The mocker has been released, although his favorite haunt at the moment is the tree right at the flight pen, so he can beg for a handout when I feed the flight pen occupants. The finches are ready for release as soon as we
have several consecutive rain-free days forecast; the Carolina wren, now in the flight pen, can be released with the finches.
In a lovely, lovely surprise, the mourning dove decided last week to start flying, just before I planned to have him euthanized because he was miserable pacing back and forth in the flight pen. Now he’s still unhappy, but
he’s flying, so he has a chance at release and the freedom he so desperately wants!
The possum trio has been released, also, and they were quite happy to be on their clueless, dim-witted little ways.
The mallard continues to do well and should be ready for release on a well-monitored pond in another week or so.
Despite my best efforts, I was unable to reunite the failed fledgling bluebird with his family, but as luck would have it, he had a “cousin” come in the very next day—a pre-fledgling American robin with a broken
wrist. (Robins and bluebirds are both members of the thrush family.) Idiots set on wiping out every tree in the area they were planning to “develop” chopped down the tree this baby’s nest was in, and he ended up in the
neighbor’s yard. His siblings were probably crushed by the falling tree; his finders did look for other survivors and didn’t find any.
The robin’s wrist was an open fracture but because his bones are still growing and because he’s never learned what “proper” flight feels like, we opted to soft-splint the wing, use copious antibiotics, and hope for the best.
Meanwhile he has the bluebird for companionship. The bluebird should be in the flight pen, but he seems to help lower the robin’s stress levels, so he’ll stay inside for a while longer.
“Cuz,” as I’m calling the robin, is doing amazingly well. He’s attempting to use that splinted wing, eating well, and very much likes having the bluebird as a buddy. So we have Cuz and Buddy, unlikely companions anywhere
outside a rehab setting, doing well and growing apace. Only time will tell if Cuz’s wing will heal to allow flight, but we’re gonna give him that time.
Even though it’s hawk nesting season, I was somewhat surprised to get in a nestling red tailed hawk. She’d been grounded for two days before I got her and was not being fed by her parents, which doesn’t bode well for the fate of either her parents or any siblings. She’s a beauty, as you can see below, and rather big for her young age. I kept telling Steve Hicks of Bubba & Friends that she was large, quite large, and when I transferred her to him, he called almost immediately after getting her, laughing at the size of her feet—you can see the source of our amusement below. The gal has gunboats for feet! She also has a healthy appetite and will be a huge bird when she’s full-grown. Steve and I are betting she might be a record-setter. In the videos below, you can hear
her demanding food while it thaws the day she came in and then witness her appetite for yourselves.
This American coot apparently had a mild concussion after being found in a roadway. After observation and examination to determine if anything else was amiss, the ill-tempered little waterfowl was released and promptly
showed off by vigorously swimming upstream against a strong current.
And I originally posted the following paragraph on LWR’s Facebook page, but because I don’t think I could word it any better, I’m copying it here:
Every so often, someone comes along who halfway restores my hope for humanity's future. The folks who brought me four nestling red-bellied woodpeckers this morning are in that very small group. When their new neighbors chopped down the tree the nest was in on Thursday without even checking for active nests first, the
rescuers 1) cussed out the neighbors (now these are MY kind of people!); 2) attempted to rig a makeshift nest; 3) when the parents hadn't returned by dark, retrieved the babies; 4) called me for advice on feeding BEFORE attempting to offer any food; 5) made arrangements to meet me in the AM with the woodpeckers. And they drove ALL THE WAY FROM BRUNSWICK to save these babies' lives. For my friends outside Georgia, that's a two-hour ONE WAY drive from the coast using the back roads; three hours one-way on the interstate. These are people who give a damn about our native wildlife, and they put action behind their words. We need more people like them, not just in Georgia but around the globe.
The red bellies are doing quite well, and the little runt that the rescuers and I were worried about has now become the most vocal of the group in demanding his fair share of the food! I suspect that as the runt, probably a late hatch, he was getting less food in the nest, which further slowed his development. It may not be obvious in the photos and video, but I can see marked development in just the three days he and his sibs have been at LWR.
And folks, it is now time for my weekly soapbox rant. It is A VIOLATION OF FEDERAL LAW to disturb
active nests. Yeah, all you developers and chainsaw happy fools out there, this means you, too. You are supposed to check for active nests BEFORE pruning limbs or felling trees, and when I know the names of individuals or companies who don’t follow the regulations, you damn well better believe I report them to both
the state and federal authorities. I have five babies right now—the robin and the red bellies—who should be in the wild being raised by their parents but were robbed of that right by idiots who don’t give a damn about nature, the environment, or the laws they broke by destroying active nests. I say it’s time for state and federal authorities to come down on some of these violators very hard and very publicly and let people know this nonsense must stop and that violators will be punished to the fullest extent of the law…not nearly as
severely as I’d like, but not everyone believes in the Hammurabian code of justice…
Domain name registries and site hosting companies don’t always play well together, so when this website was first created, I’d purchased the domain name I wanted from a different registry that wouldn’t let me transfer to my web host. So…long story short, I had to stick that pesky “inc” at the end of the address to get on with building the site. NOW, however, the original domain name I wanted is free for THIS hosting company/registry partnership to snag, so…the new address is www.laurenswildliferescue.org
. Please change all your bookmarks and alert anyone you’ve shared the old address with.
Now, on to the critters. Let’s lead with a release. The Mississippi kite with undetermined issues resolved said issues with a little TLC from LWR. Okay, actually, all I did was provide a safe haven and a nutritious diet while he did all the hard work. Anyway, he’s free, free as a bird! (Sorry, couldn’t resist…)
The cardinal with the eye issues also developed neurological issues and required euthanasia. The sneeze-calling little possum failed to thrive and I was on my way to have her euthanized when she died. Despite our best efforts, the snapping turtle didn’t make it, either. The shell wasn’t cracked too badly for repair, so the lawn mower might have ruptured internal organs. It’s so hard to tell what’s going on internally with a turtle…And rounding out the death list from last week’s critters, the runt Carolina wren put up a good fight but just wasn’t strong enough to survive.
