Who doesn't love these little Pygmy Nuthatches! Got a call about one falling out of its nest...then there was two....then there was three! They were getting too big for the tiny cavity the parents had chosen which was right in the crook of a split tree trunk. This was an excellent example of how you can renest some babies and continue to keep a family of birds together. We got an appropriate sized box for this kind of bird, installed a metal edging for predator protection around the hole, and then got it up on the tree. Now that was challenging, and we had some much needed help by a crew of guys with a really tall ladder (Thanks, you know who you are!). And voila' we had a new home for 6 baby nuthatches, and mom and pop took right to it and began feeding their crew. Let's hope they all make it!
The trick to renesting is keeping the parents around until its done. That means leaving the babies there and making noise so the parents do not give up. It only takes a few minutes for some birds to give up - especially if their tree or limb has been actually taken down (summer is never a good time to trim trees!!!). Crying babies though will keep mom and pop around, have someone else keep them in a box and outside where they can be heard. Or just put the box up temporarily while you get a real box together. Screw the new box into the tree next to the old site, and put all babies - those that have fallen and any still in the cavity - into the new box. New box should have some ash bark or dried grasses in it (don't use hay, pine or cedar bark, or pine needles). Make sure new box has horizontal grooves up the insides so the babies can climb out. Get away as soon as possible so the family can settle down and reunite. (You can also wire in a wicker basket for an open nest type. Cover the wire with duct tape so it can be seen by birds and not hurt them). Anyone can do this!
Its ideal when families can be kept together....little birds learn so much from their parents, like what kind of food to eat, where to find it, how to avoid predators, language skills for their flock, and so much more. We simply cannot replicate what mom and pop birds do in the wild with our rescues...its just not the same.
If you know you have to take a tree or limb down, check for nests. Prepare to replace the nest or cavity BEFORE you take the limb or tree down. It does take planning, but it is the ethical and fair thing to do.
photo by Jim Sedgewick, Wikimedia
It's baby season and they are out and about! Here are some tips on how to know if the bird on the ground you see needs help. First, is she injured? Did you see a cat, squirrel, dog, or other grab it? Is he a fledgling, or a smaller baby bird? Do you see other birds like him around, if it is a young bird? Can you find a nest? IF the bird is injured, is a baby bird too young to fly, looks ill and you can simply pick her up, if she does not fly away or run...rescue her. If it is a robin or dove (or junco and some other ground foraging bird, and is healthy, and you can leave cats/dogs inside, leave alone.
Are the parents around? Most songbird fledglings will be able to stay up in the trees for the parents to feed as they develop strength to navigate the air and tree limbs. But sometimes they fall out or even jump out onto the ground. If the bird seems fine, is not shivering, the parents are nearby, and the baby seems active...put her back up in a tree. If she falls out again, call a rescue and ask for advice. Texting a picture with the story is time saving. Some birds find food on the ground (robins, juncos, sparrows, doves, jays), and so it may be fine that the bird is on the ground. If it is naked, or has tiny tubes around its feathers, then the baby is not ok on the ground.
In the pictures above, you see the fox sparrow fledgling on the ground. He's a happy dude, finding bugs. No rescue needed. Nuthatch is also fine, sitting on a railing. Most of these birds (roll across to see names) if they are in distress, you will know it. They will look and act injured, quiet, not moving, eyes shutting, or unable to move at all. If they were must younger with pin feathers (tubes around the feathers) and on the ground, then we rescue or assess whether they can be put back in the nest (future post on that). The little tiny babies or those without a full body of feathers should never be on the ground. They have fallen, blown, or dragged from the nest. Rescue
When in doubt, watch for awhile and call or text. Better safe then sorry.
Next posts will be on what birds needing rescue might look like, some common rescues, and renesting fallen babes.
Got this little one in. Its a good example of the babies we get in who's identities can be super challenging. Any ideas what she is?
