October Newsletter

Dear Friends,
The Bird Center is transitioning to our fall schedule. We are only accepting birds under special circumstances. If someone finds a bird, you may call the Bird Center at 761-9640. We will return your call within 24 hours.
You may also call:
Howell Nature Center at   517-548-5530
Sherri Smith, Licensed Rehabilitator at 734-994-6287
If you go to the Michigan.gov website there is a list of Licensed Rehabilitators by county.
If the bird is in Washtenaw County and is severely injured, call the Huron Valley Humane Society at 734-662-5585 Ext 3
There are 10 birds at the Center: 3 Grackles, 2 Pigeons, 2 Mourning Doves, 1 Cowbird, 1 Cedar Waxwing and 1 House Sparrow .
 3 House Sparrows were released from our flight cage and we will be releasing a Mourning Dove this week.
                                                                                                             
Volunteer Appreciation Party
SUNDAY NOVEMBER 5
3-5 PM
AT DOROTHY AND KEN’S HOME
717-0208

Our educational bird, BLUE will be at the party. She likes to snatch and hide things like food and other treasures, so hang onto your money!

NEED VOLUNTEERS
The Bird Center is also a city polling station and will be used for the election on Tuesday November 7.
We will be moving the birds over to the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital on Sunday Nov.5 at 9 AM and returning them to the Bird Center on Wednesday Nov.8 at 2 PM
On Sunday we will need 2-3 people to help transport birds and supplies and another 3-4 people to help clean the center (and perhaps do some gardening on the outside of the center) On Wednesday move back we also need a few volunteers to transport everything back to the bird center and help clean the room at the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital.
Call the Bird Center and leave a message if you can help out.
  
      THANK YOU GABBY
 FOR ALL YOUR WORK AND COMMITMENT  to the birds
                                                                         
Gabby Costello, our wonderful Clinic Manager, is stepping away from her position.  She has been at the Bird Center since 2013, first working as an intern and a supervisor.  She accepted the job as clinic manager in 2015.  Gabby is training Andrea Aiuto, who will take over the job at the end of this year.  Andrea has been with the Bird Center for 5 years and is a Veterinarian Technician.
                              
Carol Akerloff is looking for the return of 2 precious books she lent to
The Bird Center.  
Beak to Beak and They Call Me The Birdman, both books are by Walter Crawford, founder of The World Bird Sanctuary, a rehabilitation and sanctuary for raptors in St. Louis. Please look through your library and bookcases to see if you have one or both books.
 
We received this note of thanks and beautiful photograph from
Tom and Jill Demske.
Dear Bird Center,
Just wanted to thank you folks for the work you do.  We so appreciate you being there to take in our injured bluebird last night. Here is a recent
photo from our property here in Lyndon Township. 
 
  
  
  How Baby Owls Nap Without Falling From Their Trees
  Barred Owl fledgling. Photo: Gerrit Vyn/Minden Pictures
Sometimes birds fall directly into our lives. BirdNote listener Joseph Clark tells of discovering two Barred Owlets on the ground near his home in East Haddam, Connecticut. The young birds had fallen out of an ancient sugar maple and were being harassed by ravens.
Clark scared off the ravens, and with the guidance of Kasha Breau of the Connecticut Audubon Center, got the young owls back up into the tree. The mother owl stayed nearby, keeping a close eye on the rescue.
Once the birds were safe, Breau advised Clark to observe the owlets napping, which they do during the day. What he saw delighted him. Keeping their talons tightly gripped on a branch, the owlets lie down on their stomachs, turned their heads to the side, and fall asleep. Their naps are short, and when they are asleep, they do not like to be awakened, even to be fed.

A young owl doesn’t fall out of the tree while it snoozes, because its back toe, the hallux, holds onto the branch. The hallux will not open or let go until the bird bends its leg. Still, before they can fly, most owlets explore and often end up on the ground, sometimes dropping right into the middle of our lives.

 I’m Mary McCann for Bird Note.

NEW FLIGHT CAGE

  

Stan Misevich
Interior of Flight Cage

We have a new flight cage on the property of Tempie Stahlin, a long time volunteer at the Bird Center. This brings our total of 4 cages that are used for birds who need a little practice  flying before being  released back into the wild.  Tempie’s previous cage was crushed by a falling oak tree and needed to be replaced.
The new cage was built by Eagle Scout Stanley Misevich, his dad and a crew of friends over several weekends so that Stanley could earn his Eagle Scout badge.  Stanley created the plans for the cage, had them approved by the Boy Scout Board, and raised all the money to pay for it.  Stanley juggled this project while in his final year of high school, working part time at a bowling alley, and practicing for a major role in the Dexter Drama Club’s production of The Lion King.
THANK YOU STANLEY and the crew
FOR BUILDING THIS BEAUTIFUL FLIGHT CAGE!
 
