Wildlife Issues / Q&A

The mother bird is not in the nest with her babies. Has she abandoned them?

If you suspect that a nest has been abandoned, monitor the situation carefully to be certain the parents are not still in the area. Often parents leave the nest in search of food and return only to feed the young. After the babies are fully feathered, they no longer need the mother to stay on the nest to keep them warm. In addition, the nest is now too small for everyone.

She will be perched by the nest at night, and during the day she will be busy hunting for food for her brood.

If after a few hours of close observation the parents have not returned, call Liberty Wildlife for assistance.

There is a baby bird running around my yard. Should I catch it and bring it to you?

If the baby is fully feathered, usually it is a fledgling. Fledglings need to leave the nest and follow mom and dad around, learning how to fly and where to find food. This is a very important part of their development. The parents will continue to feed them during this period, but less often as they try to encourage the fledgling to find food on its own. As long as it is in no immediate danger, it should be left alone for the parents to care for. If you have a cat or a dog, keep it indoors for five to seven days, giving the bird a chance to develop and fly away.

I found an adult bird on the ground. What should I do?

When you see an adult native bird on the ground that does not fly away when you approach, you can assume it needs help. It is very important that an ill or injured bird receives help as quickly as possible. Since shock or stress alone can kill a bird, it must be kept in a warm, quiet environment, and transported to Liberty Wildlife as soon as possible.

I found a bird on the ground with no feathers. What should I do?

If you find a baby bird with no feathers, put it back in the nest. Birds are not able to carry their young back up to the nest. Unfeathered birds can not regulate their body temperature. Returning it to the nest is the best thing you can do. If you can not return an unfeathered bird to its nest, place the orphan in an environment that is warm, dark, and quiet, and contact Liberty Wildlife for further assistance.

A baby bird fell out of the nest in our yard and our son picked it up. So now we are afraid that the parent won’t take it back since people have touched it.

Most birds have a very poor sense of smell and will take the baby back. Just make sure you put it back in the right nest!

A nest with four babies has blown down into our yard. What do we do?

With wire or string, tie the nest back up in the tree or as near to where it came from as possible. Then, put the babies back into the nest. If the nest has fallen apart, place it in a margarine cup with drainage holes or a small basket and put it back in the tree where it came from. Watch and make sure the parents come back to feed the young. If they haven’t within a few hours, contact Liberty Wildlife.

What if a nest has fallen out of a tree due to the tree being trimmed?

Tree-trimming can cause the removal of critical shade-offering branches, so be sure that birds will still have the shade and protection they need. Do not place a formerly shaded nest into an area where it will receive full sun.

Bird stuck in a chimney

Most residential structures of recent vintage either have no fireplace or have a screened cap on the top of the chimney. If you live in an apartment, the chances of a bird being stuck in the “group chimney” is virtually nil. If, however, your house is a few years old and has no screen on top of the chimney, a bird might accidentally fall into the open hole. It’s a warm looking cavity and some birds aren’t too discriminating when looking for warmth or the safety of a dark place to hide.

If you hear what sounds like cooing or hooting from your fireplace, it might be pigeons congregating around the open chimney. The cooing they do will be transmitted down the chimney pipe like a megaphone and you’ll hear them very well at the bottom. If on the other hand, you hear scratching and flapping sounds near the fireplace, you might have a bird visiting you!

A bird who has fallen into a chimney will almost certainly NOT fly back up and out by itself. They will usually fall down to the box that sits on top of the fireplace, accessible through the damper. Sometimes (and we mean sometimes) if you open the flue and place a light in the fireplace, the bird might get itself out of the firebox and enter the fireplace. If you attempt this, make sure the screen is closed so if it does come down, it won’t enter the house and fly around in a panic, getting soot all over your walls and possible hitting windows (or ceiling fans!) If it gets into your fireplace, you’ll have to catch it and either let it go outside, or if it’s injured, take it to Liberty for treatment. If you don’t feel like you’re up to effecting the extraction by yourself, please call the Liberty Wildlife hotline and we can usually dispatch a rescue volunteer to assist you.