Ok. This is a robin. She is lighter in color than other robin nestlings, but she is still a robin. Note speckled coloring, particularly the black tips and spots on feathers, the longer, oblong yellow-orange mouth, also there is a stripe down under her chin, finally she has lite brown stripes along her eyes, like eyebrows.
This is a great picture to learn the anatomy inside a bird's mouth, at least this little robin. Note the arrowhead object at the front of her lower jaw. That is the tongue! Then right behind it, the kinda lighter color tissue to the left, inside her mouth, behind the tongue. That is the air hole (called a 'glottis'), this is where she breathes out of. The location of the air hole so close to the front of the mouth is why we suggest not trying to give water to a bird...its easy to drip water right down their air hole...which you can guess is not good!
So, if you find a little robin that looks like this, first try to find the nest and put her back but only if she is warm, thriving, and has a good nest and parents around. If she feels cold (cold body or cold feet), is injured, has no parents around, the nest is down or you cannot find it, and the bird looks lethargic and just not well - that's when to call us. Text us a picture, we can tell a LOT by one look!
PS: Robins make some of the most beautiful sounds in the animal world, so before you say its "just" a robin...think twice...these cuties grace our lives with beauty and entrancing songs ... :)
On this rescue, I think I might have not only played the role of rehabber, but also matchmaker! Mr. Sticky got increasingly defensive of his little female sweetie and would fly at my head when I opened the enclosure. Ha! Good for you little man!
With these two adorable patients at healthy weights, good plumage, mostly grown out tail on Sticky, and free from any injuries.....I Decided to take advantage of a couple days good weather to release these two. Poorwills are fragile, gentle little birds, and it just amazes me that they have withstood millennia and still grace this planet. They require such precise, tender, and specific care to keep them from captivity related injury. They are so at risk, with potential for injuries like broken feathers. And having to be hand fed, is stressful for the caretaker as well. Feeding these guys is an advanced rehab skill, as a volunteer learned today.
They are 'hiding' in the picture...their one defense is excellent camouflaging (other than flying at you). Their tiny feet are pretty useless for defense, they cannot even perch in a tree and have to sit on a limb wide enough for them to stand not grasp the limb. They meld right in with the log and the rocks. In fact, they are so well hidden researchers have a hard time figuring out how many we really have left.
One of the harder parts of rehab is letting go. It is quite stressful and worrisome to release birds back to lives that we know put them at real risk. I turned down an otherwise excellent release site for these two because sadly the owners dogs were allowed to run loose. And these guys are at real risk because they are ground dwelling and nesting birds. They fly to eat only, otherwise they are hiding on the ground. So, I put them somewhere I hope has no cats or dogs, water, and potential peaceful nesting places. I did not release them at my place as I have feeders for my outside birds, some of which are rescues. Feeders mean small hawks and owls which prey on the little birds that are drawn to our free meals we give them.
Wish them well and enjoy these pictures. Everyday, celebrate the unique, extraordinary birds that we have been so blessed with on this wondrous home of ours we call Earth.
My first poorwill got a friend recently. He is still growing a couple of tail feathers in. She came in from Prineville, found in someone's yard who has a lot of cats and dogs. Nothing wrong with her, she just went into her nightly cold weather torpor in an inappropriate place. She was quite thin though, so we took her in.
Now she and Sticky are hanging out, getting some weight and getting ready to leave. In the pictures above you can see the girl is on the right (she has more tan tail feather tips and is smaller) and he is on the left (he has white tail feather tips and is larger). The mouth is on the left. It is only open 1/2 way in this picture and is expands at a small joint 1/2 along the lower jaw line so that the mouth sort of 'balloons' open, like a whales. Very cool bird.
I get a lot of calls about birds - mainly crows or robins - 'attacking' or pecking at their windows. This is different from them slamming into the window when they do not see it. Robins - or any other bird really - may see their reflection in a window and falsely believe who they are seeing is another bird, not themselves. During breeding season, when hormones are increased, highly territorial birds (robins, corvids, peacocks) get very excited about other birds coming into the area they have decided will be their nest site.
