From May 8th, the first day we “opened” until now, we’ve taken in 546 birds. We have about 145 birds in the Center now, 9 in flight cages, 23 goslings at various caretaker’s houses, and 10 nestlings in the incubator.
We are asking volunteers who can, to take an extra shift until we get the numbers of birds down. Interns and staff are staying late in order to get the baskets changed and the birds fed before they leave for the night.
This juvenile Nuthatch came in as a nestling with a wing injury. The wing was taped (see photo) and has healed. It has been flight-tested and is flying well although not ready to be released.
Clinic Manager Gabby and Staff member Seana taping the wing of a Tree Swallow.
THE BIRD CENTER NEEDS YOUR HELP
Each year, we release hundreds of orphaned and injured birds back into the wild, many of which first need to gain strength in a flight cage. Each flight cage houses as many as 150 birds annually. Unfortunately, one of our cages has been crushed by a fallen tree and will need to be rebuilt. We are also looking to build additional flight cages as our intake numbers grow.
The Bird Center receives no state or federal funding, and is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit.
Please share this link. Thank you for supporting the Bird Center’s mission.
Volunteers Jake West and Liam Pendleton staffed the Bird Center table at
the June 9 Annual Mayor’s Green Fair.
“The Green Fair went really well!” said Jake. “It was a really nice evening and we had the chance to talk to some pretty interesting people.”
I asked Jake and Liam about working at the Bird Center.
Jake told me,”I am a senior Biomedical Engineering student at U of M aspiring to become a veterinarian. As a pre-veterinary student, I have devoted myself to being involved in various animal care based opportunities including research, clinic work at a veterinary hospital, and of course, volunteering at the Bird Center. The Bird Center has been a wonderful experience for me, as I have been getting exposure to animal care in a way that is new and refreshing. I joined the volunteer staff at the Bird Center because I wanted to help the local community and its avian wildlife, as well as diversify my animal care skills and experience. Working at the Bird Center has been amazing in giving me this chance to broaden my scope of animal care. It has also exposed me to a group of people who are as truly passionate about wildlife as I am. “
“I’m studying environmental biology and I’m also a volunteer here at the Bird Center. I started back at the beginning of May and my duties at the center have involved cleaning and arranging enclosures for birds, feeding, and a variety of other tasks that are needed around the Center. I was received warmly by the staff and interns working at the Center, and I absolutely love the time I spend here. I’d recommend to anyone looking to get some hands-on experience with wildlife rehabilitation to volunteer at the Bird Center.”
THANK YOU TO TWO FANTASTIC VOLUNTEERS!!!!
WE DON’T APPRECIATE HOW VERY STRANGE BIRDS
Birdology, by Sy Montgomery
“Birds, which are more different from us than any other class of creatures we commonly see, can see polarized and ultraviolet light, experience colors we can never know, sense the earth’s magnetic field, and navigate using subtle changes in odor and barometric pressure:
Birds are the only wild animals most people see every day. No matter where we live, birds live with us. Too many of us take them for granted. We don’t appreciate how very strange they are, how different. We don’t realize what otherworldly creatures birds are. Their hearts look like those of crocodiles. Birds are covered with modified scales — we call them feathers. Their bones are hollow, permeated with extensive air sacs. They have no hands. They give birth to eggs.
No other scientific classification of living creature we commonly see is so different from us as is the class Aves. We don’t even think of birds as animals (although they are — as are humans, of course). We consider animals to be our fellow mammals, with whom our kinship is obvious. … We shared a common ancestor with even the most distant of our fellow placental mammals as recently as 100 million years ago. The last ancestor we shared with the birds, however, traces back 325 to 350 million years ago.
A bird is as distant from us as a dinosaur. But unlike the extinct mon-sters of the Jurassic and Cretaceous, birds today are everywhere among us — on our sidewalks, at our bird feeders, on our dinner plates. Yet despite our disparate evolutionary paths, scientists are now beginning to reveal the extent to which birds’ emotional and intellectual abilities are remarkably like ours. …
The first thing you need to know about birds is that birds are Individuals. … Although a flock of hens is all about community, each chicken is quite distinctive, and the personality of each individual is extremely important to the flock dynamic. People who don’t know chickens are always astonished to learn this, but when you are in the company of birds, you must be prepared to be surprised.