The finches, on the other hand, grew like little feathered weeds.
May 3, 2013
May 5, 2013
Three of the four are in the flight pen.
The fourth, the runt, is behind developmentally but is making progress and should join his sibs soon.
The surviving Carolina wren should be in the flight pen but refuses to accept this, so he’s inside with the runt finch.
The mocker is reluctant to leave the flight pen, so he’s being pestered to death by those chatty little finches. The mourning dove still shows no signs of flight ability, so his time is growing short.
The three possums are growing at an insane rate and might even be releasable in another couple of weeks if they keep up this growth pace. Still camera-shy, though…
This hummingbird was found on the pavement in a neighboring town. The person who called about the bird was at work and did the best he could to provide food for the hummer until he could get her to me, but hummers don’t grasp the concept of taking sugar water from a paper cup. By the time I got her, she’d started shutting down and was refusing to even attempt to eat on her own. I thought I had her stabilized by lights-out, but when I removed the cover from her pen the next morning, she had died. (Any sustained light at night, like a night-light or appliance lights, will cause a hummer to wake up and starve to death during the night, hence the need to cover their pens.)
While I see quite a few wood ducks, I’ve never had a mallard in rehab. Weird, I know, but true. Until this week, that is. A caller from a nearby town called to say he’d rescued a juvenile male mallard that was being chased by two Canada geese on a major thoroughfare in the town. His wing appeared to be broken.
The next morning, I took him to Smalley’s Animal Hospital, where vet Jim Hobby confirmed, after x-rays, that the wing was broken right in the wrist joint. This is not a fixable break and in most other birds would require euthanasia. However, this mallard actually appears to have been a commercial bird (state and federal laws permit raising mallards commercially), raised in close contact with people, as he has very little fear of humans, so he’ll thrive on a well-monitored pond. We’re giving him time for the break to stabilize, and then he’ll go to a safe pond to live the life of Riley as a free bird with a lifetime food subsidy.
One of the primary things I wish well-meaning but untrained people would get through their skulls is NOT to feed orphaned babies ANYTHING until they contact a rehabber. Yes, in the case of baby birds, frequent feedings are a necessity, hence the need to contact a licensed avian rehabber ASAP. This hatchling mockingbird was found beside its dead sibling with no nest in site. The finder called LWR almost immediately but had already given the hatchling water. Baby birds and water don’t mix; there’s too much risk of aspiration. I was hopeful that maybe we’d avoided that but started antibiotics, to be safe. He did well his first day, gaping like a pro. His second morning, however, he was lethargic and had a distinctly gray tint—never a good sign in baby birds. Since I had to make a vet visit with another critter, I decided this little one would need euthanasia while there. He checked out on his own before the menagerie ever made it to the exam room.
Grackles aren’t especially attractive birds, aside from those striking yellow eyes. And they have lousy temperaments. Still, for some reason, I really like the ill-tempered cusses. This grackle was found in someone’s back yard with a broken leg. While he hasn’t been x-rayed yet, the break is right in the knee and will not be fixable. I’ve seen too many of these types of fractures before and know what they look and feel like. Because this week witnessed a spate of euthanasias by my vets, I’m giving them a break before taking this bird in.
I really, really like chuck-will’s-widows, nocturnal insectivores with tiny beaks that open to great, gaping maws to scoop insects from the air while in flight. They’re shy but not at all hesitant to put on a big show of aggression when they feel threatened. This poor bird’s left wing was pretty much sheared off; it was hanging on by a tendon or two. He still managed to remain alert and put up a brave front, but there was nothing we could do for him. In the video clips below, vet Jim Hobby examines the chuck-will’s-widow.
Finally, what is my cardinal rule with fledglings? Repeat after me: Don’t kidnap fledglings; unless
their lives are in imminent danger, let their parents finish raising them!
Why do I mention that rule? Well, aside from the obvious—that it bears repeating ad infinitum, ad nauseum this time of year—because there are times I make a judgment call and break that rule myself.
Most of you know I have Eastern bluebird nesting boxes on my property. I monitor these boxes obsessively. I know when nests are started, when each egg is laid, when they hatch, and when the babies fledge.
Yesterday we had four nestlings become four fledglings. Near dark the parent bluebirds were raising a worse than usual post-fledging ruckus, so of course I investigated. Near my flight pen, clinging to a blade of grass, was a gorgeous little fledgling. I had just killed a 3-foot rat snake outside my flight pen and an app. 18 inch one in the flight pen (you can’t snake-proof a flight pen, no matter how hard you try, unless you can hire someone to monitor it 24/7). We have barred owls, GHOs, bobcats, foxes, coyotes and Lord knows what other nocturnal predators.
I first moved the fledgling to a safer location, within sight of his frantic parents. He promptly flitted right back down to ground level. Hell would freeze over before I was leaving a defenseless fledgling on the ground at night under the aforementioned circumstances. Little Boy Blue spent the night safely inside.
This morning while I was in the flight pen I heard his parents and sibs off in the distance, so I hoped I could reunite him with his family if they’d come back within earshot of my unwilling guest. I have on occasion (two
other times in the past 10 years or so) done this and in one instance I was able to reunite the fledgling, a red-bellied woodpecker, with his parents. So far, however, this gorgeous little man’s family hasn’t been back close enough for me to put him back out to call for them. I hear them faintly, way off in the distance, but I don’t see them—and I won’t risk losing a bluebird to wandering dogs, hawks, or other diurnal predators, either. So…we’ll keep trying and see if we can stage a reunion. The woodpecker took three days before we managed to get
him back with his family, but what a reunion that was to witness! Hopefully we’ll be able to do the same for this little bluebird. Fingers crossed…
The last two weeks of April saw a pretty heavy influx of babies, so spring has definitely sprung at LWR!
