We are on a mission to educate the world on safe suet. Joking. But its super sad for me reading home-made recipes for suet because nearly all of them are dangerous for birds. Reality is fats can get on birds' feathers and harm their ability to stay dry and warm. This is deadly in the winter. And its why feeding soft or liquid fats, or fats that melt easily at low temperatures is very unsafe. This rule leaves out all but true suet, as veg fats and animal fats (veg oils, subcutaneous fats, bacon drippings) melt at low points. Making soft fats hard with ingredients (that the birds don't eat like wheat or oats) is not a solution. True suet is the fat around the loin of a cow. It is used in commercial suet because it is nearly dry, thus it crumbles when you handle it. Peanut butter melts at 104 degrees, so adding it to the suet gives you a solid, low melt, hard fat that is safer to feed birds (whom are landing close to these fats). Note, even in winter fats can melt from the heat of the sun on them. Test: pinch your suet between two fingers. Does it squish? Toss it and go for a no melt beef suet that has no or very little veg oil in it.
Test 2: handle the suet and now wash your hands. What does it take, how hard is it for you to get that off? Takes dish soap likely and two washings. That true for birds, and in wildlife rescue that is what we have to do to get fats off of birds who have been dirtied on feeders. yes, you can make your own. Use only true suet and if the butcher tries to tell you beef fat is suet, tell them you know better and ask for groin only. If it crumbles and is nearly dry - its suet. Recipes that require a lot of dry ingredients are likely using a soft fat that they have to try to hold together. Avoid. And never ever - please - simply hang out suet balls or logs or wreaths uncaged! Just think...any bird landing on that will get the fats on their feet.
Birds use their feet to preen (groom) their head feathers, the fats WILL get on them. And then it will spread to other feathers. Birrrr...that means a cold, and likely wet head on a bird. And cold spells doom to birds as it leads to hypothermia and eventual starvation. Now for those who hummpf at this and think they have 'never seen this' well, you have likely rarely seen sick birds at all. Sick birds are vulnerable to predation and thus do their best to hide. Sick birds die alone, cold, and in despair far from our view. So yes, feed suet...safe, beef suet with good ingredients like seeds, some no melt with peanut butter is ok and great actually. Test your suets...they should be hard. Have fun feeding. (Picture is from my friend Jane Tibbetts, songbird photographer extraordinaire! She's made a safe, very neat log feeder for the suet. Thanks Jane!
This is a nestling Western Wood Pewee. She came in after her nest was blown down after a heavy wind. She was a hoot to finish raising. As an aerial insectivore and eating by catching her insect prey in flight with her feet, she took some extra care getting her ready for release. Babies like this need practice catching their food, so giving her flighted insects was necessary. We do that with bot fly larva and fruit flies (which we make ourselves by...you guessed it...lots of old fruit scraps. Basically we leave a bucket of rotting food out in the aviary with 1/4 inch screen on it so birds cannot get in, but bugs can get out. I would also toss crickets and mealworms in the air for her to catch...she was super adept early on and kept getting better. She learned way faster than her barn swallow buddy who would just look at me from his high perch and shun my attempts. He eventually got it though and both would swoop down to catch what I tossed up. Notably, she caught her bugs with her feet and the swallow caught his with his mouth - both variations on on-the-wing foraging by birds. This little Pewee was surely one of the sweetest birds we have had in care. She got released with a whole flock of other Pewees at Camp Polk Meadows. Birders helped us locate a flock, then we took her to them. She flew directly towards the flock and two came out to greet her. Absolutely perfect!
American Coots are abundant, that's true, but it doesn't take away from them being a fascinating, beautiful, and unique bird. These cuties navigate inland waters year-round, and they fit in a similar niche as a small grebe (like a Horned or Eared). But they are actually part of the Rail family (along with Virginia Rail). Rather than skirt the shoreline like a Virginia though, these guys are eating small fish, crustaceans, bugs, invertebrates and vegetation along the shore while in the water. They are floaters, not walkers. Like the grebes, these birds cannot take off from the ground due to their feet and the size of their wings (which are small in relation to their body size and weight, which is an advantage if you are a swimmer). So, these birds wind up stranded in poor winter weather (like loons, grebes, and ruddy ducks).
This girl rebounded remarkably once we dewormed her, warmed her up, and got her fed and hydrated. In fact, she put on 200 grams in 9 days (its amazing how quickly they can respond once the problem is found!). Like other waterbirds that come through here, we made sure her feathers and waterproofing were in shape, and maintained, and she got a pool. Had we not already put our winter pools away (oops, who knew winter would be in March!), she would have had a bigger pool, but instead she had to do with our large indoor water set up, which is a whole lot more work for us as it has to be cleaned very frequently so she stayed clean. (Note - next year, leave winter pools up in aviary!)
Why the red eyes? Lots of waterbirds have red eyes as it helps them see underwater. Note the babies have brown eyes, red eyes happen as they reach adulthood. Their leg color also changes, from more green/olive to more and more yellow as they age. And while Grebes and Loons have toenails, nothing compares to the talons on these guys. Just check out the first picture. In fact, these feisty birds will flip over on their backs like a raptor and try to slash you with those sharp, hooked nails (yes, we ALWAYS wear gloves with Coots, ha ha!). The boys are another 200 grams on the girls, so they can be a handful (2 handfulls, ha). The lobes on those pretty yellow-green feet are designed to propel them through the water, highly effective paddles, very cool.