Now, this is not stupid. Its smart. Most songbirds, like robins, feed their babies insects. This is true even of birds that will grow up to eat fruits or seeds, there is nothing with more protein than insects for baby birds. Since they must grow at a phenomenal rate to reach adult size in a matter of just a few weeks, their parents select out an area that they have assessed as being able to provide enough abundance of insects to feed their babies. The birds will base how large an area they need on how many insects...some tiny birds need only a yard or two, others acres.
If a robin has chosen your yard and location as a good site (yeah for you as they are very cool birds), then both parents will defend that area throughout the nesting period. That means that 'other' robin in the window is a real threat to them. The more energy and time they take to fight that guy, the less they spend with their babies or eggs or feeding. So, it is helpful for the bird for you to intervene and convince them that the bird they are seeing is gone.
First, we must impede the reflection. The reason our windows are so reflective now is from energy efficiency - the mirroring that window manufacturers put inside our windows to refract heat and retain warmth in winter. So any way you can think of to limit that reflectivity will work. This must be done from the outside of the house usually, though drawing down shades is always worth a try.
Here are some ideas. Go to "Living With" and also "Windows" for comprehensive lists of what to do to exclude birds.
1) Block the window for the breeding period. Use anything you want, decorate hangings, tarps, garbage bags, sheets, cardboard, or be creative and artistic.
2) Use colorful window paints that will wash off after the babies are mostly raised (2-3 weeks).
3) Put a full color large picture of a person on the outside of the window, perhaps laminate for it to last. (Don't bother with fake owls)
4) Hanging netting - this does NOT stop the reflection, but it may dissuade a bird from coming back. See instructions on Windows page. Must be placed at least 4-6 inches from the window. Plant hangars and eaves work great for this.
5) Any product you can paint on the window that will come off will work.
Remember - Robins have one of the most beautiful calls in the animal world. They have but 3-6 weeks to get their babies raised and ready for a harsh life as a wild bird.
Also, robins feed entirely on the ground, and the babies must learn to find food on the ground. They often are on the ground before they can fly well. Keeping cats and dogs away from your baby robins is critically important. Love your robins!
I got a note about a hummingbird over near Portland with a swollen tongue. I advised that if they could not catch it, to try to keep it warm at night and CLEAN the feeders. Eventually the hummer was caught and taken to a rehab center. Unfortunately, someone there did not understand hummer anatomy and thought the tongue was "fractured" because it had a split at the tip. The bird was euthanized. Now, whether or not the bird would have survived the infection it more likely had is a question. Often, due to their size and metabolism, hummers have a pretty hard time fighting infections.
Sadly, the little hummer's tongue was most likely swollen from a bacterial or fungal infection most likely from the person's feeder. His tongue was not fractured, but is naturally split at the tip to assist in his feeding.
Here are two excellent articles for you to enjoy. The first is about how we can really care for our hummingbirds that find their way to our lives and feeders. In 2 days our sugar solutions can go sour and get fungal threads. These can kill a hummer in a matter of a day or two. Keeping our feeders clean is critical to their health. And while we may think that feeding them is better for them, if our solutions actually harm them, then we are not helping - we are hurting. If time pressures simply prevent us from caring for a feeder, then simply take it down.
Check out this link for a helpful article on how to easily care for feeders:
Loving Hummers to Death - How to Care for Your Hummers
This second fascinating article, which includes some fantastic video, explores how the hummer's tongue really works. The hummer has been misunderstood for hundreds of years. The wonders of our video today though allowed these researchers to actually film the hummer eating and figure out how it really works. Key points? The tip of the tongue is split and has micro filaments on it to hold nectar - the picture of this alone is worth going to the link. The tongue is flat, not a tube. That's just a couple of the tidbits you will find out in this article.
