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: email@example.com
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!
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!
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.