We had the fun time of raising a baby coot last summer. So for fun I've added a parent and two babies. Notably, like most waterbirds, Coots also feed their babies bill to bill. So, even though they are born "precocial" (born with down, able to move away from nest soon), they cannot feed themselves. This is such a wonderful picture of their colorful, adorable babies. Coots may be one of the few birds that can make the global transition we are experiencing, because they are adaptable, can eat a diversity of food, and are productive. Go Coots!
A big thanks to Spencer in Ontario who rescued a Horned Grebe! Finding my website which highlights these birds, he called for help, which I was happy to offer. The horrible cold and storm in the mid-west is likely bringing quite a few of these birds up onto the shore or onto parking lots and roads. They come out of the water if they are either frozen out or have lost their waterproofing (like from contamination or bad body condition). I hope more downed ones are found. Always rescue a grebe out of water, and never simply put them back in. They are out for a reason and need help.
Horned Grebes are some of the cutest birds there are. Looking like mini-penguins, their feet are positioned toward their rears to enable efficient swimming. They have a hard time standing for this reason. Like a lot of waterbirds, they have smallish wings that are held tight to their bodies for streamlined swimming (though they do not swim with the wings). The foot position and small wings makes it impossible for them to fly from stand-still. They must run on water for up to 20 or more feet to get into the air. Thus, once down, that's it if they hit pavement.
These cuties breed in AK and Canada mainly, with just a few in the states. They winter in coastal regions, from Alaska to Mexico and Nova Scotia to Florida, also winter inland on lakes and rivers at various locations throughout the US. Horned's eat lots of larvae and insects, as well as small fish. They have charming breeding behaviors and the male and female have similar plumages in breeding season and winter. They mate up during winter, and are monogamous; some continue their relationships for several seasons.
These birds wind up coming down in bad storms and when lakes or rivers freeze over. They will hop onto land if frozen out and basically sit there, helpless and at risk of starvation or predation. They also come down if migrating and hitting severe weather. They wind up emaciated, hypothermic, and at risk of death.
Huge numbers of these birds have come down in harsh storms in parking lots and roads. But when the single birds get downed, it is a bird that simply does not have the stamina from poor body condition.
These birds are prone to parasites (worms), which cause them to be in poor condition and weight. Worm infections can ruin waterproofing as well. can be Birds that I get ALWAYS have worms and are always hypothermic. We follow care protocols similar to those of the seabird-specialist facilities , so every bird gets wormed asap here. However, these birds, if they are in migration, reduce (atrophy) the size of their internal organs. This makes them unable to receive the normal level of food intake. This is a key reason these birds must come into rescue. First, we must access their physical status, including whether they are in a migratory condition.
Downed birds are always cold. Sitting on cold pavement or snow (and given they came down due to condition), would make anyone cold. Putting them back into cold water will either kill them or they will get out again. Hypothermia kills wet, cold birds. Getting them warm is critical. Like all seriously hypthermic patients, including humans, they cannot simply be set on a hot pad. They must be warmed slowly and hydrated.
These birds special water facilities to regain their waterproofing and hydration. So, please make sure to call someone if you find one. Never simply put them back on water, call a wildlife rescue and get a consult with a rehabilitation professional who knows these birds. I am happy to answer questions and help find a facility wherever you are.
A huge thank you to Spencer for caring for this wonderful and unique bird. And thanks for driving him 3 hours to save him!!! Finding rescues who take these birds and can help them sometimes requires some looking.
Spencer - You rock!
Mourning doves are just so precious and gentle, and so pretty. The subtle coloring on them is really beautiful. The one in the back, a boy, came in late fall injured from a cat attack. All of his skin and feathers were torn off from the mid back down. It took a month of wound management to repair the damage. That sort of repair is always stressful just due to the potential infection. But, he pulled through just fine. His new skin is healthy and ready to grow feathers, so we are just waiting for him to finish that process. And he has to grow a tail.
The gal next to him came in after hitting a window really hard. She had a fairly serious hematoma around her eye. Luckily all was fine once the swelling came down. I put her with the other guy so they could keep each other company. She runs over to him when the scary woman comes in. No, they do not get that I won't hurt them. Doves are very stressy birds. They will be released together, and perhaps we will have helped them find love together.
I really adore these birds, but they are one type that are just frustrating in care. Their key defense is to blow out their feathers - and I mean a LOT. You will notice that neither has their tails. Earlier today the girl did, but she decided to let them all go when I went in to clean the cage. I have a protocol that works with this behavior, its called 'let them be.' They will both grow their tails back once in the aviary.
A little science: The right picture is an excellent example of what a "blood" feather looks like (the dark shaft at the bottom of the picture). This is what a feather looks like when it is just growing in. A feather grows out in a protective sheath that holds blood to grow the feather. The blood has all the nutrition for growth of the feather. A bird that breaks a feather low at this stage will bleed. Feathers are fragile at this point. Eventually, the full feather grows in and the blood section shrinks down to nothing.
