|Sienna Muscovy Duck Beth Bergman photo|
How many times does a talk start with a standing ovation? Well, it happened on Wednesday, March 23, 2016 when Leslie Day, Beth Bergman, and I gave a talk about The Field Guide to the Neighborhood Birds ofNew York City at the Wild Bird Fund on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. We walked in the door and who greeted us but Sienna, a full-grown beautiful Muscovy duck, Cairina moschata, as you see in Beth Bergman’s great photo shown here. Sienna, like all the birds at the Wild Bird Fund (WBF from now on) is a rescue bird. Rita McMahon, founder of this incredible site of daily miracles, told us that the WBF takes in more than 3,500 injured, sick, or abandoned birds a year and when possible, helps them get strong and healthy so they can be released to the wild again. A few years ago, Alan and I put into the WBF's care two baby pigeons, Columba livia domestic, birds we had found in Riverside Park (and by the way, despite what most people say, there are baby pigeons. They just grow very fast and look more grown up than they are). The babies had been left in a cardboard box with an old pillow for a bed—no water, no food, and no ability to fend for themselves. Rita found that they were buggy but healthy and with the WBF’s fine care, they grew into exquisite adult pigeons.
Back to Sienna—this people-friendly duck happily went from person to person. Then when she was helped onto a chair she stood there and gave us our ovation before we said a word. We petted her and talked with her while listening to the cooing pigeons in the background. When more people arrived and the door was open, Rita wrapped a towel around Sienna and put her in her cage. No one wanted Sienna to walk out onto Columbus Avenue and suffer any kind of mishap. As it is, it is hard to tell how much walking out on the sidewalk she can do. Sienna was found in the snow after someone left her there; perhaps she had been someone’s pet and they had let her go. Her toes were frozen and as Rita informed me, “They self amputate.” Oh my this beautiful duck has blackened ends on her toeless feet, but she still trusts and wants to get near to the humans she meets. It is heartening to know that thanks to the excellent care that Sienna got, this friendly duck will be moving to a nature sanctuary sometime later this year.
The room filled up until there was not an empty seat, so perhaps it was good that Sienna had gone to her private cage-home. We began our talk to the sounds of pigeons and peahens, to the arrival of a box filled with an injured red tailed hawk, to the good vibes of the WBF members, as well as to the smiles and warmth of Rita and the rest of the staff at the WBF--an amazing staff totally dedicated to the needy wildlife in our big bustling city. The Wild Bird Fund is a treasure found right on Columbus Avenue between 87 and 88th Streets.