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.
The hunter that shot Hope and Fiona was charged in Lakeview. The Bend Bulletin printed an article that includes information about this today. You can find it here: Article on Hope (click on link).
It is with a very sad and heavy heart that I have to report that Hope, the beautiful Trumpeter swan, died February 10th. She had gone in for a second surgery for her wing. Hope was shot by a hunter late October and her mid wing bones were fractured by the pellets. Hope had gone in for a second surgery to remove this wing as it never was able to fully heal, the damage was just too bad. USFWS and ODFW had given us permission to do an amputation rather than euthanize her. She was to be mated up with one of ODFW's male swans in search of a mate and also flightless - part of their swan recovery program here in the state. We had high hopes for Hope.
Sadly, Hope was unable to wake up after surgery.
The main room here at Native Bird Care that we cleared out and gave to Hope, has been formally named, "Hope's room" in her honor. While she was a boatload of work - a minimum of 4 hours a day of just cleaning - we loved her very much and will cherish the time we had with her. She was a tolerant and patient soul who road through 3 months of rehab with virtually no issues other than her injury. This is remarkable given swans can be quite hard to rehab.
But Hope was a unique bird. Hope showed her graceful nature out on the water at Summer Lake last summer as she took new trumpeter cygnets around the lake. With 5-6 cygnets in tow, she showed them around the lake and gave them the stability and care of an 'older sister'. One of those cygnets - Fiona, Grace's cygnet from Sunriver - was also shot when Hope was, and tragically died from the injury.
At the Center here, she showed us much patience as we cleaned and gave her medications, and as we hauled her to vet appts for her weekly physical therapy sessions. Her personality often came out in the most interesting ways. For example, just to keep us 'in line' she would gently and casually reach out and fake bite us as we sneaked by her while we cleaned. But once we were done, she would honk a 'thank you' and take a big bath, splashing water everywhere. She will be sorely missed.
Here's to swans....gorgeous, amazing birds that are still on the brink. Impacted by enormous amounts of lead in our lakes and rivers, power lines, loss of wetlands and lakes big enough for them to breed on, introduced fish species like carp that eat all their food, and a few hunters who fail to appreciate their magnificence and shoot them.
And here's to all the birds under ODFW's care, may they do well and have lots of babies. And here's to ODFW, who are the ones who are making sure future generations of Oregonians have these beautiful birds gracing our lakes.
We love you Hope, and Fiona.
Well Hope is still with us here at Native Bird Care. She has done a great job, as best as could be expected given she was shot with buckshot and her wing bones were fractured very badly. She will be with us another month as we make some hard decisions. We are working to get her wing amputated at the elbow, the fractures simply did not heal as we needed them to for flight. For pain reduction and long term use, removal is the only option. Once that is done, which we are fundraising for, we can put her in a safe location with a mate so that she can live out her life as best she can. She must have no pain for release so that she will have a normal life and behavior. If you want to help Hope, we are fundraising for her surgery and continued medications. Other swan sanctuaries have done this surgery with great success and results on their swans. So we are quite optimistic.
Well December was the busiest we have ever experienced, with nearly 20 water birds being found and brought into the center. Kudos to all of you who helped these sweet little birds!
We had eared, horned, and pied-billed grebes, western grebes, a loon, and new this year, and so exciting, ruddy ducks. Ruddy ducks, like all the others, are unable to fly once grounded...their wings are just too small for their heavy, little bodies. These birds are deep divers and most fishers, so they need that weight to get down into the water. The wings are small so they are streamlined....similar to a penguin. All but the ruddies have their feet positioned back behind them, rather than below like a duck. This makes it hard for them to run or stand up.
The smallest grebes need at least 20 feet of water runway to get into the air. The ruddies even longer, they have to huff and puff and waddle on top of the water a good distance to finally get themselves launched into the air. Google some images of grebees running on water, it is quite cool.
All but the ruddies and coots, should have been somewhere else. The little grebes - horned, eared, and pied-billed - migrate in December and even into January. The coots and ruddies are local but the cold froze up their water and they simply did not have enough to get launched. The western grebe and loon simply did not make it over the Cascades and got caught in the storms. All were taken to appropriate places. The western and loon went to Yaquina Bay, the horned went to Siletz Bay, the eareds went to Summer Lake, the pied-billed went to Fern Ridge in Eugene, and the ruddies and coots stayed in Bend at Hatfield Lake. All were happy to get out of the snow and onto water!