The turkey vulture from the last update was released after a few days’ R&R. No photos; turkey vultures are so shy all he’d do is hunker down in his box and hide his head while I was watching. I left the box open in a safe place and left him undisturbed for a while, and he was gone when I came back.
The mocker is in the flight pen now and eating some mealworms on his own. His flight skills have improved dramatically in just the past few days, so I hope to release him within the next week or so.
The mourning dove joined the mocker in the flight pen but thus far has made no attempt to fly. The “wing injury” he was found with seven months before he was brought to me was a broken bone that healed improperly, hence his inability to fly. I’m trying to give him all the time I can, on the off chance that he’ll eventually be able to fly, but it’s not looking hopeful right now.
For the record, a bird with a broken bone has 72 hours before the bone begins to set in whatever awkward, ill-aligned position the break has caused. Time is of the essence in treating fractures; don’t delay getting a bird you suspect has a fracture to a licensed rehabber.
Sadly, the wrens that were doing so well all died. Wrens are stressy little birds, but honestly, until last year I had really amazing release rates. Last year was atrocious for me on the wren front, and I finally experienced the struggles my fellow rehabbers have reported with the nervous little darlings. This year is a mixed bag so far.
These possums were found wandering in a yard with no mama in sight. Actually, they’re totally self-feeding and would be able to handle that aspect of survival on their own. At this small size, however, they’re easy prey, so the general rule of thumb in wildlife rehab is to provide them a nutritious diet and a safe haven while they grow to a size that will make them less vulnerable to predators. Since they’re self-feeding, I have no reason to handle them, and they’re very skittish. This isn’t a great photo, but it’s the best I’ve managed of all three of them—so far, at least.
Cardinal nestlings and fledglings are impossibly cute, with their bulging, alien-looking eyes and their endearing habit of licking their beaks after each feeding. This little one was nearly run over by a lawn mower. He was actually a bit too young to be out of the nest when he came in, but he also had what appeared to be an eye infection. The impaired vision may have factored into his fall from the nest. Even with antibiotics, his eyes aren’t looking promising. The left eye appears to have atrophied and the right remains swollen—they don’t seem to be getting worse or better, so this may be some sort of congenital condition. We do think he may be blind at this point, and unlike a blind mammal, blind birds can’t locate their food by scent, so lack of vision is a death sentence. Because he’s a young bird and we’re trying to give the meds time to work, he’s got a reprieve, but I really suspect he’s on borrowed time.
These four Carolina wrens lost their mother. The father was able to feed them during the day but could not brood them at night. When their finder checked on them after dark and confirmed that they were not being brooded on a 40 degree night, she brought them in and placed them on heat for the night. They also appeared to be doing well on intake, but within 48 hours, three of the four had died. The sole survivor is vocal and eating well, so…fingers crossed for this wee one.
When 911 called with a reported possible injured bald eagle, I have to admit my heart sank—not at the injured part, at the bald eagle part. I’ve dealt with exactly one bald eagle, and I don’t care to repeat the experience. Still, I told the 911 operator if the officer on the scene could get the bird in a box and meet me, I’d take it. When I drove up, the officer pulled a small box out of the back of his patrol car and said, deadpan, “I don’t think it’s a bald eagle.” So nice to deal with people who share my warped sense of humor!
The “bald eagle” was in fact an adult Mississippi kite that we suspected had been shot, as he had blood on his neck and was unable to stand. The next morning, I got the M. kite to the vet, where I was sure his x-rays would light up like a Christmas tree. Instead, we had…nothing. It was a lovely, normal x-ray--no lead, no fractures, nothing to explain why the M. kite favored the entire left side of his body. We opted for a small dose of steroids and a mild antibiotic to see what would happen. That night, he flopped on his back and couldn’t flip back over. Convinced he was done for, I flipped him to his belly and made him as comfortable as possible, figuring he’d check out during the night, but lo and behold, the next morning he was standing! He’s still favoring his left side some but he is standing now, so hopefully we’ll be able to release him soon. Below is a photo of him on his side; he flips on his back or side in defensive mode every time I go near him, so you’ll just have to take my word he’s standing!
This snapping turtle was run over by a lawn mower. My first reaction was, “How could anyone NOT see a snapper this big?” Vet Richie Hatcher and I agreed that it looked fixable, so I gave it the old college try. He was still swollen when I epoxied the band to his shell, so it’s not completely flush in the photo. We’re still going round and round with this stubborn fellow, so we’ll see what the final outcome is.
This single possum is a tiny little rascal who sneeze-calls for her mama quite a lot, especially when she’s hungry. She was one of several rescued from the pouch of a dog-killed mama possum, but the others died before the rescuers could get them to me.
These Carolina wrens came to LWR after their nest fell. The finder did the right thing by replacing the nest, as she knew exactly where it had fallen from, but within a few hours it had fallen again and one of the babies had died. These two were cold and gray when they came in and I honestly didn’t hold out much hope they’d survive the night. The runt is still struggling a bit, but the older nestling is doing very well.
After the horse trailer these finches were in was moved, the nest was found. The finder placed it in the fork of a nearby tree and hoped the parents would continue to feed the nestlings, and for two days they did just that. On the third morning, however, the nestlings were found to be cold and lethargic. Apparently something had happened to both parents. Finches will eat themselves into a near-stupor, and they’re SO enthusiastic about feeding time! They also have a rather unsavory habit of pooping all over each other and the nest, so keeping them clean is a real challenge. They get a wipe-down after each meal, which they’re not real enthusiastic about, but hey, when you bob and weave and sling food when being fed and serve as a latrine for your sibs, what do you expect, right?
Awaiting our post-prandial wipe-down...
Time for my usual “keep your cats inside” rant, for two reasons this week. When I received a call about a downed “baby” red tailed hawk, I was positive this was not the case, based on the caller’s description of a brown fuzzy bird about the size of a biddy. The caller’s cat had been batting this baby around, so I was equally sure the bird of whatever species needed antibiotics and a precautionary measure. When the bird came in, it was a pre-fledgling brown thrasher, Georgia’s state bird. Despite their rather imposing appearance, brown thrashers are remarkably sweet birds, even when they come in as adults. I have an inordinate fondness for them.