I found a baby bird and I want to keep it for a pet – what do I feed it?

It is against the law (both federal and state) to keep a migratory bird. Second, it’s very hard to care for birds. Very young birds may need to be fed every 15 minutes from sunrise to sunset. Foods often must be supplemented. The best course of action is to contact Liberty Wildlife.

Birds are putting holes in my house. What can I do?

In early spring, woodpeckers may be found pecking on houses. This is normal behavior for woodpeckers, as they usually peck on trees to find insects. The male also pounds on hard surfaces to attract a mate or announce a territory. Inflatable plastic owls can be hung up to scare woodpeckers away, but these MUST be moved every day to ensure lifelike appearance. Plastic owls can be found in nurseries, hardware stores and feed stores. Hanging pie plates or wind socks over the area may also encourage birds to relocate. If it is possible to do so, attaching a blanket or other soft thick material to surface of the problem area may work, since woodpeckers dislike pecking on soft material as it does not make any noise. Remember, the woodpecker is a protected species.

Birds are diving at me and my pets!

If you suddenly have a bird diving towards you, you probably have a mockingbird in your yard. Mockingbirds have a very strong paternal instinct. They will fly at cats, dogs, other birds, and even people while defending their nest and young from perceived danger. This behavior is normal for the birds and will continue until their young have fledged from the nest. Diving birds do not usually make contact with the target predator, although they are certainly able to do so. The best thing to do is to avoid the area if possible. Please note the mockingbird is protected by law.

Ducks are in my pool

In the springtime, ducks may sometimes appear at your poolside. Usually the duck has simply chosen your pool as its new private nesting territory for the breeding season. Although you might be enamoured by the thought of cute little ducklings running around your yard, please read on. Ducks in a pool are very messy. They defecate in the water. The chemically treated pool water is not good for them to drink. They might become aggressive while trying to defend their eggs. When youngsters hatch, they might end up in the pool and be unable to exit because of their small size. Discourage ducks from staying in your pool area. Shoo them away whenever possible. If you keep up the disruptive behavior, the bird should realize in a day or two that the area will not provide adequate privacy and will leave. In the meantime, do not feed the duck, as this will encourage it to set up permanent residence.

Ducks in the canals

The canal system in and around Phoenix is a common nesting area for ducks. Occasionally, you might see ducklings that appear stranded near or in the canal spillways where the strong currents catch them and prevent their escape. Fortunately, young ducks are like corks, and they usually float right through the gates and pop up on the far side unscathed.

Birds found in drain or sewer

To rescue birds found in storm drains or sewers, assistance is often needed from the city water department. Be sure to contact the appropriate authorities before removing the covers on these systems.

Birds trapped in a building

If possible, turn off the lights and darken the windows, leaving a door to the outside propped open. The bird will usually fly to the light. Leaving a trail of food on the floor at the entrance can entice the bird to approach. When the bird comes down to eat, you may be able to scare it out the door. In addition, you can also attempt to gently catch the bird using a swimming pool net or large towel. Animal rescue businesses also may help in evicting a bird, but these services charge a fee.

Pelicans in the desert?

Juvenile brown pelicans sometimes get caught in monsoon storms from California or Mexico. Lacking the strength to fight the wind currents, many end up in the area’s canals or lakes. Pelicans feed on ocean fish and they can become ill from an extended stay in the desert. Pelicans possess a long specialized beak which has very delicate tissue. If a bird is down, do not attempt to rescue the bird. Call Liberty Wildlife for assistance.

Bird feeders and baths

Many people provide food and water for birds to enhance their bird-watching enjoyment. While this is not harmful, it is important to note that the feeders and baths are places where birds congregate in unnatural numbers, and care must be taken to ensure that the equipment is kept clean as possible. Scrubbing the feeders and baths in warm, soapy water and rinsing thoroughly should be sufficient. A more beneficial alternative to bird feeders involves planting flowers, trees and bushes in your yard that are native to this area. In addition to enhancing the beauty of your yard, the native plants provide invaluable sources of food, shelter, cover from predators, and nesting material to wildlife.

