Late the other evening, just as I was thinking about what to cook for dinner, there came a fearful screeching noise from the kitchen and I heard my son shout “James you bad cat!” Thankfully he was able to rescue the rather large and very pissed off sounding bird which the cat had been dragging in by the back of its neck.
Fortunately the bird didn’t seem too badly hurt, more annoyed than injured I think but it had lost a lot of feathers and had a small neck wound. Dinner on hold while I try to work out what to do with the poor creature.
I had no idea what type of bird it was, I have only seen one in the garden a couple of times before and never for long enough for me to show Neu and ask what it was. Neu was off at Dialysis so I couldn’t ask him now and I didn’t think stressing it more by taking it off to my father in law was a good idea either. I figured a bit of dark with peace and quite would be the best medicine. We found a transparent storage box with a lid and put the bird in it in a darkened room, where finally it stopped it’s screeching which was a relief.
I knew that if the bird was on the endangered list, then I should inform IBAMA but as I didn’t know what it was, I couldn’t know if it was endangered or not. Thank heavens for the internet. Half an hour of Googling things like “Red / brown bird with green beak” in English and then in Portuguese, I discovered it was a Squirrel Cuckoo (Piaya cayana) commonly known here as Alma-de-Gato (Soul of the Cat) named from the way they run up and down tree branches looking for insects. And no it’s not endangered, except by my cat of course.
Folk lore here says if an Alma-de-Gato calls at a house door, the occupant doesn’t have long to live, which is a cheering thought. I hope screaming because it was being dragged in by a cat doesn’t count, though of course it could have been announcing its own impending doom.
Alma-de-Gato By Dario Sanches [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Wikipedia says “This large and extremely long-tailed cuckoo is 40.5–50 cm (15.9–19.7 in) long and weighs 95–120 g (3.4–4.2 oz). The adult has mainly chestnut upper parts and head, becoming paler on the throat. The lower breast is grey and the belly is blackish. The central tail feathers are rufous, but the outer are black with white tips. The bill is yellow and the iris is red. Immature birds have a grey bill and eyering, brown iris, and less white in the tail…………..
There are a number of subspecies with minor plumage variations. For example, P. c. mehleri, one of the South American subspecies, has mainly brown (not black) outer tail feathers. Additionally, the subspecies from Mexico, Central America, and northern and western South America have a yellow eye-ring, but this is red in the remaining part of South America.
It makes explosive kip! and kip! weeuu calls, and the song is a whistled wheep wheep wheep wheep.”
The bird definitely had more brown than black in its tail feathers but they were in a sorry state, I think it must have lost a fair few of them in its struggle with the cat.
On one Internet site I found that if you call IBAMA about a (non endangered) bird, they will tell you to take it to a shelter, I doubt very much that there is a bird shelter within 50 miles of here and as I didn’t fancy having to hunt out insects for it, I hoped it would be sufficiently recovered by the next day for me to release it.
The next morning, as I opened the door to the room, the bird turned its red ringed eyes on me, maybe it was just the eye colour but it seemed to view me with barely contained fury. As I walked over to the box, the bird began jumping up and down in the box, bashing at the lid and shedding its remaining tail feathers, all of which added to the impression that it really was not a happy bird.
We had decided to release it into the trees in Neu’s father’s allotment which is a short walk away from the house, there it would have a good supply of food whilst keeping it as far from the cats as possible in case it was unable to fly. I opted to carry it out of the box as the way it was shedding it’s feathers I feared it would be bald before we could get it to the trees.
As soon as I let the bird go, it shot up into some higher branches were it sat throwing insults at us for a few moments, before flying off into another tree, its now complete lack of tail feathers didn’t seem to hamper it. Hopefully it will make a full recovery and while I would welcome it back in the garden to eat the insects, I hope it has learnt to beware of the cat!