Early April Newsletter

Early April 2017 newsletter
Our 13th year of saving wild birds

Dear Friends,
The Bird Center will be open and staffed starting Monday May 8th at 7AM!
The migrating birds are coming back, and I hear lots of birdsong and activity. We have a few more birds at the Center: a cardinal, a dove, a titmouse, and a junco. We are receiving email requests for volunteer applications. We’re getting ready for the new season.

2017 Volunteer Orientation
We need volunteers to help care for and feed young and injured song birds for our 2017 season May-September at our Ann Arbor, MI location. Please join us for our Volunteer Orientation on Saturday, April 29 from 9:30 – 12 noon.
Room 319 in the Gunder Myran Building at Washtenaw Community College campus.  We will discuss our organization and volunteer opportunities.

Flyaway, our annual Bird Center fundraiser and silent auction, took place the evening of March 28th at the Matthaei Botanical Garden’s Conservatory.
From 7 to 10 PM guests wandered through the candlelit tropical and desert gardens and enjoyed the delicious buffet.  The silent auction was a great success. We were honored to have Yousef Rabhi, MI State Rep (D-Ann Arbor) as our speaker. Rep. Rabhi enthusiastically supports the Bird Center’s continuing work of protecting wild birds and the environment through our rehabilitation and education programs.
❦   Carol Akerlof, Director and founder of the Bird Center of Washtenaw County, is retiring after 13 years of devoted work on behalf of our local wild songbirds. Thank you from all of us at the Bird Center, Carol, and
thank you from the birds.
Juvenile Cedar Waxwings
   Board member Molly Osler presenting Carol Akerlof with a gift basket.
She received chocolate (Carol’s favorite!)and a beautiful silk scarf made by Carol Furtado, Ann Arbor fiber artist and long time supporter of our work.
  Staff member Daniela Silver with our educational bird, Blue.
Board member Bee Friedlander introducing MI State Rep. Yousef Rabhi.
Staff members Seana Florida and Rachel Gumpper
Rachel with her silent auction purchase,
a Polish paper cutout.
Beautiful! Bee and Molly present Staff                                                                   member Gabby Costello with  an orchid.
Board member Georgette Hansen enjoying some tasty food.
Koi in the Conservatory fish pond

