As the baby birds grow feathers and begin to learn to feed themselves, peril lurks at every turn. Many fledgling birds, from mockingbirds to great horned owls, spend some of their adolescence on the ground. They flutter or fall from the nest and shelter where they may, while continuing to be fed and cared for by their parents. As their feathers grow and strengthen, the fledglings gradually learn to fly. During this time they are vulnerable to dogs, cats, wild predators, automobiles and well-intentioned humans.
People who find a baby bird on the ground often assume it needs to be rescued. One of the main messages Liberty Wildlife dispenses to the public in the springtime is Put it Back! A fuzzy nestling can be put back into its nest and the parent will continue to care for it. A feathered fledgling can be helped along by keeping dogs, cats and children away for a few days until it has begun to fly. If the fledgling seems weak or is found on the ground in a dangerous place like a parking lot, or near a road, human intervention may save its life. Every year Liberty Wildlife’s orphan care unit raises hundreds of fledgling birds found injured or in dicey situations.
Once a young bird begins to fly and hunt on its own, it’s considered a juvenile. Life continues to be a risky proposition. Although urban and suburban yards offer riches of plant life, insects, rodents and water, humanity creates dangers that wild birds are not prepared for. The medical services volunteers at Liberty see many birds with window strike injuries, such as breaks to wings, necks and spines. More birds die from flying into windows than any other cause. Predation by cats is second. Small birds get hopelessly stuck on glue traps. Great horned owls and other raptors are hit by cars. Netting placed over fruit trees and gardens become deadly snares. Birds may ingest bits of balloon or feed on rodents that have been poisoned. Baby eagles strangle on fishing line still attached to food mom and dad brought to the nest. Raptors are electrocuted by power lines. Birds of all ages are shot by people who ignore laws against shooting native and migratory wildlife.
In the face of all these threats, the dedicated volunteers and staff at Liberty Wildlife stand ready with medical procedures and time-tested rehabilitative routines that save lives. After days, weeks or even months of care at the facility, hundreds of birds from small passerines to regal raptors are released back to the wild. Its usually a thrilled volunteer with a bird hunkered in a cardboard box, returning to the place the animal was found injured, or to another more suitable location, who sends the wild creature back to the skies and another chance at survival.
Call the Liberty Wildlife hotline if you find a bird in distress. And if you’d like to volunteer, baby bird season is a great time to get started. 480-998-5550.