With its wide wings, sharp and curved beak and claws designed to tear apart its prey, the Black Kite evokes fear. But this one spotted at my office evoked only pity. It could barely get up, let alone fly. My colleagues made a flurry of calls to animal welfare organizations, but to no avail. In their defence, it was a Sunday. The bird looked dehydrated and stressed, and I thought it would not see another day.
As I approached the bird, it spread its wings in an intimidating manner. The sharp, curved beak and claws made me think twice before touching it. I mustered up enough courage and held it by both its legs, the best way to hold a bird that is not domesticated.
I could hear its heart beat at breakneck speed. I immediately called my veterinarian-friend Dr. Srikumar, who works at the government veterinary hospital in Adyar. He asked me to bring the bird to his residence in Royapettah and our office arranged the transport. He examined the bird thoroughly and concluded there were no external injuries or fractures.
"It is capable of spreading its claws and wings. It could be a case of food poisoning or some other infection. I hope the bird will survive," Dr. Srikumar said. He treated the bird with antibiotics and pain killer. Besides, he prescribed multi-vitamin drops and advised frequent feeding of electrolyte solution to beat the dehydration. In two hours, the bird showed signs of recovery. It hopped from one leg of the chair to another, in my cubicle.
I took the bird home and gave it morsels of boiled chicken. My three dogs were in a state of excitement. When they inched near, the black kite repulsed them with a display of its big wings. Staying at a distance, they barked in protest. I had to force-feed the bird since it refused to eat on its own.
To cut a long story short, I nursed the bird back to health in three days.
After the first two days, the bird showed a remarkable change in behavior. It was no longer afraid of human presence and flew from one place to another.
On farewell day, it had a dose of antibiotic. By 10 a.m., it stooped to the floor and flew onto the terrace. It looked back for a moment, before spreading its wings and soaring into the skies. The separation saddened me.
For the next few days, I caught myself looking at the skies for my friend.