Ariel Cordova-Rojas thought she was going to spend her day birdwatching at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens, New York, but not long after she arrived, she came across one bird that was in dire need of help.
“She didn’t move at all,” she told the Daily News. “I approached, and she stayed still. Swans are normally very aggressive and very territorial, so I knew something was wrong.”
Cordova-Rojas used to work at the Wild Bird Fund rehabilitation center in Manhattan. She spent five years as an animal care manager rescuing geese, red-tailed hawks, and other species throughout the city, so being able to spot an injured bird was something she was more than capable of doing.
Despite her background, she was still unsure what to do with the injured swan. All she had with her was her bike and a jacket, and the Wild Bird Fund center was an hour away.
So she threw her jacket over the swan and carefully picked it up and began the one-mile trek back to where she left her bike.
“Well, I’m carrying a swan,” she told The New York Times. “I have no idea what to do. I guess I’m just going to walk.”
After carrying the 17-pound swan back to her bike, she reached out to various wildlife rescue centers, but no one was able to help for various reasons.
And the ranger stations at the park were all closed.
“I knew exactly where to go, but it was the how to get there which was a big problem since I came on my bicycle,” she told NBC New York.
Two good Samaritans arrived and offered to give her a ride to the subway.
She loaded herself, the swan, and her bicycle onto the A line and rode the subway from the Howard Beach station to Nostrand Ave. in Brooklyn where members of the Wild Bird Fund met Cordova-Rojas and then drove her and the swan to the clinic on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
To some the sight of a swan on the subway might be a bit odd, but for New Yorkers, it was just another day.
“Meanwhile, there’s a few people on the train and nobody seems to be fazed,” she said.
Cordova-Rojas said that a man was “sitting right in front of me and he’s just on his phone. I don’t even know if he noticed there was a swan in front of him.”
Once the swan arrived at the clinic, staff determined it was suffering from lead toxicity and it was a little underweight.
“She has some lead in her system, which is actually pretty common for the water fowl in New York City,” Corodova-Rojas said. “Swans while grazing in water sometimes pick up lead anchors, little by little it leeches into their body.”
The swan is currently in stable condition, while it awaits blood test results that will determine its course of treatment.
But for now, everyone is happy that Corodova-Rojas found the swan and rescued it.
An injured swan had been reported to the New York City Audubon Society days earlier, but volunteers weren’t able to find it. Thankfully, Corodova-Rojas came to the rescue.
“That was kind of the perfect culmination of my 20s,” she said. “It was the perfect birthday present to be in nature and be able to save a life.”
Thank you Ariel for spending your day saving this swan’s life! You are a hero!