This little one, while sporting no obvious injuries, had become very lethargic her second morning at LWR. We’re on the third day of antibiotics with no discernible improvement or worsening, so this little sweetheart may also be on borrowed time.
And Monday, a cat-attacked baby Eastern cottontail, eyes still closed, came in. He also showed no signs of injury but was started on antibiotics to be safe. Poor fellow checked out in less than 24 hours, though…
Why the need for antibiotics if there’s no sign of injury? Cat saliva is toxic to wildlife. If the brown thrasher or rabbit ingested any cat saliva while preening/grooming, it would have basically the same effect as cat saliva in an open wound—death within 48 hours if not treated. You can prevent this threat to wildlife by keeping your cats indoors. Indoor cats live longer, healthier lives, anyway. Did you know the average lifespan for an outdoor cat is 4 years, while an indoor cat can live over 20 years? If you love wildlife AND your cat, do them both a favor—keep your moggie indoors!
LWR also received yet another downy barred owl, found on the ground in an area frequented by dogs. He only overnighted here before heading for Bubba & Friends to join several other downy barred owls I’ve sent that way this season.
Finally, last week I received a call from a person who’d attempted—illegally, of course—to “raise” a dove and then after a week got tired of the situation and simply released the bird…and then had a conscience attack and called me. First, the caller was near the Florida line; second, the bird was released and the caller admitted it couldn’t be caught. The person had been given horrifically bad advice by someone not licensed for songbirds. I pointed all this out, and then the caller got huffy with me for explaining that at this point the individual would have to live with the consequences of their actions—in other words, let nature take its course. For future reference, yes, I’ll be short with anyone who exhibits this level of idiocy; further, I’m not in this for the people I deal with, I’m in it to help our native wildlife. When someone, through stupidity, arrogance or a combination of both, screws up “my” wildlife, all the while claiming they “love animals,” my blood boils and my attitude nosedives. This incident led me to post the following on LWR’s Facebook page, and it bears repeating here, as well:
Just a reminder, folks--it's against state and, in the case of birds, federal law to possess wildlife without a permit. Rehabbers cannot and should not provide care advice for any members of the public possessing wildlife in violation of said laws, other than emergency measures until the wildlife can be gotten to a licensed individual. Please don't ask us to break the law because you "have a big heart" or you "love animals." If your heart is that "big" and you truly "love animals," then do the right thing and get the wildlife to a licensed rehabber who is trained to provide the proper care. Don't screw the wildlife up with improper care and then ask us to rectify your mistakes, either. If you couldn't contact us when the wildlife had a chance at being rehabbed, don't contact us when you've "loved" it to death's door.
…that will become a torrent by next month, if previous years are any indication. I can handle trickle; trickle is nice!
Earlier in the month, this downy GHO was found grounded and sopping wet…and very vocal. After receiving a call from a client, nuisance animal remover Nathan Garnto of Allgood Pest Solutions conferred with me to confirm that the owl did need to be rescued and then brought me the bedraggled and ravenous little fellow.
When I got him home, his little belly (owls don’t have crops) was completely empty and he let me know he was NOT happy about that situation. I’m trying something new for this update—video!—so you can hear his protestations of hunger and his shrieks of delight at getting some juicy rodents.
That same day, this adult barred owl was found by the road. I didn’t see any injuries, but anytime a HBC is suspected, a vet visit is called for. Vet Shelley Baumann at Smalley’s Animal Hospital confirmed that nothing was broken and both eyes seemed functional, but his very docile behavior was a dead giveaway that he was still massively concussed. A few days’ R&R at the LWR bed & breakfast eased his headache and he has since been sent on his merry way. No photos of the release, because he beelined for the trees and as I tried to follow him to get at least one good shot of him in the trees, he continued to fly farther away at top speed.
This downy barred owl came in the day before the downy GHO was slated to be transferred to Steve Hicks of Bubba & Friends Raptor Rehab—talk about perfect timing! He was also rather famished, as his finders had only fed him chicken livers the night before, when they found him. For the record, that’s not an ideal food for raptors. It’s not as bad as Pop-Tarts, granted, but still…He’s also with Steve at Bubba & Friends.
Again, trying the video thing with this guy, as well.
When these babies were brought to me, the finder also brought the adult bird her cat had killed—a tufted titmouse. These babies had been without food for some time and were cold, and we had a carcass that appeared to be the mother. So…tufted titmice hatchlings! Never had titmice babies before! Yay, something new—always fun!
April 9, 2013
April 11, 2013
April 12, 2013
As they developed, however, I noticed something awfully familiar about them, culminating in today’s beginnings of feather breakthrough. Titmice feathers should be a sort of charcoal color. The little “paintbrushes” showing on these rascals are…brown. Carolina wren brown, to be exact. Yep, 5 darling little Caros!
Carolina wrens today, April 14, 2013
While I admit to a slight bit of disappointment that they’re not titmice, I do adore Caros and they are healthy little babies so far. Another short vid:
This poor rabbit is the sole “downer” in this update. He was found in someone’s yard and died within 15 minutes of my getting him. As you can see, he had massive internal injuries, most likely from a dog attack. Dogs tend to crush; cats tend to puncture. This looks like crushing to me.
It never ceases to amaze me that people can’t find my number when they should, but weeks or months later, miraculously, they “discover” the existence of LWR. This mourning dove was found last September, probably as a recent fledgling, with a wing injury. The finder kept the bird until this month, when he decided he needed to do something with the poor fellow, and—wonder of wonders!—discovered LWR. My knee-jerk reaction in these cases is to tell these people to suffer the results of their own lack of common sense (notice how restrained I was there??), but this bird might have a chance at release. We’ll see…
While I admit that vultures are highly intelligent, I also must confess that I prefer black vultures over turkey vultures…for a couple of reasons. Black vultures aren’t as ugly as turkey vultures, to be blunt about it. That would be reason number one. A huge reason number two would be that black vultures don’t tend to projectile puke in self defense as often as turkey vultures do. But turkey vultures are much less aggressive; in fact, they’re downright shy. It took me forever to get this guy to stop hiding his face so I could get this shot.