The Hummingbird Tongue
If you have a hummingbird that is sitting all the time, especially with eyes closing often or half closed, you have a sick hummer. He or she may or may not get over it naturally. Hummers expend a ton of energy, and they need to eat pretty much all day long. If they are not, something is wrong. This is a good time to take down the feeder, clean it very well, and put it back up. Do not remove it completely if you have a sitting hummer - but you absolutely must clean it thoroughly. Here is how I do it: Boil some water and turn off heat. Wash the feeder with a friendly soap and hot water, rinse well - all parts of it, not just the basin. Dip the feeder into the hot water for a few minutes. Then rinse very well again. You can use a 5-10% bleach solution, but you must rewash after the bleach as it leaves a residue that can harm the bird. Wash again, rinse. Solution: boil water for 5 minutes (put more water in the pot than you will need for your solution). Put 4 cups warm, but not boiling hot water into bowl or pot. Add 1 cup sugar (Cane sugar). Let melt and cool. Put in feeder, place outside.
Have fun with your hummers, care for them well, and if you have an issue please email me. I can give you advice that may help.
Enjoy those gorgeous hummers!
Thank goodness for folks who see birds and go, 'That doesn't seem right'! This little cutie pie was found in the Lowe's garden center in Bend. An employee luckily thought that it looked out of place, although there are some birds that make the center their home. But this one looked out of place, so she picked it up and eventually it found its way to me through another person willing to drive her to me. Luckily too, those involved in the rescue all were wise enough not to simply put the bird outside, where she would for sure have died from hypothermia. She had somehow gotten some kind of sticky spray on her feathers that would have made it nearly impossible for her to stay warm, much less fly. However, this was not immediately apparent and one could easily have mistaken this bird as healthy. (Which is why it is better safe than sorry to call a professional and find out the best thing to do for a bird).
A Poorwill's feathers are so soft, delicate, and fragile that they are easily harmed in captivity. To feed her we must use a soft, smooth (we use silk) fabric to hold her. To protect her fragile mouth parts, we must use a specific method for opening her mouth, her tiny bill and the bones around her mouth can easily be broken. She take specialized care.
This bird is a Common Poorwill, and they are in the "nightjar" family, like the Common Nighthawk. Although these birds have the dappled, brown plumage of an owl or certain raptors, and one is has 'hawk' in its name, they have no relationship at all to raptors or owls. Instead, these sensitive little birds eat only insects, and only flying ones at that. Their unique plumage makes them as silent as the quietest owl (the barn owl) and offers them their only form of defense - extreme camouflage. In fact, they hide so well that researchers have found it incredibly difficult to find and study these birds. However, they are quite vulnerable as their camouflaged plumage is designed to match the ground around them, where they rest and breed. Being dependent on the ground puts them in harms way with outdoor cats, loose dogs, and all sorts of predators.
These are birds that eat entirely in the air ('on the wing'), usually low to the ground, and mainly moths and beetles. Their mouths are huge, and extend the entire width of their head. They have tiny bills that are not adapted to eating insects off the ground, instead they fly toward a bug and scoop it into their big, open mouth (kind of like a humpback whale scoops up fish). They eat mainly at dusk and dawn (called 'crepuscular').
One of the most fascinating aspects about the Poorwill is that they go into a state of near hibernation, called 'torpor.' The Hopi called this bird, the "sleeping one" because they would find them asleep on the ground in a hibernating state. In times of cold, like a Central Oregon spring or even summer night, below 50 degrees, these birds save on energy by going into torpor (which they can do at will anytime the temperature drops or they have low food options). There are still many unanswered questions about this secretive, elusive bird.
So our little Poorwill is getting the nutrition she needs and we are determining the best way to get the sticky goo off her feathers. Every kind of product or contaminant needs a certain way to get it off. It is not always the case that a simply bath with a well-known soap will do the trick. In fact, in this bird's case, the usual soap bath did nearly nothing. So now we must experiment (with various loose contaminated feathers) to find the right product to remove it. We do not NOT by repeatedly bathing the bird, but instead use some of the feathers she lost that have it on them. Bathing such a bird is precarious, risky, and can hurt the bird. In fact, its quite a challenge to bath small, fragile birds. Thanks to the great folks at the International Bird Rescue, one of the world's main oil spill response organizations, we can get ideas and suggestions that will save us time and stress for our bird. Thanks Michelle!
