Sunday, May 18, 2014

Baby Season

With the passing of a long winter, spring has finally sprung.  We are now entering the season that most of us at WBS have nicknamed “The Baby Season.”

With birds of prey, which species will arrive when at WBS’s Rehabilitation department is pretty predictable.  First will be the native owl species, then around mid-May the native hawk, falcon, and eagle species will start showing up.  There are some simple yet very important steps to take if a baby bird of prey were to show up in your neck of the woods.

Baby Barred Owl (photo:  Adam Triska)

The World Bird Sanctuary is home to the Catherine G. Favre Wildlife Hospital, where we specialize in the rehabilitation of sick and injured birds of prey.  Around this time of year we experience a particularly high influx of birds to treat in the hospital.  Because of limited funds and manpower, we cannot go out on individual calls to bring back birds ourselves.  We must rely almost exclusively on the individuals who discover these birds.  We examine the birds to look for any ailments or injuries here in the Wildlife Hospital.  After the initial examination, we go on to determine what should be done in the best interest of each individual bird.

While instinct may lead you to want to pick up a cute, fluffy, lonely baby birdie, it may not be a smart idea.  The parents are usually in the area, and unlike smaller songbirds, bird of prey parents may be aggressive and quite dangerous.  I caution you to only intervene if the baby bird appears sick or injured.

Unlike the parents of these baby Bluebirds, bird of prey parents may attack would-be rescuers (photo: Adam Triska)

The most beneficial action to take if you were to stumble across this situation would be to call us here at the World Bird Sanctuary, while keeping your eyes on the bird.  One of our representatives at the Wildlife Hospital can walk you through what to do next.

If that isn’t possible, try to answer these three very important questions:
1. Are the parents nearby? 
2. Is it safe and necessary to remove the baby from its natural habitat?
3. Is the bird able to fly?

If the parents are in the area actively feeding and guarding the baby, it would be best not to disturb the family and to let nature take its course.  For the first several days after leaving the nest, baby birds aren’t usually very skilled at flying.  In this case we would instruct you to return the baby to a safe place near or at the location where it was found.  If the bird can stand well, put it on a low branch, top of a fence or the top of a shed, so it isn’t as vulnerable to ground predators.  Be careful if you have to leave the ground to place the baby.

If it is indeed necessary to rescue the baby bird, there are again precautions to consider.  The equipment needed to capture a baby bird includes:
°  A good pair of leather gloves (welding gloves or garden gloves)
°  A towel, sheet or jacket of some sort
°  A box with a closeable top for transportation that is large enough to hold the bird

Once you have contacted the World Bird Sanctuary and explained the situation, if the suggestion is to bring the bird to the Wildlife Hospital you need to gather your supplies and do the following:

°  Put the gloves on and slowly approach the bird with the sheet/towel/blanket/jacket spread between your hands.
°  Then simply drape the sheet over the baby and grab for the feet.
°  Once you have a good hold of the feet you can place the bird and the sheet into the box. Make sure that you always have someone else with you when handling a wild animal.
°  Once the box is sealed, as soon as possible make arrangements to get the bird to WBS or another Wildlife Hospital that accepts birds of prey.
In closing, I’d like to remind everyone that it is unlawful and morally incorrect to keep a baby bird as a pet. Birds of prey are protected under federal and state law, and require specific diets so they grow correctly.

Submitted by Adam Triska, World Bird Sanctuary ETC Supervisor

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