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!
Native Bird Care is small. But the work we do is critical. The needs of the birds we work with - song, shore, and waterbirds - are often underestimated. Each species is so unique that we must cater to each type of bird and their particular needs in care and housing. Add to that, handling these birds can be tricky; they all require specialized training.