How Different Spring Migrants Decide When to Head North
Will warmer weather bring the birds back early? It all depends on what type of migrators they are.
By Kenn Kaufman
Spring officially started March 20, but for many of us it had already begun. Back in February, unseasonably warm temperatures swept over much of North America, buds began opening on trees, and flowers began to bloom weeks early. Naturally, birders began to ask: Will our migratory birds come back earlier, too?
That question doesn’t have a simple yes or no answer because the timing of bird migration is . . . complicated. Every species is slightly different; short-term changes in weather do have an impact, but so do a variety of other innate and environmental factors. Here’s a quick primer on how North American avians schedule their spring journeys to aid in your own birding ventures.
Two Types of Migrants
To figure out how migrating birds could be affected by balmy weather, we should start by categorizing them into two groups: obligate and facultative (to use the fancy terms). These labels aren’t ironclad-many birds fall somewhere between these extremes-but the definitions are helpful in understanding what triggers a species’ migration.  For obligate migrants, the timing of travel is dictated by hard-wired instinct. An unusually warm or cool season won’t make them suddenly decide to change their departure dates. They’ll move at about the same time each year, regardless of weather. Meanwhile, facultative migrants are more tuned in to the conditions of the moment. They have a standard timing for their migration, but they might tweak it by days, or even weeks, if the season is chillier or more temperate than usual. They’re flexible.
So how does this work during spring migration? When birds start moving north from their winter homes, the hard-wired, obligate migrants run like clockwork. That includes certain songbirds, raptors, shorebirds, and others that commute between the far north and the deep tropics or temperate southern zone. A Blackburnian Warbler spending the winter in South America or a Wood Thrush wintering in Costa Rica won’t have any way to judge what’s happening up the United States and Canada. Such species may wait for clear skies and favorable winds to launch each stage in their journey, but a major warm spell won’t cue an early arrival.
Meanwhile, most of the flexible, facultative migrants are birds that only move short distances, wintering right in the United States. This allows them to sense local conditions and seize opportunities to move closer to their breeding grounds. Overall weather patterns tend to apply to broad regions, so if the season continues to be warm, facultative birds may gradually move north ahead of schedule. For example, if the weather is mild in late February, a Fox Sparrow in Tennessee might guess that life won’t be too bad a few hundred miles farther up in Ohio. Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, American Woodcocks, Killdeers, Eastern Phoebes, and even Tree Swallows are other species that may turn up earlier than average during a warm spring.
Most parulids (new world warblers) winter deep in the tropics, and the timing of their northward migration is dictated by instinct. Yellow-rumped Warblers, however, may be more flexible because they mainly winter in the southern United States. Thinking of birds this way makes it easier to predict their arrival. Will the warblers come back early this year? Yellow-rumped Warblers might, because they’re short-distance migrants, wintering mostly in the southern states. Hooded Warblers won’t, because they’re obligate migrants, wintering deep in the tropics.
It’s even easier to understand the difference if we also consider fall migration. Among obligate migrants in North America, Orchard Orioles may start their southward journeys in July, and Yellow Warblers may travel south in August. At that time the weather is still pleasant and food is abundant, so obviously these birds aren’t driven out by cold weather-they just go when instinct tells them to. By contrast, facultative migrants may linger until conditions egg them on. Ducks, geese, and swans need open water, and although some migrate early, others may stay north until their habitat freezes over. The severity of the season may even influence how far south they go for the winter. The Sandhill Crane is another good example of a facultative migrant; in recent years, some Sandhill populations have been migrating later in fall and earlier in spring, while spending the winter farther north than they ever had in the past.
Waterfowl like these Tundra Swans have a typical window of time for their migrations, but they also need open water. An unusually cold spring may delay their northward migration until their habitat thaws.
Built-in Adaptability
Now, if a bird is a stickler for schedule, can it change its migration timing? Yes, but not in its lifetime: The species will make the shift over multiple generations. As with any other instinctive behavior, migration windows can evolve over time. That adaptability is based on survival.
The perfect time for a bird to arrive on its breeding grounds is a balance of two pressures. On one hand, it needs to arrive early to claim prime territory. On the other hand, if it moves north too far or too fast, it might freeze or starve. In every population of migratory birds, individuals vary somewhat in their timing. Those that hit the sweet spot and arrive at the perfect time are more likely to nest and raise young successfully, so their genes are more likely to be passed along to the next generation.
If the climate changes so that warm spring temperatures creep up earlier, birds that arrive earlier may have the advantage. Not only will the early bird get the worm, it may also get the best territory and the healthiest mate and raise more young than its slowpoke neighbors. If the genes for early migration are passed along to more of the offspring, then over a span of many generations, the average timing of arrival of the entire population will gradually shift. Other factors could be at work as well: For example, one study of Black-tailed Godwits suggests that females will lay eggs earlier in a warmer season, and that young birds that hatch at the beginning of the summer will migrate earlier the next spring.
Scientists are still working to understand just how different species can alter their travel calendars. But with rapid climate change already under way, the concern is that some migratory birds may not be able to evolve quickly enough to keep up. You can pitch in and help experts keep track of these patterns by plugging your spring-migration sightings into databases like eBird and Audubon’s Hummingbirds at Home.

Thank you to everyone who has offered to help. We should be in good shape for a smooth transition to the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital and back again.

Flyaway VII Ticket Deadline Extended!

The Bird Center of Washtenaw County Invites You to Attend flyaway VII
This Saturday, March 25th, 2017 7-10 p.m. Matthaei Botanical Gardens, 1800
N. Dixboro Road

$70 per person, includes an hors d’oeuvre buffet, silent auction, and
enjoyment of Matthaei’s indoor gardens

RSVP by Friday, March 24th. Please call 734-475-2245, email
birdcentera2@gmail.com, PayPal at birdcenterwashtenaw.org. You can RSVP by Friday and pay at the door on Saturday.
All proceeds support the day-to-day operations of the Bird Center. We
hope you will join us in supporting the birds!

