June 24, 2013

Humans to the rescue

Lara Miller,
Natural Resource Agent

When someone or something is in distress, we tend to have an instinctual reaction to help. Often times providing assistance is an extremely beneficial action, but that’s not always the case with nature. During this time of year, many baby birds are exploring the exciting new world around them. A chance to watch eggs hatch, down turn into feathers, closed eyes begin to open and weak bodies begin to build strength is spectacular, but we have to be careful not to get involved.

Baby birds are extremely dependent upon their parents for survival. Birds often appear helpless during the nestling stage of development, unable to walk or fly. Should you come across a young bird that has fallen out of its nest, look for a nest nearby. If you find one, check to see if the baby bird you found matches others in the nest. If it does, gently place the bird back in the nest and leave the area. If you are unable to find a matching nest site or unable to reach a nest, you can make a temporary nest site for the bird. To do this, you can use a hanging pot plant with drain holes and line the pot with pine straw up to the lip, then place as close to the original nest site as possible. Young chicks should not be separated from their parents for a long time, so it is important to complete these processes as quickly as possible.

During the fledgling stage of development, young birds leave the nest, hopping among shrubs and bushes learning to gather food and building up the stamina to fly. At this stage, birds are vulnerable prey to predators including dogs and cats. Should a pet pose a serious threat, you can gently pick up the bird and place it on a high branch of dense vegetation.

If parents do not return to these young birds within an hour or two, it is advised to contact a wildlife rehabilitator. You can find licensed rehabilitators by contacting the local Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at (863) 648-3200. Citizens without federal permits are not legally allowed to care for wildlife. Orphans need around-the-clock care and species-specific housing, nutrition and handling.

In cases like this, humans can come to the rescue if aware of the proper procedures. If you find a baby bird away from its parents, try to get it back to its nest where its parents can care for it appropriately. As much as we would love to care for these small creatures, we are not capable of meeting their needs without appropriate certification.

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