He was found hung in a fence and while he favors his right wing, it doesn’t appear to be broken. We’ll aim for x-rays to confirm, but he may be another case of just needing a little R&R. Fingers crossed!
And just this morning, this fledgling mocker came in. Normally I encourage people to leave fledglings alone and let the parents finish the job of raising their young, unless the fledgling is injured or in imminent danger, but this raucous fellow was found in a suburban street after dark last night. Even for a mocker, that ain’t normal. He’s not happy about his new digs, but had his rescuers not picked him up last night, he’d either be roadkill or GHO supper by now. So yeah, in this case, this fledgling did actually need rescuing.
With baby season gearing up now, please, please watch carefully when you’re doing yardwork for grounded nestlings and recent fledges who still don’t fly well. It’s all too easy to miss them until the blade of your lawn mower kills them, so be observant! I also strongly discourage the use of chemicals on your grass/plants, as they are deadly to birds in addition to the weeds or insects you’re targeting.
Sadly, it’s not just me reporting an unusually high number of DOAs/euthanasias. Several other rehabbers are experiencing similar situations, leading us to believe it’s gonna be a really awful season. So…the “unpleasantness” marches on…
The sapsucker, who was eating well and drumming away, also was losing weight and the inflammation in her wing continued to spread, even though I had put her on antibiotics. I took her back in for Shelley Baumann at Smalley’s Animal Hospital to re-examine, and she agreed with me that whatever was going on wasn’t responding to treatment, so we euthanized. Because the only facility in the state that performs necropsies charges rehabbers full-price for them, we opted not to have her necropsied, although it would have been nice to know what the problem was.
This is a situation other rehabbers and I have discussed at length and if you’re reading this, anyone at UGA, it would be really nice if UGA offered rehabbers just one or two free necropsies a year. We don’t often require them, but when we think they might be beneficial, we have to make a choice between paying for a necropsy or using those funds to benefit the animals that still have a chance at survival. Most of us opt to focus on the critters we still have a chance at saving.
This poor barred owl was found sopping wet by the side of the road on a Saturday evening. When I met his rescuers, I knew his chances weren’t great after a cursory parking lot exam. Nothing was broken, but he had severe head trauma, one eye was definitely trashed, and the other looked questionable.
By Sunday he was able to raise his head slightly, but his eyes remained shut.
Monday morning, the right eye had opened nearly completely, but the left was still mostly shut and filled with blood. Again, it was Shelley Baumann at Smalley’s who agreed with me that this was quite literally a case of being blind in one eye and unable to see out of the other. Given the extensive damage to the eyes, we had no choice but to euthanize. A raptor can learn to hunt with one eye; a totally blind raptor has no chance whatsoever.
What made this even sadder was the fact that this little male was one of this winter’s babies. He hadn’t been long on his own and still had “downyish” feathers around his face.
Easter Sunday afternoon, I received a panicked call about baby birds that had fallen from their nest. The finders were unable to locate the nest and one of the babies was already dead when they found them on the ground.
When I met them to retrieve the three surviving hatchlings, which looked to be catbirds, none were in good shape. All were ice-cold.
One had the lower half of his leg nearly chewed off and was already almost dead from blood loss. He died before I got home with him.
One had massive internal bleeding, and his little belly was swollen beyond belief. He died within half an hour of my getting him home.
The third had a “hip” fracture (actually, a knee fracture, but on birds, it looks as if it should be the hip). It wasn’t exactly an open fracture; the skin was ripped but no bone was exposed, so I thought he might have a chance—after all, the bones are still soft and growing in a hatchling or nestling bird. I kept him on heat, treated the wound and stabilized his little leg. As soon as he warmed enough, I started fluids and then food and had him gaping for his food by “lights out” Sunday night. Alas, it was not to be; he didn’t survive, either.
It’s my guess that a squirrel raided this nest. Nature is all too often “red in tooth and claw.”
I don’t want to leave you with all death and destruction, however. This utterly gorgeous “blonde” barred owl, a very large female, has been frequenting my yard for several months, and I lucked up toward the end of March and had the camera handy when she was out shortly before dusk.
Technically, she’s slightly leucistic, but hey, “blonde” works for me! She’s a real beauty, and I’ve never seen her around before this year. I do, however, hope to keep sighting her here and there!
The yellow-bellied sapsucker is eating well and drumming away on her log, but she’s still unable to fly. We know from the x-rays that nothing’s broken, which means the issue is soft tissue damage. How long that will take to heal—if ever—is anybody’s guess. Only time will tell if she’ll recover and be able to fly. The will is definitely there; hopefully the ability will be, too—and soon.
This barred owl was found in the middle of the road in a neighboring county, so we all figured he’d been hit by a car. He crashed when I got him to Smalley’s Animal Hospital, but we thought we’d pulled him back. He was weak, unable to stand, lethargic, and losing body heat, which can all be symptoms of severe head trauma, so we treated him accordingly and hoped for the best. Unfortunately, the poor fellow died on the way home.
These two rabbits were dug up by a dog. They were rescued before the dog actually mauled them and weren’t injured in any way, so I was cautiously optimistic, but as is too often the case with rabbits, they didn’t survive.
This pair of cottontails was cat-attacked. One had spinal injuries and died shortly after I got home with him. His sib lasted about 12 hours longer, despite showing no signs of injury. I’d started him on antibiotics, but they didn’t even have time to kick in.
When this downy great horned owl fell from his nest, his rescuers did everything right. After several days of heavy rains subsided, apparently the nest simply disintegrated. When they heard the nest crash to the ground, they retrieved the single baby from the debris, secured a laundry basket to a tall stepladder, placed the downy GHO inside, and put it against the tree for the night. The next morning, the lack of food remnants indicated that the parents hadn’t returned for their baby, so the rescuers brought him inside to safety and set about finding a licensed rehabber.