These two are doing great, and they will be released as soon as they both have all their feathers and tails back.
It takes soap for us rescuers to get fats and oils out of a birds feathers - they simply cannot do this themselves, neither their bills nor their saliva is able to do this. Birds groom their heads with their feet, so even if their belly feathers do not wind up soiled, they can easily spread these fats to their feathers by grooming with feet that have fat on them. Myself and several other songbird rehabilitators are quite concerned about this growing trend and get fat contaminated birds in which we must bath to save. Don't trust me? Smear your hands with any oil or fat you are feeding your bird, now go try to wash it off using only water. I use Dawn soap to get suet and fats out.
Belly feathers and feet touching fat= deadly for birds.
Greasy birds are dead birds, as lack of waterproofing, allows water to contact their skin, which then makes them cold, cold birds spend more time preeing then eating, once very cold thats all they will do and slowly starve to death. Cold wet birds starve or die from hypothermia. Key to fats are their melting points and fats like suet with high melting points are safest. Note the following melting points are for ambient air temp, not direct sun - note any time fats are exposed to sun that temp can get high even in cold weather. Direct sun starts to melt any of these on contact which means always feed fats in the shade. Here are some facts.
Takeaway 3 is that the only safe fat is suet. (and some kinds of peanut butter if fed correctly. Suet: a particular kind of beef fat found around organs and groin. Raw it is hard, crumbly, with far less water and no blood veins as is found in general beef fat. Its melting point is about 110 degrees. It is used raw in recipes (mainly British).
Beef fat; must be rendered (melted down and sterilized) to be made hard enough to form and to kill bacteria. Melting point is 95 degrees. This should not be used for feeding birds. First, though its melting point is 95, surface melt is more likely to occur, making any home suet greasy. Rendered beef fat is not "suet" - you can get it hard, but still its low melt point makes it risky for birds' feathering and waterproofing. (Regions with zero degree weather, 24 hours a day, this can work, like Fairbanks).
Vegetable oils: Coconut and palm are the only plant fats that are hard at room temperature. Their melting points are 75-77 degrees. This is way too low for a "suet" type of bird food. Also, birds likely do not have the digestive enzymes to digest these oils. In contrast, you will see even songbirds pick at dead animals, which is likely why eating our suets was not so hard to get them to do. Animal proteins and fats are closer to the types of foods they eat, at least the insectivores.
Peanut butter - melting point is high, 104. Just make sure that it has NO ADDED OILS - no other vegetable oils and no sugars. The best kind is fresh ground kind - where you pour the peanuts into a machine and you get fresh peanut butter, no salts, no oils, no sugar. Added to suet, this makes a "no melt" sort of suet.
Recipe for Favorite suet: No Melt peanut butter & suet. Ground oatmeal, corn flour or finely ground, quick oats with its flour, rendered suet. Add peanut butter if you want a no melt. You can add seeds, nuts, and fruit.
Please ALWAYS USE A SUET FEEDER...either a cage or something that encloses the fats. You can use logs if they are hung so that the bird cannot get the fat on them (vertical is usually required for this AND if they have a landing perch.
NEVER EVER EVER SPREAD FATS OR OILS ON TREE LIMBS!!!! I cannot express how dangerous this is for birds. And you will NOT notice their demise, unless you are banding and keeping watch for months. What I am saying here is common sense, not that hard to reflect on why this is bad.
Audubon and others sites have fine print that comment about the impact of fats on feathers. Native Bird Care and other Songbird rehabilitators are currently pressuring Audubon and other organizations to stop promoting this fat fad and the impacts its having.
Note that even on a cage, a bird can get its feathers exposed to fats. The cleaner your cage feeder, the safer for the bird. The colder it is, the likely the suet will crumble off the feet, rather than melting.
They look larger than they really are, at only 2 or so ounces. They are tiny really. They live almost entirely on fruit in winter, and today they have moved towards more of our planted species, like the mountain ash. However, they get their name from the Cedar tree, which they ate the berries of historically.
They are highly susceptible to the insecticides and other sprays with coat our trees and shrubs with. And being so little, it does not take much to make them sick. At least 2 of my intakes were sick from what I think was pesticide poisoning. One did not survive, the other I just released. If you love birds, please do not spray your trees with anything...not even "non-toxic" products like soap (soaps kills the waterproofing on birds and makes them sick too).
These are not feeder birds, but if you want them in your yard plant serviceberry, mountain ash, cherry trees, crabapple, and raspberries - but be happy birds are eating all your fruit! Know that your fruiting trees are keeping these cuties alive. In rehab, they are eating soaked currents, pear, chopped raisens, raspberries, and blueberries, along with mealworms (at least they are offered).
Unlike some birds in which we try to return them to their original location and group, with the Waxwings, we release them to larger flocks with abundant resources (if we can). Cedar Waxwings are flocking up at this time anyway and we like to give our rehabs a good chance. There is safety in numbers, and they have night-time buddies to stay warm with on freezing nights and experienced birds that can lead the way to food sources.
Enjoy these special birds! Keep some small binocs in your car, and take that moment or two just to get close up look. However, never walk up to trees at night and try to get closer looks at birds resting for the night or even on really cold days.
