Thursday, May 10, 2012

Baby Birds


It is baby bird season, and there are lots of them in our yard. A young Mourning Dove was hesitant to fly when I approached to refill one of the bird feeders. It eventually made a short flight up into the Sweet Acacia tree, and watched me from above.

Verdin parents are bringing their young to feed on the sliced oranges we put out for them. They love the nectar in the hummingbird feeders too.

House Finch dads are getting chased and pestered incessantly by their hungry offspring. The young flutter and gape nearby, begging to be fed. They are flying well enough to follow their beleaguered parent no matter where he goes.

A pair of Bewick's Wrens has been vocal and active in our fruit trees. This morning one of the adults had a big juicy insect in its bill, and waited for me to go back inside before disappearing into the foliage with the yummy morsel.

I heard a young mockingbird's dry whistle coming from its nest hidden in our mesquite trees. It called excitedly when the parent returned with food, then was silent after being fed.

The volunteers at the Coachella Valley Wild Bird Center in Indio are coping with the regular influx of "found" baby birds this time of year. Their main specialty is working with birds of prey, but many other bird species are under their temporary care now.

Many of the non-releasable resident birds at the WBC serve as foster parents to the young of their same species. This reduces human contact and keeps the young birds as wild as possible. As soon as the young can fly and hunt on their own, they will be released back in the same area in which they were originally found, so they can return to their life in the wild. Here are some of the current residents.


These young Great Horned Owls already have huge feet with respectable talons.


Roja, a female Red-tailed Hawk, is a permanent resident. She is foster mom to two young Red-tails that were brought to the Wild Bird Center.


Many times people find a young bird on the ground and assume it has been abandoned by its parents. This is rarely the case. Most likely, the young bird is learning to fly and its parents are nearby, watching closely (and waiting for the big scary humans to leave). 

California Department of Fish and Game regulations state that "rescued" wild birds may only be held briefly by the public before either being released back to the wild, or brought to a licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility such as the Wild Bird Center. If you do find a bird on the ground, observe for a time before making a decision whether or not to intervene.

-- If the bird has very few feathers and its eyes are closed, it probably just fell out of its nest. Locate the nest and quietly replace the bird. It is NOT true that parent birds will reject babies that have been handled by humans. Harassment, lingering and disturbing the nest area are what cause problems.

-- A young fully-feathered bird that is hopping but not flying, has just left the nest. It will take a few hours - or days - for it to learn how to fly gracefully. The parents know where it is, and will bring it food during this time. Remove any pets or people who may present a danger to the fledgling. If it appears to be in immediate danger, gently move it to a sheltered spot such as under a bush or up in a tree. Let the parent birds do their job of raising their babies.

If the bird truly needs help, here are some things to remember:

-- Keep human contact to an absolute minimum.
-- Do not feed human food of any kind.
-- Do not put wild birds in wire cages; the wire will damage feathers. Use a box instead.
-- Wild birds are easily stressed, so keep them as quiet as possible.
-- Contact your local Fish and Game Office or Animal Control to find a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in your area.
-- If you do bring in an injured bird, consider making a donation to help these facilities pay for the food, veterinary bills, and other overhead that they incur while caring for these babies. Or better yet, become a volunteer :-).

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."     ~Mahatma Gandhi

To find wildlife rehabilitation facilities in California...

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