Mid-March 2017 newsletter

      Mid-March 2017 newsletter       
Our 13th year of saving wild birds
Tonight the clocks will “spring forward” an hour as we enter Daylight Savings Time. I treasure that extra hour of light at the end of the day in the long late spring and summer evenings with all the time in the world to garden, to sit outside and watch the swifts, nighthawks and bats, each so beautiful and so different as they circle above me.
Right now I’m just dreaming about springtime and grateful that it’s still light at 6:30PM. My snowdrops are up and a few early crocus! It won’t be long.
At the Bird Center, Supervisor Gabby and a few interns have been taking advantage of the small number (2) of birds in residence by doing a thorough cleaning and clearing out of the space. Even some painting, too.
Incredibly clean bird center
               THANK YOU !!!!!!!!
 We have a Tufted Titmouse and a Mourning Dove at the Center. The Titmouse is finally cured of parasites and is waiting for warm weather to be released. The dove flew into a window and may have some brain injury.
Upcoming events for the Bird Center:
April 29th is the Volunteer Orientation and will be held again at Washtenaw Community College. More details to come.
The Washtenaw Community College Winter Volunteer Fair is on March 28th
It is from 11AM-1PM on the first floor of the Student Center.
The Bird Center will have a table. This is a good opportunity to tell WCC students about the Bird Center and find new volunteers.

The Bird Center of Washtenaw County Invites You to Attend flyaway VII

Saturday, March 25th, 2017 7-10 p.m. Matthaei Botanical Gardens, 1800
N. Dixboro Road
$70 per person, includes an hors d’oeuvre buffet, silent auction, and

enjoyment of Matthaei’s indoor gardens

RSVP and Pay by Wednesday, March 22nd. Please call 734-475-2245, email

check to P.O. Box 3718, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106.

All proceeds support the day-to-day operations of the Bird Center. We
hope you will join us in supporting the birds!
 By Donna Mahan                         
 Special to The Acorn
This small fledgling northern mockingbird came to the California Wildlife Center last spring.
Both of this young bird’s feet were knuckled, meaning it was walking on the tops of its toes.
Imagine if your toes were curled under all the way back to your heels and you had to “stand” on the tops of your feet.  All young birds fledge, or leave the nest, by hopping to a nearby branch or to the ground, and then they begin to practice flying. This baby bird probably had trouble as soon as she was on the ground. She couldn’t hop around and she couldn’t perch on a branch-she was helpless.
 Luckily, mockingbird parents are excellent caretakers and likely continued to feed this baby until she was rescued and taken to animal control and then to the California Wildlife Center in Calabasas.  Every year, eight to 10 young birds arrive afflicted with knuckling, which can be a birth defect or have other causes, such as improper diet. Whatever the cause, the condition almost certainly dooms the young bird.
The CWC, a wildlife rehabilitation facility with two full-time wildlife veterinarians, began using a therapeutic snowshoe correction method about five years ago.  The snowshoe correction gets its name because the little cardboard shoes that are taped to the birds’ feet look like snowshoes.  Veterinarian Lorraine Barbosa applied the custom-made shoes to the baby bird, and it was immediately able to stand and hop around.
Typically, the corrective shoes stay on for one to two weeks. This young bird wore the corrective shoes for about a week and, once they were removed, she could hop onto a branch and perch normally for the first time in her life. She spent the first few weeks in the wildlife center’s baby care unit, where it was fed a diet of mealworms and crickets, and exposed to a daily chorus of mockingbird songs.  She was then placed in an aviary with other northern mockingbirds where she could grow, learn songs, develop flight feathers and gain flying skills. The bird was constantly monitored to ensure the disabling condition would not return.
Once the baby mockingbird grew its full set of flight feathers and demonstrated flight ability, and veterinarians were confident its knuckling had fully resolved, the bird was transferred to a larger outdoor flight aviary. In the outside aviaries, the birds are self-feeding, exposed to normal day and night temperatures, and allowed to become wild again. Exposure to staff and volunteers is kept at a minimum.
California Wildlife Center’s goal is for all of the birds and mammals to be truly wild and ready for a successful life when they are released.  This young bird was released back into the wild in August.
*(For years The Bird Center has also been successfully treating birds with knuckled feet, using the same custom made “snowshoes.” )
California Wildlife Center is a registered nonprofit organization.
 With a small staff and dedicated volunteer core, CWC cared for over 4,500 patients in 2015. WC is funded through individual and foundation donations   
Baltimore Oriole finds a new home

EVERY SEASON The Bird Center rehabilitates some birds that can never be returned to the wild but are otherwise healthy and capable of enjoying a good life. A fledgling kept by someone long enough to have imprinted on humans, or a bird that has lost a wing or is blind in one eye would never survive in the wild, but can lead a good life as an educational bird or as part of a zoo’s aviary.