Once a bird flies, it loses all of its built up heat. Birds can die from having to lose this critical heat upon a flight made late in the day. For the tiny songbirds, they may not have the physical reserves to make more heat for their frigged night.
Enjoy those Waxwings! See the fb post for video.
Mountain Bluebirds must be one of the most beautiful songbirds that grace our skies here in Central Oregon. I was blessed this summer to be able to save 4 baby mountains who had sadly lost their parents somehow. The kind home owner who noticed this, intervened after a day and called us. The babies were a bit burdened by parasites and a bit thin, and of course quite hungry, but luckily nothing else was wrong. So, in they came.
We are careful to interview people when they want to bring in a full nest of fairly healthy birds. But in this case, their body status did indicate that the parents were struggling to feed them and they needed treatment for mites. With even one parent missing, if the family is having difficulty feeding already, then having a missing parent would have meant a slow starvation for these sweeties. Its nice when owners observe and watch the nest boxes they have. Not only is it fun for them, but they know right away when birds are having a hard time. This summer was difficult for many insectivores since June was really frigid and then we shot up into the 90s, both temperatures take their toll on bugs...and thus baby birds.
These babies lucked out and got all the bugs they needed from us! This summer we created a large indoor aviary because the hot temperatures in July were making the aviaries quite steamy. We often mix and match baby birds once they are fledging so that they have the sense of being with a larger flock (but only if they get along!). Other older birds too can help the younger ones learn to eat out of dishes on their own. The bluebirds had as company a Townsend's Solitaire, Barn Swallows, and 2 feisty Lesser Goldfinch. It was very sweet to see them perched all together at the end of the day.
About Mountain Bluebirds
These beautiful birds are in the family as the American Robin - they are thrushes. And of all the thrushes they eat the most insects. This is why we do not see them at our feeders and instead out in wide open meadows and sometimes agricultural lands. They love caterpillars, but eat many flying insects as well. They also glean insects from trees like aphids which makes them good for the forest.
You will see them perched on fences and on tree limbs on the edges of a forest meadow waiting to flit out from their perch, grab the bug, and land again. They can also hover and dive bomb. Ground insects are not safe either, these expert insectivores will spend some time on the ground hunting beetles and crickets.
In Central Oregon we get to enjoy these sweet birds year-round, some winter here from northern climates, while others are local migrants moving from different areas for breeding or wintering habitat.
Bluebird populations are stable, specially now with fires opening up more habitat. They expanded with logging at the turn of last century, then declined with the use of DDT and the overgrowth of our forests (from logging large trees and clearcutting). Now, they compete with House Wrens, House Sparrows, and Swallows. But swallows will happily nest in an adjacent box, so always post two boxes if trying to offer homes to bluebirds. Swallows are in decline, and they need the same size home. Mountain bluebirds are one bird that actually benefits from prescribed burns (unlike a lot of other birds that need shrub cover).
Mountain bluebirds need wild, native grasses, so our agricultural lands don't really help them like it does Robins. However, humans can assist these lovely important birds by keeping cats indoors and if offering nest boxes, making sure we do not feed raccoons and other bird predators. Putting a box on a metal conduit post is a great solution for preventing depredation. See the instructions for a great box for this bird at www.treeswallowproject.com. And be sure to post one for the swallow too!
Note: wish I was a skilled photographer, but my phone just doesn't do it. The adults in this post are all stock photos, only the babies are Native Bird Care.
Well, we thought she was a Hermit Thrush for a bit, but she does not have a white throat. She smaller than a robin, and makes the most beautiful trill call. Anyone want to gander at who she is? Post comments on fb too if you want.
Everyone is in consensus! Townsend's Solitaire....just LOVE this little bird. I love all the birds I get (ok, maybe not a couple), but some like this really make this whole project worth it. Thrilled that I will be able to release this beauty right here on our property, and maybe, just maybe, she will stick around and find a mate.
Nene Goose found a home! Thanks all who helped us search out someone who knew Nenes and had room for one. Interestingly, she went back to Prineville where she was originally found abandoned at the Reservoir, and then transferred to Smith Rock State Park. The Nene is an endangered goose from Hawaii, however, they are also bred in the US. Update on state and fed rules: No amazingly no permits needed (if you look at the list of non-regulated species, many endangered, its super long); for USFWS Migratory Bird, well these are not really 'migratory birds', they are bred exotics under their rules, so if you are not transferring these birds across state lines then the rules are lax. Now, if you are selling, that is different.
The Nene is one of the gentlest of all the domestic geese from what I have read, also she is smaller than most. Hawaii does not want anymore Nenes, I am sure all the condo owners do not really want all their poop on their lawns. I wish I could have kept her but I have only native fescue and my pools are set up for full-time water birds, not birds that need grass and ponds. Plus, I am way to busy to also care for pets.
Good article about when feeding is good or bad for birds, read it here: When is it OK to feed birds?