 
 
Matthaei Botanical Gardens Trail
Grand Opening Celebration
 
Saturday, October 14, 2017 – 9:30am to 12:00pm
Matthaei Botanical Gardens, 1800 N. Dixboro Rd., Ann Arbor, MI 48105
On Saturday, October 14, the newly constructed Matthaei Botanical Gardens Trail will officially be open to the public! The 2-mile paved trail connects the University of Michigan Botanical Gardens with Parker Mill Park and the Washtenaw County Border-to-Border trail system.
The celebration will include a mobile bike repair stand, face-painting, coffee trucks, membership incentives, children’s activities in the Gaffield Children’s Garden, garden tours, and an official ribbon cutting. Please join us from 9:30am to noon to celebrate the grand opening of the trail near the Campus Farm off the gardens’ south entrance.

September Newsletter

It is hard to believe that the Autumn Equinox is this Friday, the 22nd of September.  Warm days and cool nights, picking flowers and harvesting vegetables. I’m making lots of soup with those root vegetables and squash !
The Bird Center is slowing down, there are fewer birds, 18 as of today and most are self feeding. Hours are now 7AM to 8PM
 Volunteer Judy Lobato
“This is my 2nd season volunteering at BCWC. My shift is 7-9am on Tuesdays. I clean cages and on the rare occasion there’s extra time I wash dishes. When a call goes out for extra help, I try to participate but I volunteer with other groups, so it doesn’t always work into my busy retiree schedule.
I walk dogs at HSHV, count butterflies, twice a month I am an ESL (English as a Second Language)  conversation partner at Jewish Family Services and twice a month volunteer at Huron Valley Women’s Prison. Mix in getting enough exercise and meeting friends for breakfast or lunch- it’s a good thing I’m retired since I don’t have time to work. Fall and winter finds me following the Spartans & Steelers and spring & summer I watch the Yankees.
Life is full.
I live on 50 acres with my husband Duane Tomas and black cat Tess. We watch turkeys, sandhill cranes, fox, deer and listen to owls and coyotes.”
VOLUNTEERS ARE THE HEARTBEAT OF THE BIRD CENTER!!     THANKS JUDY

 

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An excellent article that illustrates what we do at the Bird Center from intake to release, and the many many hours of work given by our incredible volunteers, interns and staff .