A second fundamental truth of birds is that Birds Are Dinosaurs. That may be difficult to see when you’re watching a fluffy chickadee at the feeder, but it is abundantly clear when you are crashing through the rain forest of Queensland, Australia, pursuing a 150-pound cassowary, a bird as tall as a man, crowned with a helmet of bone on its head and a killer claw on each foot. … The dinosaurian lineage that became the birds left the earth for the skies. And in doing this, they utterly reshaped their bodies inside and out. … Their bones are hollow; their feathers weigh more than the skeleton. Their bodies are full of air sacs; their feathers, also hollow shafted, are sculpted to capture and move air. Birds are essentially feather-fringed bubbles. …
Birds are able to apprehend the world in ways that we cannot. They can see polarized and ultraviolet light. They experience colors we can never know. They sense the earth’s magnetic field , navigate using subtle changes in odor and barometric pressure. They imbibe realities of this world that we cannot fathom and use them to circumnavigate the globe. We are only now starting to understand how birds accomplish these extraordinary feats, by way of one of our most ordinary and unappreciated birds, the pigeon. …
“Though gifted with instincts and senses that we lack, birds’ intellectual capacities are shockingly similar to our own. Some birds appreciate human art to the extent that they can learn to tell the difference between the paintings of Monet and those of Manet. Some birds love to dance. … Birds’ capacity for song is of course so legendary that many cultures tell us the birds taught music to humans. There are birds who can even speak to us meaningfully in our own language — something that, many scientists believe, even our close hominid cousins, the Neanderthals, probably could not do.”
Sy has written many books for children and adults, among them
Soul of the Octopus and The Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood.
When Birds Think You’re Too Close to Their Nests
There are a variety of behaviors birds display when they feel threatened. Understanding them will make you a more responsible birder.
Observing bird behavior is one of the many pleasures of birding. Each species has its own quirks of feeding, flight, and social interaction, and seeing a bird engage in these natural behaviors gives the burgeoning birder a better understanding of the species beyond just field marks and identification points.
Of all the behaviors a bird engages in, however, new birders should take care to learn some sooner than others: namely, the variety of ways birds tell you that you’re too close to their nests.
It’s the beginning of summer, and birds are either sitting on eggs or already have hungry hatchlings to feed. This time of year is when birds are most vulnerable-and the most defensive.
The consequences of getting too close to a nest can be severe. Birds can abandon nests if disturbed or harassed, dooming eggs and hatchlings. Less obvious, repeated human visits close to a nest or nesting area can leave a path or scent trail for predators to follow. If you know you’re birding near a nest, the NestWatch site
from Cornell Lab of Ornithology recommends against taking a “dead-end trail” to a nest area so that predators won’t have a direct route.
Birds won’t abandon a nest easily, though, and adult birds have developed a variety of ways to distract or deter unwanted visitors from visiting a nest.
Some of these behaviors are unmistakeable. Like dive-bombing. You won’t miss being dive-bombed. It’s the most aggressive form of anti-predator behavior, and it’s just what it sounds like: birds fly directly at the intruder in order to drive them away from the nest.
All kinds of birds dive-bomb. If you live in the suburban United States, you may have noticed aggressive Northern Mockingbirds in recent weeks. Here is a news report
of some Brewer’s Blackbirds dive-bombing passers-by in downtown San Francisco. Here’s another news report, this time a scary one, claiming that dive-bomb attacks by crows are “on the rise!”
(They’re not.) I’ve even heard of Goshawks-yes, Goshawks-dive-bombing people and putting big gashes in their heads. And in Victoria, Australia, dive-bombing Australian Magpies are so prevalent in the springtime that the government provides citizen-science based maps of nesting birds to help people avoid being attacked.
To find out more about dive-bombing and other defense displays, I called up Caroline Thow, a PhD candidate studying behavioral ecology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She even has her own dive-bombing story: While researching gull nests, Thow says that she and her colleagues had to wear bike helmets to protect themselves from the pecking!