They point out that feeding is actually NOT always good for birds. Many assume that feeding has to be good, how can it not? Their key example is the Florida scrub jay, a popular feeder bird until their babies started dying and USFWS made it illegal to feed them (thankfully). The birds were breeding too soon in the season due to the availability of adult food (feeders) - something I think happens A LOT with most feeder birds. Sadly, the insect population the parents relied on for baby food was not born yet, and the babies were starving to death. Parent songbirds must feed insects; our sunflower seeds are NOT good baby foods. As a result of feeders, breeding too early meant the birds' young did not have the foods they needed to survive. I am sure some people are ignoring the USFWS if they have not educated themselves on the science behind the decision to make it illegal (not sure how USFWS can enforce it either, which is sad for this nearly extinct bird). With only 5000 FL scrub jays left, this is a critical issue. Birds are complex, we cannot always know what our innocent and well-intentioned actions are really doing.
Here in Central Oregon, we should have the same concerns for our birds. Our feeders do not help parent birds with feeding babies - parents yes; babies eat bugs. What is more helpful for baby birds? NATIVE PLANTS. Those pesky sage, bitterbrush, and rabbitbrush shrubs, the 10+ species of grasses, our native flowers, serviceberry and other native berry trees (if we are near water). And Juniper!!! Even hummingbirds eat insects, and must feed babies insects.
TIP: Do not make your feeders that reliable. Pull them down in the spring, when warm weather starts. Give them a thorough cleaning and wait a week to put back up. Let them run out. Make the birds breed where they will find good habitat, not a McDonalds. Summer feeding should not be free every day buffet. Make your birds work. Some songbird predator bird populations are increasing greatly. Scrub and Steller jays for example. Raccoons now live under everyone's hot tubs and in places where they never have...becoming a new, very real threat. Raccoons small hands can reach into and grab almost any bird in any cavity. Our feeding birds has sent their numbers skyrocketing. All rodents, squirrels, and raccoons eat baby and fledgling birds. (For this reason, do not "check" on your nest boxes, or you will be making a little "here's dinner" path for your jays and raccoons who you can be sure are watching you. Let your birds be hidden. (No, citizen "science" does not make up for the death of those babies).
Is Feeding Bad - No, and sometimes.
NO, feeding is not always bad for birds. In fact, just the opposite during really cold stretches or suffocatingly hot times. Birds do need our help sometimes, and its wonderful that people care. We just need to make sure that what we are doing is not harming them. The Audubon article is a great example of good intentions gone bad.
As the article points out, how and what we feed and care of our feeders is paramount. Birds do not always naturally congregate at one food source, every single day. Yes, the robins and waxwings might launch a food attack at a Juniper or Mountain Ash in berry season. But they do not go there every day for weeks on end. Sanitation then becomes a real risk to our birds. And yes, birds carry parasites, mites, infections (like conjunctivitis - common in finches, now the goldfinch too), disease (salmonella - pine siskins in particular), coccidia (robins, jays), giardia (any and all), etc. They can share these with other birds. No reason to keep them out, but common sense and prevention are key. Cleanliness is the key actually.
Clean those feeders! Bleach kills a lot of bacteria, not much else. So use carefully, 10% solution rinse. Then you must wash it again with soap to remove bleach residue or you will harm the birds as bleach leaves a toxic scum. Rinse, rinse, rinse. No wood feeders! Use ultra hot water, that is more effective than bleach. At the rehab, our water heater is set at 168 degrees (yeah, don't put your hands in it when its full on hot water at the tap!). But that kills A LOT. I have a hot water faucet outside so that I can wash things outside with that hot water and sterilize. A great solution, kills weeds too, though that is not a water wise answer for that...pulling is.
Nest boxes? Another topic for another day, but we are taking on a huge responsibility when we invite birds to our yards either for food or to have babies. Example: I have a pair of white breasted nuthatch nesting in what I considered a 'decorative' next box on our porch. They are early in my opinion since it is 30 degrees at night. (I will likely put a hot pad under the box today). But they are here because they have easy and free food for the parents. I hope there is enough food for them right now. The cold spell could be killing a bunch of bugs right now. Freezing does kill larvae (which is why a warm winter leads to more ticks, as more bugs make it to breed; and then freezing kills larvae reducing the population). A bad tick year, is a good bug year for birds (except for their mites and nest parasites, which is why you want to clean out your bird boxes except for species that do not rebuild the nest).
My newsletter will have more bird feeding tips next go around, so if interested in that, sign up for my newsletter by emailing me your name and email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Suet: my newest pet peeve on feeding. Birds are getting oiled by suet and nut butters. I read article after article on all this "great" feeding ideas with fats...Um...NO let's not put FAT out where birds can get into it? Might as well just take a jug of engine oil and spread it into the trees - that is essentially what is happening. OIL is OIL...for a bird. Crude oil and peanut butter fat are NO DIFFERENT ON A BIRD'S FEATHERS. It takes the same solvents and surfactants (soaps, Dawn usually) to remove peanut butter oils or suet oils off the feathers as it does the Exxon or BP crude oil. An oiled bird is a dead bird.
See my next post on Suet feeding tips!
Fun day with the ladies at the Sisters Community Church Spring Luncheon! They kindly invited me to speak about my favorite topic - Birds! Once I have some pics, I will fill in more about it all.
Thank you so much to Carol and the organizers of the aptly titled, "Birds of a Feather" Luncheon.
A sincere THANK YOU to all the ladies (over 70!) who took time out of their busy Saturdays to come to the event. We all enjoyed the beautiful song of a young gal, and an elegant dance of another, and then they listened to me chatter on about my favorite topic - Birds! What a fun, wonderful event.