This little guy went to Steve Hicks of Bubba and Friends raptor rehab this morning. He has another downy GHO about the same age. They can learn to be clueless together!
It’s never a good sign when a great blue heron can’t stand. In fact the people who found this poor fellow almost left him for dead, but then he moved, so they brought him to me. He had a broken leg, right at the hip, and was rail thin. Since he came in on a Sunday, my plan was to get him to Smalley’s to get x-rays and see how bad the fracture was ASAP Monday, but he died during the night.
I cringe whenever a caller says they’ve rescued a bird from a cat. Bird vs. cat seldom ends well for the bird. Besides the risk of infection from bacteria in the cat’s mouth, there are puncture wounds and fractures to worry about. This little chickadee was taken away from a cat. He escaped obvious injury but favors his right wing. He was pretty stressed upon arrival, and still a bit shocky, I think. His breathing was also a bit labored.
Within a few hours, he was looking slightly better and had started showing an interest in food and water.
Another few hours, and he’d perked up considerably and I had high hopes for the little cutie. Unfortunately, when I checked on him this morning, he was no longer perching and his breathing was more labored. By the time I got him to Smalley’s, he was in severe respiratory distress. Our best guess is that the cat cracked his tiny ribs and one of them punctured a lung during the night. Another avian fatality thanks to a free-roaming cat…
The chickadee’s rescuer is doing what I wish all cat owners would do—bringing the outside cat indoors. Folks, cats kill birds. They’re predators; killing birds is their nature. You can’t blame them for doing what comes naturally to them, but you CAN prevent the carnage by keeping your cats indoors. It’s healthier and safer for the cat, and it’s definitely safer for the avian population of your property. I have cats. I love my cats. I also love the birds that share my yard. Therefore, I keep my cats indoors. It’s a win-win situation for cat and bird. Please take my advice, follow my example—however you want to word it—and keep your cats inside and away from our native birds!
And rounding out two horrendous weeks, this morning I picked up an adult red-shouldered hawk who’d been hit by a car. Given that, upon a cursory parking lot exam prior to heading to Smalley’s, I found an open wound on his left wing, I was hopeful but not optimistic. Sometimes even hope is misplaced. The open wound wasn’t fatal, but the break in the joint above the wound was. (That white object is actually NOT exposed bone; there was no open fracture.) The joint would have been frozen when it healed, and this feisty little raptor would never have flown again. He also was very thin and had a small wound on his keel that may have indicated internal injuries. He went down so quickly from the euthanasia injection that we suspected this was the case.
Hopefully the next update won’t be so full of mortal wounds and deaths/euthanasias…if you think it’s difficult to read about, try experiencing it firsthand for a while. It ain’t pleasant, and it never gets easier…
...but you CAN publicize it so people begin to grasp the depths of stupidity wildlife rehabbers face on a continual basis.
Recently I received a call from several counties away about an injured songbird. The lady was sure it was a woodpecker—“one of them extinct kinds”, in her words. I said I’d be willing to take the bird if she could get it to me, since she was about 75 miles away, and she hemmed and hawed about not having the gas or the gas money. I explained that I pay the expenses for my wildlife rehab efforts out of my own pocket and that she would need to meet me at the site I designated in order for me to assist the bird. She said she’d call me back the next day…and then proceeded to call me back about four times that night, the last time at nearly 10pm.
The next morning the calls started bright and early. The last was as she was headed out to meet me, and she informed me that she would need reimbursement and tried to get me to meet her somewhere other than the designated site. I told her again that I didn’t get paid for what I do and that was the only place I would meet her, and she huffed a bit but still indicated she was meeting me.
When she arrived at the designated meeting site, she had the bird in a box with dingy rags that reeked of stale cigarette smoke. (Rant here: people, birds have tiny lungs compared to humans, aside from which, they’re highly sensitive to chemicals. Tobacco smoke is even less healthy for them than it is for a human, especially if they’re already stressed from illness/injury! Show some common sense, dammit, and don’t smoke around injured/ill wildlife!) I had her fill out my intake form—I’ve found that giving people paperwork gives me time to examine the critter without “assistance.” On my intake form I have a short list of the approximate costs of rehabbing several more common species, a note that LWR receives no state and federal funding, and a disclaimer that any VOLUNTARY donations are tax-deductible.
I then started to leave and this…genius (sarcasm, people, heavy sarcasm) informed me that she had no gas money to get back home. Against my better judgment, and because she did bring me the bird when she could have let it die, I gave her the only cash I had with me that night—not much, as I don’t take a lot with me on night calls, but it should have been enough to get her back home. I could tell she wasn’t pleased, but hey, my concern’s the animal, not the person.
A little over an hour later, she called me, ranting and raving about how I lied to her, I cheated her out of money, that the state and feds reimbursed me at the end of the year for all I did, and on and on. I did attempt—briefly—to reason with her before referring her to the Georgia DNR. They get paid to deal with idiots; I VOLUNTEER my time, efforts and money to aid our native wildlife, not to be verbally abused by delusional souls who’re out to make a quick buck any way they can.
You see, given her comments about this bird being “extinct” and her insistence that she needed “reimbursement,” I’ve come to the conclusion that she was expecting payment for the bird—in effect, selling a bird that didn’t—and couldn’t ever—belong to her. A wild bird. A FEDERALLY PROTECTED bird. Yep, some people will do anything for a buck these days. (And if someone at the state and federal levels could please tell me what forms we rehabbers are supposed to fill out for our “year-end reimbursement,” I’d be eternally grateful; here all this time, I’ve apparently been misreading the paperwork that tells me I DON’T get reimbursed. Sarcasm again, folks…)
The bird at the heart of this close encounter of the weird kind? A pretty little female yellow-bellied sapsucker.
And a very lucky little sapsucker, too. My brief exam the night she came in left me worried that her left wing might be broken, but an exam and x-ray by vet Shelley Baumann of Smalley’s Animal Hospital the following day showed no fractures. The wing was just badly bruised.
