nearby flock. Roberts said it is it good for people to know there is someone to call when they find an animal in crisis. 

It’s wonderful to live in a community with 24-hour veterinarians — and where wildlife rehabbers help us navigate how animals and people, for better or worse, are intertwined.

Visit for more information about Wildlife Response, Inc.

© 2019 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

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