John,  What you probably witnessed was a shock reaction.  I have seen it frequently in chickadees.  The rapid cycling of the nictitating membrane is a common indication of shock.  For some reason (Can someone explain?) allowing the bird to rest on its back seems the best way to bring it out of shock.  Bruce Peterson, Middlebury

On 4/23/10 8:45 AM, "john peckham" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

A few weeks ago I was at my grandmother's house in North Bennington and a
male Goldfinch was lying on the porch steps on its back. We gently rolled it
over and realized that it was not in fact dead, but stunned. There were a
couple of feathers pressed on the window where it had hit. He just lay there
his eyes moving quickly for a while so we let him be. I could've easily
picked him up at that point. Later on I came back to check on him and he was
peacefully singing away his sore head in the tree above the feeder.

John Peckham

On Fri, Apr 23, 2010 at 7:37 AM, William H. Barnard <[log in to unmask]>wrote:

> A colleague shared an experience with me.  He noted a Black Capped
> Chickadee in a lilac bush near his house.  It did not fly at his
> approach and he was able to pet or stroke its belly.  The bird appeared
> to be sleeping.  After 30 seconds, the birds eyes opened up and head
> popped up and it hopped off a few feet.  Then flew away.
> I suggested that it did not seem to me the bird was sleeping.  I
> wondered if it had hit a window of the house and was recovering from the
> blow.  Could a bird sleep so soundly that it would permit such an
> approach and touch?
> Bill Barnard