I promised I would post two links to webpages that folks can check out for ideas on how to provide more great habitat for their wild birds that come to their yards. We are lucky in Central Oregon that we have so much native habitat and native plants available to us. These links will tell you more about the native plants and habitat good specifically for our neck of the woods. They are wonderful, so enjoy!
1) Habitat Network - Go to main page, choose "Explore," just type in your zip code and our "Ecoregion" will show up. And for more information, read some of the articles under "Learn."
2) Nest Watch - so much to explore here. Look up our region: Go to "Learn", go to "Common Nesting Birds", choose region "West", choose "Open Woodland" (that's Central Oregon) - and a whole bunch of birds that nest here will appear. Simply click on the ones you want to learn about, its super easy! You can learn about landscaping for birds also under "Learn." Have fun!
Here's to all of our lovely birds - the gems of the air and we are blessed to have them!
A huge thank you to the Bulletin and its writers for consistently following this story all the way to its end. Kyle Spurr has done a great job in this last chapter: Hunter to Pay Restitution.
Hope & Fiona are Trumpeter Swans that were shot at Summer Lake in October 2016. Fiona died on bullet impact; Hope survived, though she had numerous pellets in her and compound fractures in her two wing bones on one side. Hope died in a second surgery to repair her wing. Both were part of the ODFW's swan reintroduction program. Hope was the first cygnet born from wild, migratory birds at Summer Lake who also lived through her first and second winters.
Why either had to be shot. How the hunter confused 20+ pound birds that are at least 5 feet in total length in flight, and who have 5 foot wingspans with a goose is beyond rational thought to me. And why anyone would want to shoot such a phenomenally beautiful being is beyond me.
Anyway, Micheal Abbott was charged with 2 counts of criminal negligence, and has finally been sentenced. He is asked to pay $4700 in restitution to the ODFW swan reintroduction program. See Spurr's article for more detail.
Hope is available for presentations on waterbirds if your school, organization, or company is interested. Thanks to all who have followed Hope and Fiona's story.
Thanks to those who have remembered us and donated a tree this year. Thanks so much!
The above picture is of Native Bird Care's 2nd large aviary. Songbirds and shorebirds use this aviary. They would use this when ready to start the physical therapy part of their rehabilitation, post injury (like hitting a window). Or, if they came is as babies or fledglings, they would use it to start practicing their flight and developing physical stamina and strength.
Birds must go through this stage in rescue. Cold turkey releases rarely result in a bird really thriving or even surviving. Kinda like if you broke your arm and once the cast was off the Dr sent you to the gym to lift weights all day and lift as many heavy things as you wanted. Rehabilitation is no different in animals. A bird dumped into the outdoors without any physical therapy, is likely a dead bird. Atrophy of muscles occurs quickly and is severe in birds. Just a few days or a week in housing like this means that the bird has a chance to build up lost muscle mass, develop strength and agility, and gain endurance so she can get away from predators, fly around all day hunting for food, and stay warm (muscle mass = warmth).
This little goldfinch is exercising her wings as she perches.
Baby birds in the wild would fly hop and fly around brushes and trees in the area of their watchful parents. Their parents would continue to feed them as they developed their agility and ability to avoid collisions with branches and gain strength in their feet for hanging on to the tree branches. We mimic this in care by feeding fledges outside in the aviaries. Our babies get the largest aviaries we can give them (the largest is 16' x 20') so that they can get a few good flaps in across the aviary.
We will also hide their food in different locations and give them mental enrichment items (like foraging items) so they can develop mentally as well.
SO... if you would like to contribute tree branches (pine is ALWAYS needed) or a Christmas tree (no sprays), please consider our rescue. We do pick ups, but really appreciate it if you can bring it to us. Text us at 541-728-8208
Have a Happy New Year!
We had a very early start of our usual fall waterbird season this year with several birds coming down with the October storms. These two are grebes, and if you know me, you know I think these kinds of birds are some of the coolest around. This picture gives us an excellent view of the differences between the Clark's Grebe and the Western Grebe. The Clark's is the one in front, and an older bird. The one is the back is the Western and is a young, likely first year bird. Both came down on wet pavement thinking it was a river or lake. Both were very thin, needed worming, hypothermic, and needed a solid rest. For some reason all the birds that came down, including one loon, were extremely thin which indicates they were not finding enough food on their breeding grounds prior to migration. The worms didn't help either.
These birds cannot fly from a stand-still, they must have water. For the Western at least 20-30 feet of a water 'runway' is needed for them to get into the air. Their legs are set far back on their bodies, like a penguin and for that reason they cannot walk well, much less get a running start to get in the air. Their bodies are heavy and their wings small in relation to their body size - this is because these birds are excellent fishers. A Western can get moving so fast underwater they can spear their fish. THAT is impressive! Its that heavy body and those small wings held flat against their bodies that allows them to dive and stay down to fish. But with these very neat anatomical features comes a heavy price to pay if they are not fit enough for reaching a watery destination. Sadly, these guys in an emergency (hypothermia, fatigue) must choose whatever looks closest to water and make a gamble. If lucky, some kind soul finds them and gets them to a rehabber who can warm them up, worm them, get them waterproof again, fed a bit, and released.