Clinic Case Study: Raising a Baby Blue Jay

By Michele Wellard, Assistant Wildlife Rehabilitator
On May 13, this baby blue jay, likely having fallen from his nest, was brought into the Wildlife Clinic. The people who found him couldn’t locate the nest to return him, and so they brought him to the clinic. Over the last few weeks, this little blue jay has had many people involved in his care, from dedicated volunteers to our wildlife rehabilitators. Raising a songbird baby can be a real challenge, with a particular diet, a special nest to ensure his legs grow straight, and regular feedings until he’s old enough to feed himself. At the clinic we are careful to make sure the blue jay does not become tame or imprinted, so he can be released into the wild once he’s old enough.
  These photos show the little blue jay, just two or three days old, upon admission to the clinic. Songbirds like him are born naked, blind, and helpless, and with a strong urge to “gape” (i.e. beg for food). How did we know he was a bluejay? There are several clues. His dark skin is different from other baby birds, who are often more pink. He has absolutely no fuzz on him, whereas other songbird hatchlings sometimes do. The color around his beak is pink – many songbird babies have yellow “lips” called the gape flange. The gape flange, together with the beak color inside the bird’s mouth indicate to the parents exactly where to deposit the food.
 By the second week of his life, you can see many changes starting to the blue jay’s appearance, as he grows at a rapid rate. He is fed every half an hour from sun up to sundown by clinic staff and volunteers, just as his parents would. He is fed insects, a mush called “songbird diet” and some berries. You’ll see that he has become “fuzzy” in places (right), and his wing feathers are starting to develop. At this point they are still “blood feathers” (they have a blood supply to nourish the developing feather) and look like little sticks. Tiny spurts of the beginnings of feathers are beginning to emerge from his head. He has almost doubled in weight and has gotten much bigger.
 After the second week, our little patient is starting to look more like a bird, particularly a blue jay. He has gotten some real feathers and is looking distinctively fluffy. He can hold his head upright when at rest, and those blood feathers are starting to sheath of the coating and open up at the tips. He’s also starting to get the beginning of that famous jaunty blue jay crest.
 By the third week, our little bird is becoming unmistakably a blue jay.  His wing feathers are opening more, showing a variety of white and blue. The feathers on his face are also coming in, creating his distinctive facial markings. At this stage he is still a “nestling,” too young to leave the nest.  However, he is starting to have an urge to open his wings and flap a bit.  He can’t perch yet, but should be doing so soon. Then he will be moved to a small mesh cage, with a training perch to strengthen his feet and leg muscles and give him experience perching and hopping.
On May 29, the blue jay took his first flight, fluttering for a few seconds before landing on the ground.  He’s learning to perch in his small mesh indoor aviary. He will go into an outdoor aviary in early June, and be released in late June.
 By June 12, the blue jay has moved to a larger indoor aviary.  He’s sharing space with several slightly younger blue jays now, enabling them to for social bonds and care for each other.  He’s also beginning to chase crickets and meal worms.
**********************************************************
Volunteer Zach Mobley feeding mealworms to young Chimney Swifts.
“I am an Ann Arbor native recently moved back to the area after completing my Masters degree in Bioethics at Chicago’s Trinity International University. My interests lie in research and environmental ethics, particularly instituting regulatory programs for Controlled Substance Licensing Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUC). My professional background is in biotechnology/animal science and am currently working quality control in a chemical engineering lab. I have participated in several avian field research projects seeking out and monitoring individual nesting sites and collecting environmental data. I spent a summer in Nevada’s Virgin River Valley collecting data on the endangered Southwestern Willow Flycatcher and their threatened Salt Cedar marshland habitat. This is my first volunteer season at the Bird Center. I spend my time there administering regular feedings to hatchlings and fledglings, maintaining nest baskets, and assisting interns with medical applications. I am hoping to continue helping the center and further develop my songbird knowledge as an intern next season!
THANKS , ZACH  FOR ALL YOU DO TO HELP THE  BIRDS !!!
   Chimney Swift mom and 2 newborn babies in nest. It’s a precarious situation as you can see. Often roosting in residential chimneys, at times they fall out of the nest when only a few days old. Our swifts were brought to us by homeowners who discovered these tiny babies  in their fireplace.
 My granddaughter Luisa observing young swifts. They are extremely social, looking at us and chattering loudly when we came close.
 Swifts spend most of their lives on the wing, catching insects as they fly. They do not perch, but cling to vertical walls in chimneys.
Have you taken a walk or bike ride in Dexter’s Mill Creek Park ?
It’s especially beautiful at this time of year along the boardwalk.

Stanley’s Eagle Scout Project

Join a Go-Fund-Me to build a flight cage, make an Eagle Scout & benefit the Bird Center!

Stanleys_flight_cage

Stanley says: I created this page to help me raise the funds required to purchase materials, tools, food for volunteers, etc. I would like to get started on this project as soon as possible so that the Bird Center will have another flight cage available for them to place birds in. No donation is too small and, of course, no donation is too large either. Anything is appreciated and will help me complete this project and become an Eagle Scout. All funds that are not used for the project will be donated to the Bird Center of Washtenaw County.

More details here!

https://www.gofundme.com/stanleymisevich

Early August 2017 newsletter

 

Hard to believe it is already August. My computer needs to be retired, and I have been having problems with it, so this newsletter is late. The heavy summer heat bears down on us and we could use rain. But gardens are lush with flowers enough for picking bouquets and more than enough cucumbers to make a delicious cold summer soup.

There are 106 birds at the Center. We have plenty of Robins, several Flickers, a tiny Chipping Sparrow and 2 groups of young Chimney Swifts.
 As the season begins to wind down, some of our staff are moving on. Daniella Silver is leaving and will be travelling to Israel. Best of luck and THANK YOU for your hard work and dedication to the birds !
 
