I had been keeping an eye on a robin's nest below the eaves of our house. I could see movement, could make out 2 or 3 chicks and was watching and waiting for them to fledge, hoping to catch the moment when they left the nest. That was not to be. As I later discovered, the only remaining fledgling was a brown-headed cowbird's offspring. My dog found 2 robin fledglings on the ground, too young and too weak to fly. He brought their dead bodies inside. I found a third one on the ground below the nest. It was still alive, with stubs for wings, almost naked, the soft tissue of its chest fluttering with each breath, few feathers on it's back, a stubby tail and reddish flecked breast feathers. It moved weakly in my hand as I picked it up, lifted its head and opened its yellow beak wide, like the cup of a bright flower. It held it like that for a while but finally closed it again. Its whole wretched being was in my hand, with no future, no parent to feed it, awaiting a slow death by exposure. Poor thing. What was I to do? I could not keep it. But then, then botched it. I smashed it against a rock, but my hand shook so it just grazed the rock. It cried out in pain, terror in its eyes, before I did it again, the proper way and put an end to its poor life. A bizarre thought flashed across my mind, a need to inflict an equal amount of pain on myself, to atone for it, to restore a balance.
P.S. In retrospect, I should have probably tried to get in touch with a local bird rehabilitator.