When they come in as thin as these did, it takes a few days for their digestive tracks to get to fully functioning again and for them to be able to handle fish. Many of these birds' intestinal tracks go through some atrophy prior to migration in order for the bird to be light enough to make their full migration. More on that in another post. This October we have had 4 grebes and one common loon. Wickiup was the destination for release as there is lots of little fish and other grebes for them to gather up with prior to finishing their migration. Western Grebes and Loons all winter on the ocean and head toward the Oregon coast where you can find them at sites like Yaquina Bay.
The most stressful part of working with waterbirds is their release. These birds absolutely must be 100% waterproof. And weakness, hypothermia, and worms all lead to loss of this critical feature that allows them to survive freezing water temperatures through the winter. If the birds are not waterproof, they will die. These two in the following video were two of the youngest. You can see them figuring out which way to go as they hear the calls of the group of other grebes out on Wickiup. They turn toward the group and as they get close two older birds swim out to them and herd them into the group. It was a beautiful day, and a wonderful release. Good luck little ones, we hope you find lots of fish and make it over the mountains to the coast!
For a VIDEO of the release, see my fb page!
Had a fun call today. A gal in Arizona wound up with a little grebe that someone had found under a car, and had called her since she had a parrot. Well lucky for this Eared Grebe he wound up with an absolute angel who cared about him so much she googled grebes and found me on facebook! I have received calls from folks around the states and even Canada occasionally who have found these wonderful birds and just had no idea what to do.
With me advising, Michelle got this bird hydrated, cleaned up a bit - via a plastic tub and a shower - and then drove it part of the way on its track to the Salton Sea - where most eared grebes on the west side of the continent winter. These cuties cannot take off from land. They need a good bit of water to get running on and launch themselves. Their wings are excellent at swimming but not large enough to lift their heavy little bodies into the air from a static position.
Given clean water, these guys will clean and hydrate themselves. And a large plastic tub or a very clean bathtub will work for that. HOWEVER, its really imperative that the water is perfectly clean or they can wind up soiling their feathers with their own oily poop. So, the water is dumped and fresh put in up to 3 times an hour...every poop means fresh clean water.
Once they are warmed up (if their cold), hydrated, and floated for a bit, they can be taken to an appropriate drop off point. These birds - especially the Eared Grebe - have unique adaptions they go through to migrate. Their intestinal tracts atrophy (get smaller) by as much as 25% or more. And they do not eat in migration. This allows them to get as light as possible so they can fly faster and more efficiently. They should not be force fed, especially fish. Not only can the oils run down their chins making their feathers oily (which ruins their waterproofing), but the fish may not digest, instead rotting in their guts. So best, to call someone for help in evaluation (this can be done distantly) and then figure out what next to do.
We evaluated this bird (to be covered later) and decided he was healthy enough not to go into rehab. Which was a good thing since there was no one near to her. In the end, little Eared Grebe wound up loving his 'shower' (tub with light shower flowing into it), and got ready for release. Michelle and her husband took the cutie pie down to a lake that other Eared Grebes had been seen on (ebird is how to find these locations) and successfully released.
He was pretty darn close to the Salton Sea from his release site, so he should be at his destination in the next few days. The Salton Sea is a saltine lake that has a lot of brine shrimps and other foods that these grebes need to get through winter. Mono Lake in California and Lake Abert, and Great Salt Lake are other saltine lakes critical to these birds.
With all the tumult in the world, the last thing we need is beautiful, gentle spirits careening into our windows and killing themselves. The pictures above are just some of the birds that have come into Native Bird Care this year that hit a window. Some of these little souls made it, others did not. So why do they hit? What can we do about it?
Simply put - birds see the reflection of the trees and sky in our windows. As energy efficiency has increased, so has the mirroring effect. In fact, it is this effect that makes our windows efficient. Fix that reflection - you solve the problem. Its actually fairly simple.
Birds are not stupid nor do they have poor eyesight. In fact, their eyesight is exponentially better than ours. Birds have overcome incredible challenges that time and evolution have not had time to help them with, like habitat loss, invasive predators, buildings and windows. But without human intervention, our flighted gems simply will not succeed in the coming decades. We must do all we can for them now.
The facts: new research shows that nearly 1 billion songbirds die each year from windows. this is significantly less than cats, but critical and some estimate this at 10% of the continents population. Interestingly, 44% of these deaths are a result of hitting residential home windows (56% of deaths are from collisions with low rise buildings; <1% high rises). Sad? Yes. Good news is that this also means that there are solutions for 44% and more of these collisions. If everyone chose a few solutions for their homes, this problem could be solved significantly. And, without much cost or inconvenience.
Here are some simple solutions. You can find a lot more at www.nativebirdcare.org/windows. If you are worried about ruining your view or ability to see out. I get it. So was I. I chose low tech, cost efficient, super easy to see through netting. I have 100% success. But there are other more professional solutions. And no, you do not have to slather your windows with expensive decals that frankly do not work (birds can fly through tiny spaces, so unless these are installed close together they simply do not work).