The little missy’s still not attempting to fly yet, but she is eating up a storm. She was also on the thin side on intake, so I’m happy to put some meat on her bones while she mends. Hopefully after a week or so of R&R at the LWR bed and breakfast, she’ll be ready to send on her merry way—just in time for the start of songbird breeding season, during which I hope she can have a successful clutch!
To tie up loose ends from the last update, the squirrels have been released and are no longer showing up for handouts. The poor little dog-attacked rabbit did well for a few days. His eyes opened, he started nibbling at solid foods…and then I went in one night to medicate and feed him and he was limp but still breathing. I figured he was on his way out, but because he was still fairly alert, I put him back on heat and placed some greens in his pen, just in case.
A few hours later, I went back to check on him and he was be-bopping around as if nothing was wrong. I’ve seen this before, though, so I merely went to bed cautiously optimistic that he might make it, after all. The next morning, he was stone cold. This is why rabbits are so frustrating. He was on meds, he had no diarrhea or bloating, he was eating well…and then he crashes and recovers and then dies, all in the space of one night. Go figure…It’s a rabbit thing. After years of rehabbing rabbits, I’m firmly convinced that most of the ones that we’re able to release are primarily due to sheer luck.
The Cooper’s hawk had a happier ending. We caught his foot injuries early enough to avoid bumblefoot, and so he was released last week. He shot out of the box like a rocket, flew down to a small stream to drink, and wanted to bathe but refused to get in the water while he could still see me pointing the camera at him. I snapped a couple of shots of him on the ground and got one fairly decent one of him when he flew up to the nearby tree awaiting my departure. I presume when I drove off, he bathed to his heart’s content!
As I indicated earlier, baby songbird season will be kicking in soon—sometime this month, in all likelihood. When the baby birds start coming in, I’ll return to weekly updates so you can watch their progress in a more timely fashion. In the meantime, be observant—watch for nest construction, keep your cats inside, and don’t trim or fell trees without checking for nests first. And puhLEEZ avoid using pesticides/insecticides on your lawns, flowers, etc.—these are deadly to birds!
I had actually delayed doing an update, as all I had to report since the Feb. 2 update was the gray squirrels’ progress toward release…and then, within the space of four days, I got four calls and four intakes. One thing wildlife rehabbers NEVER do is complain about things being slow, because as sure as we do, we’ll get slammed!
Let’s start with the aforementioned squirrels, who are in release phase now. The pen door is open and they’re starting to wander farther from it during the day but are still returning its safety at night. Below are the best shots I’ve managed of them lately, as they’re hiding whenever I go near them now. This is actually a good thing, though, as it means I’ve done my job right and they’re wilding up very nicely.
This poor DOA barred owl was seen being attacked by another barred owl in a couple’s driveway shortly after dark. They called me, but he actually died while I was en route to pick him up. There wasn’t a mark on the bird and he was very well-fleshed, and the couple said they watched him sit up after the attack and then fall over, dead. Who knows what happened? His frayed tail feathers and the numerous loose feathers that floated from his body when I picked him up would seem to indicate that maybe he strayed too close to an existing nest and the male of that nest quite literally beat the life out of him.
The next day, this red-phase screech owl was hit by a car. Luckily for him, the driver had just turned onto a dirt road and wasn’t going fast at all. Sir Screech escaped with only a mild headache and we were able to release him the next afternoon. A quick release was important, because this is the time of year that owls have eggs/babies in the nest, and this fellow needed to be back in his home territory in case he had a family to care for. They could manage one night without him; more than that, and his mate might have had to leave the babies unattended and vulnerable to attack while she hunted to feed them.
I tried for photos of his release when we took him back to his home territory, but he bolted out of the box and beelined into the brush. This little screech knew exactly where he was going!
The following day, the phone rang and the callers had found a small hawk by the side of the road. He didn’t move when they drove by, and he seemed stunned when they turned around to rescue him. Based on their description, I was pretty sure they had either Cooper’s hawk or a sharp-shinned hawk. Either way, I was getting a spastic little accipiter to deal with. Such fun…
Upon meeting the rescuers, I found that we did indeed have a Coop, a first-year bird, male. His eyes were clear, pupils equal and responsive; wings and legs seemed in working order, based on a preliminary parking lot exam as I transferred him from their pet carrier to my transport box. But he was rail-thin. Accipiters are designed for speed and maneuverability; they tend to be on the thin side. But this guy, despite being alert, active and aggressive, was too thin for my liking. I told the rescuers I’d put a little meat on his bones before releasing him.
Then, when I got him home and was able to perform a more detailed exam, I noticed that both feet had fresh wounds, as well as some older ones, and he refused to use the perch I had in his box. Raptors are especially vulnerable to bumblefoot, a nasty and often lingering foot infection, and he had multiple wounds on both feet. I sent photos to raptor rehabber Steve Hicks of Bubba & Friends for confirmation of what I already suspected: this Coop would be with me for a while as I treated his feet daily to try and prevent bumblefoot. Hopefully we caught these wounds in time to prevent the development of bumblefoot; we’ll have to wait and see. He is eating quite well, though—inhaling several small mice per feeding!
Later the same day I picked up the Coop, a caller said he had a baby rabbit rescued from a dog. I cringe when I hear that rabbits have been anywhere near a dog or cat’s mouth, as the saliva of both species is highly toxic to the poor little bunnies. (Okay, actually, there’s not a lot that’s NOT toxic to rabbits!) His flank had a largish wound, but he seemed fairly alert, and his eyes are just before opening. I started him on a gentle, rabbit-safe antibiotic immediately.
Rabbits do not fare well in rehab settings; a 10% release rate is considered acceptable. Even in the wild, only 10% of the rabbits born in a given year survive to their first birthday. So far this “wounded wabbit” is holding his own, but I never get my hopes up with this stress-prone, delicate species. We’ll take it a day at a time and see how things turn out.
