It’s spring: Here they come, ready or not

With the arrival of spring, we are also beginning to see the return of our migrating birds.

With all this flurry of activity, we will soon have nesting birds and inevitable contact with humans due to any number of circumstances. St. Francis Wildlife Rehabilitation would like to offer some instruction as to what to do if a bird is found in need of help.

If a nestling (an unfeathered or partially-feathered bird) is found on the ground or if an entire nest is found containing healthy-looking babies, every attempt should be made to replace either the single bird back into the nest or the entire nest back into the tree. The nest can be reattached with wire close to the original location. If the nest cannot be replaced intact, a berry basket could be used to provide support for the original nest, and that reattached to the tree. If the nest has been successfully placed back in the tree, please watch from a distance for a couple of hours to see if the parents return.

Contrary to what some believe, the parent bird(s) will not abandon their babies if they have been touched by humans; however, time is of the essence and a quick return to “normal” is extremely important. The parents should be allowed the opportunity to continue to raise their young. They know exactly what to do and our interference in trying to “raise” a wild bird is fraught with any number of unpleasant consequences. Try as we might, we are mostly unable to come up with just the right food for the nestlings, much less feed them almost constantly. Babies eat from sunup to sundown and every 15 to 20 minutes.

The next stage of growth is called “fledging.” A fledgling is fully feathered and is now beginning to find out what the world is all about. He will begin perching on or near the nest and will start his flight practice. This, more often than not, ends up with him on the ground. The parents will continue to feed it while it is on the ground and as nature would have it, eventually the fledgling will “get it” and be off with his parents to learn how to find food. It won’t do any good to try and put the bird back in the nest or even the tree, as he will probably be right back out again. The most important thing we can do for them is to provide a safe place to learn this flying business. Please remove as many “unnatural” threats or predators as possible. Children, being curious, may want to help the bird that can’t fly. If a child is told that the bird is just learning to fly and he will be alright soon, “let’s just watch and leave him alone” would be the best policy.

Up to this point we’ve done everything possible to see that our wild birds continue to thrive. What if, despite our efforts, something happens and the bird is somehow injured or is ill. This is the time to get in touch with a rehabilitator as soon as possible. Pick the bird up gently and place it in a box lined with a towel and keep it warm and quiet. Emphasis on warm and quiet. Stress is the most frequent cause of death in a sick or injured bird and although everyone wants to see the bird up close and personal, this could eventually be the cause of his demise, even if his injuries may not have been life-threatening. It is also important not to feed the bird anything. The wrong food is worse than no food at all.

Contact Pat Jackson at St. Francis Wildlife Rehabilitation with any questions you may have, or if you have found a bird in need of help. The numbers are (970) 883-2519, or (970) 946-7452.