And swiftly fell the swift

It was a typical Friday morning at work. I was getting a status update from my team when my friend Deepu called. Another friend Prajual had informed him that he had found a fallen raptor on the pavement leading up to our building. He had lifted it and placed it in a bush nearby.

I rounded up my meeting and, with Deepu, went to locate the bird. Prajual came along and picked it up from the bushes.

What raptor?!

I was expecting a black kite or a juvenile shikra, but it turned out to be a juvenile House Swift (Apus affinis). Prajual had seen the curved beak and mistaken it for a raptor. It was breathing but one of the wings was held at an odd angle — probably broken. There were traces of clotted blood on the wings as well. It looked as if the bird had struck the glass facade of the building in flight. Beej advised me over the phone to check for any bleeding due to internal injuries. There was none but the poor creature was in trauma and offered little resistance when I picked it up and walked into the building to get a box to keep it in.

The security guard got me one and I placed the bird in it along with some water in a bottle cap, but the bird wasn’t interested. It remained motionless for a while and then attempted to take flight. Realizing that flying inside the glass building would be hazardous for the bird, I took the bird outside and tried to see if it could fly. The inside of the box was smeared with droppings. The moment I took it out of the box, it stopped struggling and nestled in my palm. It didn’t look like it could fly at all.

I called my friend Das who had contacts in various wildlife and conservation organizations and he gave me the details of the recently opened People For Animals wing in Mysore. The response was lightning quick. They sent an ambulance and picked up the bird and told me they would take it to a vet that evening.

Two days later Savitha Nagabhushan, who leads PFA Mysore, called to update me that the bird didn’t make it. It didn’t accept any water or food and breathed its last on Saturday. 

Glass facade – the culprit

Evidence, in the absence of severe external injuries, leads one to believe that the bird was not a victim of depredation but a case of it crashing into a glass wall. The building in which we work, like those in many software parks, is an enormous structure of glass and steel and reflects the sky from all surfaces — which may have caused the bird to crash into it on its high-speed flight. House Swifts typically nest inside old buildings. 
At the end of the depressing day I could salvage two positives: One, the bird died a relatively painless death compared to what it might have had at the claws of a cat, or ants; and two, the attentiveness of the noble folks at People For Animals at Mysore, who can be reached at 9845654429 in case of emergencies.

Text and photo by Sandeep Somasekharan

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