I hope some of you have been participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count, which started Friday, Feb. 15, and ends today. I’ve only managed 15 minute daily counts this year, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I had Cedar waxwings visiting my yard yesterday, hiding in the dead leaves still clinging to an oak branch. Sometimes the camera lens can locate what the naked eye can’t see!
Yeah, that was my reaction when LWR received a downy great horned owl (GHO) on January 28. And not a hatchling, either—this guy was about a month old! A quick call to Steve Hicks of Bubba & Friends raptor rehab confirmed my initial reaction that it was too early for downy babes—the earliest he’d seen downy GHOs prior to this was mid-February. Add to that the fact that the January intake was 8—higher than January intakes for the previous two years, and it looks like my suspicion that 2013 is gonna be a hellacious year might be right!
Here’s a helpful hint with any downed and downy raptor—chances are, the parents are nearby and are feeding the baby on the ground. The person who found this grounded baby was very lucky that the adult GHOs didn’t attack her as she picked this fellow up, as GHOs are known to be especially aggressive in defending their nests and young. Obviously, if the grounded baby shows signs of distress or is in imminent danger, by all means take action. But observe the situation for a while first, and you’re likely to see one or both of the parents providing food.
Luckily for this downy-butt, he wasn’t injured; vet Richie Hatcher of Smalley’s Animal Hospital loved examining those stubby wings full of blood feathers, though—we see GHOs this young only once or twice a year!
Thanks to Richie Hatcher for snapping this photo!
At each feeding, this little fellow engaged in such typical downy GHO behavior that it was laughable. First, he sat and stared blankly—this is apparently a skill they master early, as adults are also excellent at the blank stare.
Then he fell face-first into a nap, legs stretched out behind him and downy butt wiggling with each breath…
Then he bowed up his stubby little wings in threat when I started to feed him…
And then we were back to the blank stare!
The little downy-butt is now with Steve Hicks of Bubba & Friends, thanks to volunteers Laurie Jackson and Amy Rodgers, who transported for us. He was joined on the trip by both the gunshot red tails, who were ready for flight conditioning before release. You saw the success story on the female in the last update; we were able to celebrate another success story with the male. Below is his original x-ray.
This is his x-ray from Jan. 23:
And his final paranoid glare as I was getting him ready for transfer:
LWR also received a HBC barred owl in late January. The rescuer saw the owl bounce off the vehicle in front of him and stopped to capture the concussed and wounded bird. Sadly, his wing was broken too near the joint to ever heal properly—see the x-rays below—so we euthanized.
Closeup of shoulder fracture--barred owl
The gray squirrels have hit a shy phase now; below is the only halfway decent shot I’ve managed in the past two weeks. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks, as they’re getting closer to release, I’ll be able to snag a few more good shots of the stubborn little rascals.
…2013 is gonna be a hellacious year. In Jan. 2012, LWR received 6 critters total, for the entire month. As of this week, the Jan. 2013 intake tally is already at 5. This isn’t boding well for the rest of the year…or my sanity (what little is left of it).
The gray squirrels’ eyes are open, but they’re in that nasty little stage of using each other as bathrooms, so they’re not real attractive at this point. By the next update, they will have outgrown that stage and will look decent enough for photos!
The gunshot female red tail’s (RT) follow-up x-ray had us all nearly dancing in the clinic. Her leg is healing beautifully!
To remind you, here’s her x-ray on intake in Dec.:
And here’s her x-ray from early this month:
Both x-rays courtesy of Smalley's Animal Hospital
Makes YOU wanna dance a happy jig, too, doesn’t it?
The gunshot male RT is due for a follow-up x-ray next week, but I’m pretty sure his will also be a good report. He’s holding both wings level, and when I change his paper, he can flare both evenly. He’s a paranoid little rascal (and he IS small next to this big ol’ female). Below is his typical reaction to a paper change.
After a few minutes, he perches normally again:
Shortly after the last update, I picked up a first-year RT, a male, with frounce. Fortunately, he was found in time for it to be treated, and I released him over the weekend. Below you can see how weak he was on intake.
And here are a couple of shots of him on release. Yes, that’s the porch of an abandoned old house on our property. There are rodents galore there and in the hay bales nearby, and trees all around to perch in…once he left the porch!
LWR recently received a Canada goose with an open fracture that had scabbed over. When the scab was prodded slightly, it came loose, taking a large chunk of bone with it, so the poor goose was euthanized.
Thanks to vet tech Christy Harrell for holding the goose while I snapped the photo.
This adult male red tail was found by the road. It was obvious to the finder that the wing was broken; he just wasn’t sure how badly. I met the finder that night to retrieve the bird, and when I opened the box, I could smell the infection before even examining him. His left wing had an open fracture; about an inch of bone was exposed, and the flesh was already turning black. There was nothing we could do for the poor bird but euthanize.
The next morning, a call came in about an owl found in the road. The caller’s description sounded like a great horned owl (GHO), and sure enough, when I picked up the bird, it was a small male GHO. In addition to a concussion—see the right pupil?—he had an open fracture on his right wing, with about 2 inches of bone exposed—another case of euthanasia being the only humane choice.
Some people question the “humaneness” of euthanasia, so let me briefly address that here. When the alternative for an animal is a short and pain-filled life, euthanasia is a humane end to its suffering. If the alternative to euthanasia is starving to death, dying from exposure, or being eaten by predators, euthanasia is humane. When an animal’s injuries would preclude its release and its temperament isn’t suitable for an educational animal, euthanasia is more humane than a stress-filled life of captivity.
Rehabbers don’t make the decision to euthanize an animal lightly. It’s a generally touted statistic in rehab circles that some 50% of the wildlife we receive will either require euthanasia or die during the rehab process. We weigh the options carefully and sometimes delay the inevitable, hoping for a miracle. I always say that you can euthanize later if need be, but once it’s done, you can’t take it back. And every now and then, we get that miracle we hope for and watch another beautiful critter take its rightful place back in the wild. It’s my personal opinion that every release is a small miracle, and it’s my privilege to be a part of that small miracle.