CROW Case of the Week: Baby Bird Season
During springtime, the air is filled with the sounds of life, including many songbird species courting each other, and hungry baby birds in the nest. These newborns are delicate little peepers.
At this time of year, CROW admits hundreds of baby birds that fall from their nests or have their nests knocked to the ground by Mother Nature, or by accident. In other cases, they are fledglings that are just learning to fly and wind up on the ground.
On March 25, an entire nest of common grackles fell when the branch it was on broke. The newborns were unable to be re-nested, so they were brought to CROW. This is a common seasonal occurrence.
“In March and April of 2019, we admitted over 150 baby birds that had fallen from their nests,” said Dr. Mariah Lancaster, CROW veterinary intern. “In many cases, the reason why the bird is out of the nest is unknown, but reasons can include their nest being knocked down by strong winds, predator attacks, or their nest being knocked down on accident by tree trimmers. We also see a number of cases where the baby is learning to fly and has ended up on the ground in the process.”
Of the four common grackles that were admitted to the clinic, two survived. One of the four nestlings did not survive the first night in the hospital while another developed a pox lesion and had to be humanely euthanized.
“(Patient) #20-1006 presented with no obvious signs of trauma and was treated with supportive care. Unfortunately, it likely had internal trauma and succumbed to its injuries overnight,” said Dr. Lancaster. “(Patient) #20-1003 was noted to have a lesion on its leg which was consistent with Avian Pox Virus. It was humanely euthanized due to significant contagious risk to its sibling nestlings and the rest of our hospitalized patients.”
The other two healthy babies have since been raised at CROW and are now in an outdoor enclosure. Once they have demonstrated good flight skills and are eating well on their own, they will be released.
“Time to release depends on the species of bird and how old they were when admitted to the hospital. Some birds require multiple months to reach an age at which they are capable of foraging and surviving on their own, however, common grackles are fairly precocial and are usually released within one to two weeks of moving from our indoor enclosures to our outdoor enclosures,” said Dr. Lancaster. “Adults are nearly always released into the area in which they were found, however, our younger birds don’t have the same need to return to a previously known habitat. Some species need to be released into a place away from others of their species in order to establish their own territory, however, grackles are highly social birds so the fledglings are released into an existing wild flock.”
Before transporting baby birds to CROW, finders are asked to call first.
“Many people have been told that if they touch a baby bird, the parents can smell humans and will abandon the baby. This is actually a myth and parents will continue to care for their young if they are returned to the nest,” said Dr. Lancaster. “If the nest is destroyed, a faux nest can be used to return the baby to the parents, which is always the best option for a baby bird unless it is injured from the fall. If you find a baby on the ground, a call to CROW or another licensed wildlife rehabilitator can help determine if the baby needs help and walk you through the process of re-nesting the baby if possible.”
CROW Case of the Week stories are written by Bob Petcher and appear weekly in the Island Sun and River Weekly Newspapers.