Pigeon poisonings

Many other safer, easier, and more humane methods exist for deterring pigeons. The best option is to eliminate the birds’ food source and nesting area, such as keeping palm trees well-trimmed and cleaning up any dog or cat food. Bird feeders with very short perches cannot support pigeons. A catch tray placed under the feeder prevents seed from falling to the ground and attracting pigeons.

Birds and the law

Many species of birds are protected by law under the Migratory Bird Act. For further information, contact the Arizona Game and Fish Department or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Mammal under my house

As Valley communities move further and further into the desert, there is more interaction with wildlife, mammals in particular, as displaced animals strive to eke out a living in their changing environment. The large majority of forced mammal relocations are not successful. Taking a wild animal that was raised and successfully living in a particular territory and moving it to an even seemingly “ideal” location is still incredibly stressful on the animal. It must now locate a new food supply, find appropriate shelter, identify possible local predators, seek a new mate, and lay claim to and protect a new territory. Most mammals do not survive these overwhelming and survival-dependent changes happening simultaneously. In addition, drastic attempts to drive family units away can cause a mother to become separated from her babies and effectively “orphan” the dependent animals. Liberty Wildlife does not relocate healthy animals that are simply deemed to be “nuisances” since relocation is usually unsuccessful and other solutions exist. For example, eliminating food from the area by feeding pets indoors and completely sealing lids on trash cans usually works well. Closing all openings in fences, under houses, and in other buildings eliminates access to your property. If there are babies in a den, placing a portable radio playing loud music in the area may quickly become an irritant to the animal, as will a bright light hung in a nocturnal animal’s den. A clean can placed in the area with an ammonia-soaked rag inside is a strong deterrent; place a lid on the can with holes punched in the top. Care MUST be taken to absolutely ensure it is kept away from children and pets. A product called REPEL can also be found at pet supply stores which can be sprinkled on the ground; read the package instructions carefully.

Mammals and pet safety

It is true that desert predators may occasionally kill pet cats or small dogs if no other food source is available. People have also been known to trap, shoot, or poison neighbors’ pets who wander into their yard. If either of these scenarios is a concern, keep the pet indoors.

Feeding mammals

The feeding of wild mammals is strongly discouraged. Some well-meaning people set out food to enhance the opportunity of observing interesting wild creatures with no intention of doing the animals any harm. Such handouts are usually not as nutritious as their regular diet. The greatest harm, however, occurs when the animals develop a trust in kindhearted humans; this makes them less cautious in their encounters with people who are not so friendly.

Mammal in my garage

Simply open the garage door and leave the area. The frightened animal should leave in a hurry.

Baby jackrabbits and cottontails

Orphaned mammal situations are not always as they appear. Mammals will often move their young to a new area if they feel threatened or in danger. If you have found babies, watch carefully to see if the mother is nearby. She may be scouting new locations to move her brood. As young rabbits get older, the mother will usually feed them once at dawn and once at dusk; and except for these times, she avoids the area, which prevents her from attracting possible predators to the den. Rabbits make a burrow or nest for their young. The parents leave the young alone during the day, and it is quite common for youngsters to appear orphaned. Watch carefully to see if the parents return. Put on gloves and place twigs and leaves lightly over the burrowing area or nest. If the debris is disturbed the next day, the mother is probably still in the area. If the young rabbits are truly orphaned, you can bring them directly to Liberty Wildlife. It is very important that an injured mammal receives help as soon as possible. It must be kept warm, quiet, and away from people and pets.