While you rarely can get scratched or pecked, truth is, dive-bombing is most dangerous for the bird. They’re spending energy trying to scare you away instead of feeding and caring for their young. There’s really only two pieces of advice for someone being dive-bombed: cover your head, and get the heck out of there! Don’t linger, don’t film it and put it on YouTube, just leave. (Scientists in the act of science are exempt, of course, and should look into buying a bike helmet.)
Not all birds defend their nests as directly and aggressively as dive-bombers. Some species try more creative approaches to
distract or scare away predators from their nest. Nesting raptors are very sensitive to disturbance, but occasionally they choose nesting spots that allow people to safely observe and photograph from afar. That’s the case with the Red-tailed Hawk nest in Ithaca, New York, which is about 70 yards from a bridge. The most famous distraction display is the Killdeer’s “broken wing” act. When a curious human or a predator gets too close to a Killdeer nest or some young birds, the adults can turn into full-on thespians, loudly and pathetically faking a broken wing in hopes that the predator will pay attention to them and not the nest. Once the bait is taken, the Killdeer will lure the predator as far away as possible before making a miraculous recovery and flying back to the babies. It’s truly an Oscar-worthy performance
While perhaps not as dramatic as the Killdeer, other birds also have clever tactics for deterring predators. “Some birds will do their best snake impression, by hissing and swaying their heads around when you get too close to a nest,” Thow says. Other species, including some shorebirds such as Piping Plovers and certain grassland birds such as sparrows, will do what’s called a “rodent run,” distracting predators by conspicuously running through the grass like a mouse.
According to Thow, there is a lot of variance in distraction displays. “It really depends on the type of bird involved, and sometimes even varies between individuals in a species,” she says. “I’ve seen a broken-wing display from an American Avocet and been mobbed by another in the same population.”
The simplest type of distraction displays are vocal. Adult birds can issue a quick call when a potential threat approaches that baby birds intuitively know means “sit still and be quiet.” When everyone in the nest is frozen, the parent bird can head elsewhere and distract the predator with vocalizations. These attention-getting noises can also vary widely, according to Cornell’s Birds of North America database, including “short, snarling, and faint cries” in Sanderling, “growling and hissing” in Mexican Whip-poor-will, and a “ventriloquial whisper song” in Bachman’s Sparrow. The more you bird, the more you’ll begin realizing which calls sound more like warnings or distractions than others. .
As a good rule, when the behavior of a bird seems oddly conspicuous, it’s probably trying to deter or distract you from an area. “Anti-predator behaviors generally are intended to get the attention of the intruder or surrounding birds,” Thow says “So if you see a bird acting in an exaggerated and noisy way you don’t normally observe in your birding outings, you might be too close to a nest!”
Because of this, birders need to be aware of their surroundings and should be on the lookout for birds acting strangely, especially during nesting season. “Part of recognizing these behaviors is situational awareness and arming yourself with a little natural history,” Thow says. “Ask yourself: Is it breeding season? Am I in good breeding habitat for the species that seems to be behaving strangely? If your answer is yes to either of those, the chances are that the behavior is an anti-predator behavior is much more likely.”
Context clues are also important because some species won’t do any sort of distraction display at all, instead opting to hunker down when predators are nearby. If it’s breeding season and you’re walking across a field or other dense low habitat when an adult bird flushes from practically beneath your feet, you might be right on top of a nest. When that happens, you should look very carefully at the ground around you, and even if you can’t spot a nest, back up slowly and detour around the site.
Birders have a responsibility to not harm the birds we’re enjoying. Nesting season is a stressful time for birds, so let’s not make it any worse. Birds will tell you when you’re getting too close, and learning to recognize those behaviors will help protect the birds and let you enjoy the pleasure of bird behavior-from a safe distance.
You can help nesting birds!
Start providing the shelter and food nesting birds and their chicks need by growing native plants around your home.
The Summer Solstice. Those endless summer days,
and long, lingering twilights. Fireflies!!!
A pair of Chickadees has built a nest in a gourd hanging from my crabapple tree with a great view from the porch to watch the busy goings on. The babies have hatched, we think they are 6-7 days old. There are constant trips to the nest bringing food, and like all cavity nesters, the parents take away the fecal sac from the nest and leave it some distance away which keeps the nest clean. I timed the number of visits to the nest in a ½ hour. 10 trips to and from the nest