This past season, a male Baltimore Oriole was brought to us. It was found on someone’s porch steps, not able to fly away. There were no wing injuries. We assume he hit the house and received a brain injury, and that eventually caused blindness in his left eye. The Oriole was seen by the doctor 3 times over a period of approximately 3 months. By that time it was clear he would not regain vision enough to be released.
The Oriole was otherwise healthy, and able to fly. We decided to try and find a placement for him, and the Akron Zoo was pleased to accept him as the newest member of their native bird walk-in aviary.  In order to be transferred, Supervisor Gabby Costello contacted one of the Zoo staff members, who required that he be able to get off the ground and navigate a large space as they have a small waterfall and he didn’t want the bird to drown. Transfer papers were signed and the Oriole was ready to go.
Walk-in aviary
 On February 20, Volunteer Julie Martin transported our Baltimore Oriole to Akron, Ohio, a 3 hour, 200 mile trip.  Julie sent this lively account of her trip:
“The day I transported the Oriole to the zoo was President’s Day and it was offering free admission.  Combined with the unseasonably warm temperatures and a day off from school, the zoo was extremely popular!  The Akron PD had to close down the streets a few times to get traffic snarls under control.  Your intrepid transporter was not deterred, however, and I was able to make my way to a back entrance near the zoo hospital to deliver the bird.
Before a bird is released into the aviary, it stays in the infirmary until blood work is completed, then within a day will be moved to the avian ward.  It will stay in the avian ward for a minimum of 30 days until they get 3 negative fecals, and then will move to the walk-in aviary that is part of the Mike & Mary Stark Grizzly Ridge which includes grizzly bears, river otters, red wolves, bald eagles, and coyotes.
Sixty-five Ohio birds surround visitors as they are suspended 16 feet in the air onto a rope bridge and tree house. The aviary has 15 native species including American Goldfinch, Blue-Winged Teal, Grackle, Downy Woodpecker, Cardinal, and Carolina Wren and a Turkey that was brought in with a bum leg.  When he was x-rayed they found he was also full of buckshot!  I’m told he is exceptionally happy and content at the zoo. About half the birds are bred in the zoo, ¼ come from another zoos and ¼ from rehab facilities.
Conservation and education are primary directives here, and the small but mighty staff are very passionate about their work.  Even though it was wildly busy they were all very professional and courteous.  As an example of the flexibility required, that Monday was the first day for many newly hired animal keepers.  At the last moment, their orientation was cancelled so they could staff the cafe & gift shop.
I received so many thanks from the zoo staff for bringing the bird, particularly on behalf of the 3 female Baltimore Orioles currently in the aviary!  I passed all kudos on to the volunteers & staff at the Bird Center – I was so deeply honored to run the last leg of this race. Thank you for the opportunity.”
About Julie:
“I am an amateur radio operator, callsign K8VOX.  I enjoy camping, travel, learning new skills and selling on ebay.  I volunteer for the Bird Center because I know that it is a humanely and responsibly run non-profit with dedicated volunteers and staff.
Again, I am so honored to have been involved.”
What a wonderful story.
a happy ending for everyone at
the Bird Center, the Akron Zoo
and most of all,
the Baltimore Oriole!!

Flyaway VII


The Bird Center of Washtenaw County Invites You to Attend:

flyaway VII

Saturday, March 25th, 2017 7-10 p.m.
Matthaei Botanical Gardens, 1800 N. Dixboro Road

$70 per person, includes an hors d’oeuvre buffet, silent auction, and enjoyment of Matthaei’s indoor gardens

RSVP and Pay by Wednesday, March 22nd. Please call 734-475-2245, email

birdcentera2@gmail.com, or send a check to P.O. Box 3718, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106.

All proceeds support the day-to-day operations of the Bird Center. We hope you will join us in supporting the birds!