 
WEST NILE UPDATE (from the DNR)

Good Afternoon.  Since the last update on July 19th we have received results on 14 positive animals; an American Crow from Allegan County, an American Crow from Baraga County, a Red-tailed Hawk from Eaton County, an American Woodcock from Houghton County, an American Crow from Kent County, 2 American Crows from Livingston County, a Red-tailed Hawk from Oakland County, an American Crow from Ontonagon County, an American Crow from Ottawa County, and a Common Grackle, 2 American Crows, and a Cooper’s Hawk from Wayne County.  This brings the total number of West Nile Virus positive animals in 2017 to 42 from 26 counties:

Lower Peninsula
Allegan County American Crow
Barry County Wild Turkey
Eaton County American Crow, Red-tailed Hawk
Genesee County Ivory Gull
Ingham County American Crow
Jackson County American Crow
Kalamazoo County American Crow
Kent County American Crow
Lenawee County American Crow
Livingston County Great Horned Owl, American Crow (2)
Mecosta County American Crow
Missaukee County American Crow
Oakland County Common Grackle, Red-tailed Hawk, Mallard
Ottawa County—American Crow
Shiawassee County Blue Jay
Van Buren County American Crow
Washtenaw County Green Heron
Wayne County American Robin (2), Common Grackle, American Crow (2), Coopers Hawk

Upper Peninsula
Alger County American Crow
Baraga Couny Bald Eagle, American Crow (2)
Delta County American Crow, Northern Goshawk
Houghton County American Crow, American Woodcock
Luce County American Crow (2)
Marquette County Common Raven, American Crow
Menominee County American Crow
Ontonagon County American Crow

If you receive calls from the public concerning neurologically abnormal avian species, please try to collect the bird, euthanize it if necessary, and submit it to the Lab as soon as possible for examination and testing.  Depending on the species and the clinical signs observed, we may test the bird for Avian Influenza as well.  If we confirm West Nile Virus in a species in a county, we may not test additional birds from the same species for West Nile Virus but we will still necropsy the bird if submitted for examination.

If you receive a report of a die-off of bats, please collect 3-6 specimens and we will test them for Rabies and West Nile Virus and perform a necropsy.  If you receive a report of other neurologically abnormal mammalian species, please try to collect it, euthanize it if necessary (please do not damage the brain), and submit it to us as soon as possible.  Depending on the species, we will test it for a variety of diseases (Rabies, Canine Distemper, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, West Nile Virus, etc.).  There are chapters in our Wildlife Disease Manual (www.michigan.gov/wdm) on all of these diseases if you want to read more about them.

Thank you for your assistance with the collection of specimens for testing.  I will keep you updated on West Nile Virus positive animals that we examine and if you have any questions, call me or send me an email.  Tom

Thomas M. Cooley
Wildlife Biologist/Pathologist
Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Wildlife Disease Lab
4125 Beaumont Rd.
Lansing, MI  48910

Chimney Swift
Young Chimney Swifts clinging to their mesh enclosure at the Bird Center
  • Chimney Swift
Chaetura pelagica ORDER: CAPRIMULGIFORMES FAMILY: APODIDAE
 IUCN Conservation Status: Near Threatened
A bird best identified by silhouette, the smudge-gray Chimney Swift nimbly maneuvers over rooftops, fields, and rivers to catch insects. Its tiny body, curving wings, and stiff, shallow wingbeats give it a flight style as distinctive as its fluid, chattering call. This enigmatic little bird spends almost its entire life airborne. When it lands, it can’t perch-it clings to vertical walls inside chimneys or in hollow trees or caves. This species has suffered sharp declines as chimneys fall into disuse across the continent.
Food
Chimney Swifts eat airborne insects. Feeding on the wing, they capture flies, bugs, bees, wasps, ants, mayflies, beetles, fleas, and other insects. They grab large insects with their bills; small ones go right down the throat. Chimney Swifts feed over urban and residential neighborhoods, fields, grasslands, orchards, forests, and marshes. They can also pick insects from branch tips and “helicopter” down through the foliage to flush out prey. Normally diurnal foragers, they sometimes hunt for insects at night around streetlights or lit windows. They have been reported taking berries from elderberry bushes.
Nesting
Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
3-5 eggs
Number of Broods
1-2 broods
Incubation Period
16-21 days
Nestling Period
14-19 days
Egg Description
Pure white.
Condition at Hatching
Helpless and naked.
Nest Description
The nest is a half-saucer of loosely woven twigs, stuck together and cemented to the chimney wall with the bird’s glue-like saliva. Both parents independently contribute to the nest: they break off small twigs with their feet while flying through branches, then return to the nest site with the twigs in their bills. The completed nest measures 2-3 inches from front to back, 4 inches wide, and 1 inch deep.