1) One of my favs: Birdscreen.com
This is one of the best solutions out there. Not only can you see right through them, but they are enormously effective. This is essentially what putting up garden netting does, or installing insect screening on windows. Professionally done, these look nice, work great, and save your precious friends you have invited to your yard.
If you are handy, you can construct your own screens with old window screens or frames from a thrift store. Buy insect screening from a hardware store, and voila you have your own screen. Hang in some creative way.
Note: hanging anything is best done with 4-6 inches between the window and the screen/net. This way the bird has a chance to 'bounce' off and not hit at all, if they accidentally do fly into it.
2. Another of my favs: Birdsavers.com.
This guy loves birds so much that he teaches you how to make these if you do not want to purchase the professional product. Be sure to secure these at the bottom so they do not flap around in our winds here.
See These parachute chords hang from a nice rack above the window. They can be secured at the bottom. Click on their link for more installation ideas and photos.
Note: The view. Yes, initially you will see some of these window solutions. But your eyes will adapt, and soon with the ones listed here you will have to actually look at to see. Your view will not be ruined. I promise!
3. My low tech, economical, 100% effective solution: Garden netting.
My last home had contemporary windows that looked out into the forest, the overhang of the house was deep too. Pictures taken from outside of the house literally looked like one was looking outside from inside, the reflection was so perfect. Small to large birds killed themselves on that home until one day in tears and frustration I went to the hardware store, bought a 100' role of netting, and hung it from every eve, all the way around the house. Problem solved. Just had to be careful walking around the house or you'd get caught in it. My husband loved it. Not. See website for how to do this!
Summer is nearly over and we are nearing 200 bird calls since January. This is 4 times what we have done in the past. We have had a wide variety of very neat birds this summer. From common poorwills to golden-crowned kinglets, to a pied-billed grebe to a magpie. Mourning doves were plentiful, with babies coming in mainly from being found in situations where they were at risk from outside cats. We usually advise people to leave healthy fledglings (simply not enough help, money, or time to care for ALL at risk babies, we'd be swamped!). But, quite often its impossible to tell if the bird is in need or injured or healthy. Robins, doves, and flickers are most at risk because they must spend a couple weeks on the ground learning to eat when their flight ability is non existent or not great yet. These babes often come in cat attacked, or from hitting windows. We love all our babies here, and the injured ones too. We do our best for all of them.
So, What do we do for the birds?
(And why donations matter!) From babies to adults with injuries, Native Bird Care provides care. Often, this includes medical care - treating wounds, infections, broken bones, parasite infections, concussions, etc. Wildlife rehabbers are essentially nurses, paramedics, physical therapists, husbandry specialists, and mothers - all at the same time. Babies get raised with food and habitats that they need for good development - specialty housing, diets, flight cages. Injured birds need medical care, which if we cannot do it ourselves, we enlist a veterinarian. Birds with breaks must be treated and the injuries set and wrapped. Birds who have been mauled by a cat need to have wounds washed out, stitched, and go on antibiotics. Birds in poor condition usually need treatments for parasites. Native Bird Care also consults with rescuers over the phone, determining if a bird needs care or consulting on how to renest or reunite with a parent. We provide advice on protecting birds from windows and cats. And, we spend much time out relocating geese off buildings, capturing the injured, and putting ad-hoc nests up for families who have lost theirs to wind or raids. Its a long to-do list!
And all of it is expensive. The cost for caring for one bird runs from $50 to far more in a case like Hope the swan. This is medication, food, supplies, nutritional supplements, live food for insect only eaters, veterinary care (xrays), and aviary costs. We are very efficient and frugal here at Native Bird Care. We run a tight ship, and use our donations wisely and only for animal care. No one gets paid a wage, all work is done by our lead rehabilitator and volunteers. Each bird gets dedicated time, attention, and care. And all are cared for as if their lives depended on it, because they do!
Please help support our birds and the work we do. Donations are all tax deductible.
SAll babies are adorable, sweet, and fun to raise. But there are some that just steal your heart. Piper is one. This beautiful bird came in as a tiny nestling, blown out of a very high nest in a pine. After trying to renest and locate parents, Piper came in to care. These sweet birds take longer to rehab than other babies because of those heavy bills, which take time to get hard enough to crack the seeds and cones they will be eating. Our babies often get put in the outside aviaries before they are done hand-feeding. This gives them a head start getting their flight skills and developing their ability to navigate trees and branches. All young birds need time in an aviary to develop their physical abilities before going out in the wild. A"hard release" is when a juvenile bird is release straight from an inside enclosure to the wild. This is extraordinarily hard for young birds. Just like any athlete - and that's what birds are, aerial acrobats - young birds need time to develop leg, body, and wing strength. They need time to acclimate to the weather, and sounds of the wild. They need to develop agility - yes, birds can injure themselves specially when young, landing wrong, hitting branches, hitting windows. So, Piper, along with all our other babies get time in one of our 4 aviaries. Good luck Piper, may you have a long, happy life free from cat attacks and unprotected windows.
Several of these came in this summer, some babies, some adults from cat attacks or windows. We had another baby one come in right after this one, Dena is still in care. Little runt one, has a good ways to go and the smoke is not helping!
Native Bird Care's is celebrating its 10th anniversary! Our main focus is song, shore, and waterbirds. We offer specialized care and facilities for these extraordinary birds..