Trapping mammals

Many people think that trapping is the perfect, quick solution to relocating a problem animal. Actually, all trapping does is open the territory for another animal to move in. In one case, a frustrated homeowner trapped a raccoon. Whatever attracted the first one attracted another, which he then trapped. One by one, over a short period of time, a dozen raccoons were captured. When the homeowner finally understood the real problem and removed the attraction, the last animal left the area voluntarily and was not replaced.

Bats in the building

Do not touch bats. If there are bats in a building, there must be a hole or other opening that the bats are using as an entrance. If the bats are present in the fall or winter when babies are not likely to be present, you can attempt to have the bats voluntarily locate to a new roost. Locate the entrance and wait until evening when all the bats have departed for the night’s hunt. Be sure all of the bats have left the building and then securely close the opening. Do not close up openings during the spring and summer, as the baby bats left in the roost while the adults forage for food will be left inside. Bats can carry rabies, which is a serious public health concern. If a bat has been inside a home or in a public area, contact the Department of Health prior to taking any action on your own.

Mammal trapped in a building

If a mammal is trapped in a building, opening all the doors and windows and turning off the lights should encourage the animal to escape through the openings into the light. Animal rescue businesses also may help in evicting a mammal, but these services charge a fee.

A mammal has been treed by a dog

The majority of mammals that can climb up can also climb down. Removing the dog from the area and leaving the mammal alone for a while should encourage it to climb down.

Mammals and the law

Many mammals are protected by law. For further information, contact the Arizona Game and Fish Department or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Rattlesnakes

Check the Yellow Pages for numbers of organizations that will remove healthy and uninjured rattlesnakes. If the rattlesnake is injured, call Liberty Wildlife immediately.

Gila monsters

Gila monsters are native lizards and are venomous. They should be handled with extreme caution as they can be tenacious when they have bitten someone or something. If the Gila monster is sick or injured, call Liberty Wildlife immediately.

Orphaned reptiles

Whether born or hatched, most reptiles and are immediately independent and parents do not feed or protect their offspring. Young reptiles should most likely be left alone if they are in an appropriate area.

Turtles and tortoises

Although box turtles are native to some parts of the state, they are frequently lost pets when they are discovered in the Valley. A box turtle can be recognized by its hinged lower shell. Injured box turtles should be brought to Liberty Wildlife. If you see a desert tortoise, think before you act! Once tortoises are brought into a captive situation, they cannot be released back into the wild. If you live near a wash, a mountain preserve, or an open tract of desert, the area is probably the tortoise’s natural home. Leave the animal alone if it is not injured. If you see a desert tortoise in the city or a residential area not bordered by open land, the animal is quite possibly a pet. If the tortoise is a pet, PetLine and other pet locator services should be contacted. Please keep in mind that one must possess a permit to own a desert tortoise. If the tortoise is injured, bring the animal to Liberty Wildlife.

Reptiles and the law

Many reptiles are protected by law. For further information, contact the Arizona Game and Fish Department or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Tarantulas

Tarantulas are treated at Liberty Wildlife. If the spider is injured, call Liberty Wildlife immediately.

Bees

Leave them alone! In general, unless a person is allergic to bee stings, a sting from a killer bee is similar to that of a normal bee. The difference is that killer bees are more aggressive by nature and attack in swarms; it is usually the number of stings, not the severity of venom, that causes extreme medical complications. If you have a swarm or are concerned about bees in your area, call a bee removal company listed in any Yellow Pages under “bees.”

Raising Wildlife

Raising any type of wildlife is strongly discouraged. In addition to depriving the animal of the correct food, hydration, environment, medical care, and contact with its own species that are essential to the creature’s survival, raising a wild animal can also cause an abnormal acceptance of human contact, and if released, an animal may place in its trust people who may not be as caring as those who raised it. Perhaps some of the animals that end up at Liberty Wildlife as a result of being shot, poisoned, or injured in leg-hold traps were put into jeopardy by such an acquired trust. In addition, many species of wildlife are protected by law, and permits must be obtained to keep the animal. Both the animal and the person are better off if the animal is raised by its natural parents.