Although they originally nested in natural sites such as caves and hollow trees of old-growth forests, Chimney Swifts now nest primarily in chimneys and other artificial sites with vertical surfaces and low light (including air vents, old wells, abandoned cisterns, outhouses, boathouses, garages, silos, barns, lighthouses, and firewood sheds). Both members of a breeding pair may fly toward several potential nest locations, then cling side by side at one particular site, with one member of the pair giving a rhythmic chipping call.
BehaviorChimney Swifts spend their lives airborne, except when they are roosting or on the nest. They perform aerial courtship displays within 2 weeks of arriving on their North American breeding grounds, forming monogamous pairs for the season.  After the young fledge, small groups of parents and young from several chimneys join larger staging flocks in bigger chimneys nearby. At the end of summer they gather into large groups to migrate to South America. During migration, as many as 10,000 swifts may circle in a tornado-like flock at dusk and funnel into a roosting chimney to spend the night. The lives of these widespread urban birds are surprisingly unstudied, because of their inaccessible nesting and roosting sites and their aerial lifestyle.
ConservationChimney Swifts have been in a long-term, rangewide decline of about 2.5% per year between 1966 and 2015, resulting in a cumulative decline of 72%, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 7.8 million, with 99% breeding in the U.S., and 1% in Canada. The 2014 State of the Birds Report listed the species as a Common Bird in Steep Decline.
 These birds probably became much more numerous with European settlement and the building of millions of chimneys. But traditional brick chimneys are now deteriorating and modern chimneys tend to be unsuitable for nest sites. Adding to the problem, some homeowners now cap their unused chimneys. Chimney cleaning during the nesting season can inadvertently destroy nests and kill swifts. Logging of old-growth forests can reduce the availability of natural nest sites. To prevent further decline, people may need to preserve existing chimneys or create new structures specifically for swift nesting; designs can be downloaded from the North American Chimney Swift Nest Site Research Project.
Migration    Long-distance migrant. Chimney Swifts breed in urban and suburban habitats across the eastern half of the United States and southern Canada. They spend the winter in the upper Amazon basin of Peru, Ecuador, Chile, and Brazil, Chimney Swifts migrate to South America each winter flying across the Gulf of Mexico or skirting it along the Texas coast (a route they’re more likely to take in spring than fall). Many swifts use one of three distinct flyways: the Atlantic coast, the east side of the Appalachians, and the Mississippi River. They fly high in the sky during the day and roost in chimneys at night.
 
Backyard Tips
Chimney Swifts may take up residence in your brick chimney if you leave the chimney cap off. It’s a good idea to keep the damper closed during summer and to schedule chimney cleanings either before or after the breeding season. If you don’t have a chimney, you can build a swift nesting tower with plans from the North American Chimney Swift Nest Site Research Project.
 The “flying cigar” silhouette of the Chimney Swift is a common sight all summer in the skies over eastern cities and towns. Lakes and rivers are especially good places to look for swifts.
WANT TO SEE SWIFTS IN ACTION???
You can watch the swifts settle in for the night : Go to Detroit Audubon.com for information about the The Swift Sanctuary to watch the daily spectacular show as up to 50,000 Chimney Swifts swirl around and around like a tornado before the avian funnel cloud swirls right down into this historic winery. A wooded area behind the historic winery abuts the Rouge River, so there may be some migrants lurking there as well. As far as we know this is THE largest roost of Chimney Swifts in North America! . Bring a lawn chair to sit and watch this incredible show. The biggest congregation of swifts in this chimney usually happens in the fall.  MID AUGUST TO END OF OCTOBER 6-9 PM
As the late summer afternoon shadows lengthen I watch a group of about 15 chimney swifts. First I hear their high chattering calls, then I watch them circling in the sky around and around until it’s dark. I don’t know where they spend the night or how far away their roost is.
 
  
Chipping Sparrow                       
 Have a splendid weekend, Perhaps a moonlight swim?

Summer Solstice Newsletter

SUMMER  SOLSTICE  NEWSLETTER
BIRD CENTER OF WASHTENAW county
Our 13th year of helping wild birds!

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.
To help the Bird Center reach the goal of raising $1500 for this cause, please visit: www.gofundme.com/help-fund-a-new-flight-cage
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. “
And Liam:
“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
ARE
From
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.
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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