To me, there is almost nothing more fascinating then water bird feet. I just love those cute little webbed feet, and how the birds use them to paddle around and fish. The western can get going fast enough, primarily with his feet that he can actually spear a fish! Very cool (not for the fish of course).
In the pictures below, you can see how the eared grebes feet are behind her, while the ruddies is underneath. Ruddies eat vegetation and some water bugs, eareds eat bugs and fish. You can see that the size of their wings, while helping them underwater, makes them less able to get out of the water and into the air. The coot, the one with the white nose, has his feet most like the usual duck, right beneath his belly. Looking closely at their feet, you will see that all 3 types of birds have different webbing. The coot and eareds have lobes in their webbing, while the duck has the usual ducklike paddle for a foot.
Well, here we are at week 5 post-op. Today Hope goes in for another round of physical therapy, and more x-rays to see how the wing is healing. I am really hoping she is going to show us that she is ready for her pin and plate to come out. The bones were not healed enough for that 2 weeks ago.
Given that Hope is going to have to put up with us for another at least 3 weeks, and more likely 4-5, we got her a much larger pool. Even though she has her 8' pool outside, it is now getting too cold for her in that water out there. The underside of the injured wing has no feathering and a lot of fresh, new skin, so it is very sensitive. She often holds it out of the water even inside.
The picture above shows her wings as of Nov. 26. This is full extension done with anesthesia during a physical therapy session. You can see how far she has come (we could barely get her wing to extend initially), but also how far she has to go. According to Dr. Schott, swan extraordinaire with WRCMN, she is looking pretty good. It's amazing how much effort I have to give to get this wing out that far. I really have to push on that wrist! My goal will be that it takes me no effort at all....
I highly common captivity related injury for birds that float on the water most of their lives (swans, grebes, many ducks, seabirds, etc) is that their feet are not prepared to be walked on so much. Even with water, Hope likes to rest and will leave her pool to go sleep and rest on her 6 inch foam bed. But that means she is walking around, on those feet we need to keep healthy.
The first thing that happens is the joints start to swell. In the picture above, the main foot bone running down the middle of the foot has larger areas, these are her joints and they are swollen. Once then swell, the increased size creates a pressure point on the bottom of the foot, which is susceptible to the skin wearing and eventually spitting. You can see the start of that where I have placed the arrows and the close up of the worst one.
This is not too 'bad' yet for Hope, but another reason she got a bigger pool and I go in and gently encourage her to get back on her pool. The other injury that comes with sitting is in the keel, the sharp bone that runs down the middle of her chest. During injury, a bird's chest muscles atrophy from lack of use, this means the keel protrudes more, and thus when she rests her whole body weight on that keel as when on her bed (the reason it is 6 inches of foam!), she risks getting a sore in that sensitive, fragile skin overlying the keel bone. That is not happening now for her because she is on her pool enough to prevent it.
Stay tuned! We will have an update soon on her soon. She will be with us another month at least, if you have interest in supporting Hope through this Holiday Season, please consider a gift to Native Bird Care. All contributions are tax deductible!
Hope the Trumpeter Swan continues to improve. She continues to have physical therapy 2 times a week. For these she must be transported to the vet clinic, where she must have anesthesia for me to work her wing through all its range of motions and work out adhesions that have developed from the injury and lack of use.
Without anesthesia, this treatment would be too painful for her and her resistance would impair progress, so for now she must take her trips. She is a fairly good sport about it and is used to the activity. Her medications are reduced now, so I only have to give her meds 2x a day and she is now not giving me as much fuss with those either.
She got a new outside pool a couple of weeks ago, and we are experimenting with her going out there on sunny days. We have to balance the stress of us catching her and taking her to the pool vs her needing to be completely off her feet and keel. We shall see. It is cold now at night the water is pretty cold for her too. Today she is getting a larger new pool in her room too.
You can see the how far we have come in this side to side comparison of her good wing and the injured. I believe that she will continue to improve in her mobility and range of motion.
We cannot know yet if she will fly. She has another 2 weeks before the pin and plate can be removed from the wing. We will have a better idea at that point.
Wish her well, and if you want to support her please consider donating for her pools and medications.
Author: Elise Wolf
I have been fascinated by wild birds my whole life. The current stresses on our wild bird populations is extraordinary, and helping them is not only an act of kindness and compassion, but demonstrates that humans do have the ability to be selfless and act with love towards their non-human planetary family.