Monday, May 3, 2010

Put the Bird Back

Late last week I saw them.  Two little brown birds (LBJ - little brown jobs - in birders parlance) that fluttered down to land on the lid of my compost bin.  Then they tried to get up over the fence and failed miserably.  They could fly DOWN but had no coordination and very little ability to fly UP.

Then last night I heard the bizarre ruckus of sounds made by young owls.

It's that time of the year again. 

Fledgling Season.

So Put That Bird Back.

Fledglings are young birds that have just left the nest.  They are fully feathered and full sized (although they sometimes have shorter tail feathers than adults).  But they don't fly well.

This is normal.
No, it's not a fledgling.  Despite working with wildlife in rehabilitation for years I managed to not take many pictures.  This is a young ground squirrel in a pre-release cage.  I guess all the fledgling pictures I took were taken with the facilities camera for their web pages and education purposes.

It takes a few days to build up the flight muscles and the coordination necessary to fly.  During this time fledglings live in low bushes and are very vulnerable to predators, including house cats and people (please keep your cat indoors, especially at night when fledglings are sleeping).  Most people assume that a bird that looks like an adult but can't fly is injured so they pick them up and try to heal them, or take them in to a  vet or a wildlife rehabilitator.  Some people will do this even after it's explained to them that the bird is a fledgling.  They want to "protect" it.  Unfortunately this is not a good solution, long term, for the bird.  A bird taken to a rehabilitator looses out on important lessons that can only be taught by their parents and is less likely to survive long term in the wild.

So if you spot one of these birds leave it alone.  If you're still concerned call your local rehabilitator (in order to handle birds they must be licensed so check with your state Fish and Wildlife department for a list of local rehabilitators near you).
This very young coyote was indeed sick and needed to come in.

What about baby mammals?  I'm glad you asked.  Leave them alone, too.  Adult deer, rabbits and squirrels are not able to pay for child care and must leave their young alone while they are out finding food.  Rabbits and deer in particular may leave young hidden and only visit twice a day to feed them and care for them.  Baby mammals do worse in rehab than in the wild.  Unless you find a dead mother or the baby is injured leave it where you found it.  Those squirrels that fell from the nest?  Mom can come down and pick them up (unless they are cold to the touch).  The baby rabbits holding still under the hedge?  Mom will be back.  [An exception, apparently, is Moose who do not leave their calves alone ever.  But how many of you live in Moose Country?]

Baby deer are cute but are EXTREMELY difficult to rehabilitate.  This one is being "stimulated" to go to the bathroom.  There is a fine line between keeping their stress level low and letting them get too acclimated to humans.  Our solution was to limit the number of people who contacted them (to two) and then, as soon as they could use the bathroom on their own, severely minimize contact to placing the bottles in a rack or fresh food in the enclosure.  It seemed to work and they were quite scared of people by release time.  People who snuggle baby deer (and baby deer would happily snuggle) produce deer who aren't afraid of people and therefore are vulnerable to hunting, traffic, dogs; or they raise bucks who become aggressive to humans who enter their territory, or want to mate with them.  Neither one is good for the human in question.  Or the deer.

Once again, if you are unsure what to do leave the animal where it is and call a local rehabilitator, your state Fish and Wildlife department will have a list. 

Last words.  The most common thing a rehabilitator says during the summer months.

Put The Bird Back.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Diana, I'm glad I found your blog--your mom didn't even mention you had one, mentioned hers but not yours. I enjoy reading about your gardening experience--even though I hate gardening. I want to like it. I like digging in the dirt but that's about it.
    I'll keep up with your blog though--maybe it will inspire me---but I know me and that's doubtful. Take care, your cousin, phyllis