So, for now, Poorwill gal shall stay warm, get fed by hand every day a few times, and we shall find a way to clean her up. Then she will get bathed, have some flight time in a large aviary with flying insects we have provided for her, and then get released to go find a mate and have more baby Poorwills!
Insect-dependent birds like our little Poorwill are expensive to feed, it takes many insects and a variety for her to have nutritional balance while in care. If you would like to contribute to this cute and precious bird, please consider making a donation. These birds are increasingly rare and are in decline, she is important.
We know its a dove, because she has that dove 'look' - heavy bodies, smallish head, not a full upright position (like a robin), long tail. Now, what kind of dove? What are the distinguishing characteristics?
Bird ID is not easy, but its fun. Generally, you look for several things. First, basic appearance...what does it look sorta like (a canary? a regular yard bird? a duck?). Then you look at color, size, head size, tail length, type of bill (length and color too), feet, markings on the feathers, where it is. After that, more detail is needed. Try to use a common bird, like the robin or mallard as your comparison to gauge size.
How about the next bird? Yep, another dove. And, both are fledglings. What differences do you see? If you saw them side by side, you would see that the one below is about half the size of the other. In fact, you could say the one below is small, and the one above is medium sized. Also, they both are smaller than the adults, and look young. The Collared above does not have its black feathers around the neck that look like a collar. The dove below is a darker color than its parents; the dove above is lighter than its parents. Fledges can be hard to ID, but you can get a sense of if it sorta looks young. Also, fledges often cannot fly yet. They can leave the nest early (totally normal) and stay on the ground for up to a week unable to fly.
Now, look at the bills. The top one has a heavy, light grey bill, it has bumps on it, and its longer. The one below has a shorter, smaller, brown bill, more pointed. Overall color is different too. Light cocoa below with black spots; color of a hamburger bun mixed with grey above. The bird below is darker, smaller, with spots, and a small, but pointed brown bill. The one above, is a roundish, heavy looking bird, with light almond (hamburger bun) with grey in it, and a heavyish, long, grey bill.
Now, what are they? The one below is our native Mourning Dove. The one above is the Eurasion Collared Dove, they are not original to the US and in fact are having an ecological impact on the smaller mourning dove. They both eat food on the ground: insects, seeds, vegetation. Both nest in trees. The Collared Doves are bigger birds and aggressive to the mourning doves as they compete for valuable food and nesting sites.
Help I Found a Fledgling!
That's great! Now, before you pick her up, check the scene out. Is she injured, or just bebopping around eating or resting in the sun? Look for the parents. Are there others around? Did you see something capture it, a cat or dog? Is it safe more or less? Are their immediate dangers to the bird that nothing can be done about (like someone else's outdoor cat? Can you ask that person to put the cat inside for a few days? Is it near a window? Has it been in the same place for a long time (sitting still for an hour for example, stunned at the base of a house under a window?
Ground feeding birds are best left to learn how to eat and find food. The ground is their dinner table. As young birds, they need to learn to find food. The parents are teaching them by showing them where the food is and bringing them some. And the young are learning on their own.
In general, we tend to leave the bigger, more robust Collared Doves alone. The Mourning Doves we can talk to you about to gauge whether there is a real need for 'rescuing'. We can never replace these birds' wild foods in rehab, so we are careful about rushing them in to care. Like all of our youth, they should be watched over some and their play/feeding grounds made as safe as possible for them. Make sure they have some water, and you are not bothering or scaring them if they are in your yard. Bring the dog or cat in till they can fly.
If you are really concerned, the bird is just not flying off, there are no parents (and you have given them privacy to return), and they look injured. Call us.
In the meantime, enjoy your doves. They are a neat and pretty bird. The Mourning Doves are a sweet, gentle, and fun little bird.