Stacey Cole's Nature Talks: What to — and not to — do when you find a baby bird
Becky wrote: “In many cases, the birds are being taken care of by their parents and should be left alone. It is quite common for young birds to leave the nest before they can fly, especially robins and blue jays. The majority of baby birds that people find are not abandoned; the parents are simply off gathering food which they will bring to the young ones as soon as you have left the area.
“If the baby bird has feathers and hops around, it is no longer considered a baby but a fledgling. When a fledgling either jumps from the nest or is pushed out by a sibling, it will hop around trying to locate a low branch. The fledgling will be very vocal, calling to the parent birds who will continue to feed it until it grows to maturity. Fledglings should be left alone if possible. If necessary, however, you can move the fledgling off the ground so that cats or other animals don't get it. A shallow box or a shoe box with an open side can be used to hold the bird. Hang the box in a nearby tree or a dense bush. Select a safe location for the bird, a picnic table or eve of a roof. Try to keep it as close as possible to where it was originally discovered. The parents should return to the youngster with food, although it may take a couple of hours of quiet before they will venture close to their young.
“If the baby bird has its eyes closed and very few feathers, you should return it to the nest as soon as possible. Baby birds must be fed frequently and need to be returned to their parents' care. Contrary to common thought, handling a baby bird will not discourage the parents from caring for it, as birds have a poor sense of smell. It is more often the disturbance that causes abandonment. Make your visit as brief as possible and leave the area so that it is quiet for a few hours. If the entire nest has fallen down, try to place the nest back where it came from. A box or other support may be needed to help the nest stay in place. If no nest can be located, you will need assistance from someone licensed to care for injured and orphaned wildlife.
“It is illegal to keep the bird in your possession without a permit, unless it is an introduced species (pigeon, starling, house sparrow). Under no circumstances should you attempt to feed the baby bird. Don't even give it water as you will be doing more harm than good.
“During regular business hours, call N.H. Audubon at 224-9909 for the number of the wildlife rehabilitator closest to you. At other times contact Maria Colby at Wings of Dawn Bird Sanctuary in Henniker at 428-3723.”
Becky's final advice is that humans do not make good bird parents. “The baby bird's best chance for survival into adulthood is to remain under its parents care, where it can learn all it needs to know about being a bird.”
New Hampshire Audubon's mailing address is 84 Silk Farm Road, Concord, N.H., 03301. Phone: 224-9909.
In sum, with respect to the young of birds or mammals, keep in mind that only a person who has been issued a special license by the N.H. Fish and Game Department as a rehabilitator may take in and care for injured or orphaned wildlife. It is therefore illegal for any other person to take into their possession any wildlife from the wild and hold it captive.
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A Concord reader who feeds birds is having difficulty in identifying all but a few of the most common ones. I suggest two ways; self-help by a careful study of a good field guide and second, become a member of N.H. Audubon. For years I have recommended Roger Tory Peterson's “Field Guide to Eastern Birds” because the so-called “Peterson system” using special marks on individually illustrated birds has been most helpful to me. Since Peterson's death Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has continued to publish Peterson's work. Recently they have published Ken Kaufman's “Field Guide to Birds of North America.” Kaufman's style is partially different from Peterson's, but both books are good teaching tools.
An Audubon membership offers several opportunities to go on bird walks where excellent identification instruction is available.
With respect to hummingbirds, our reader inquired that since “... they fly all the way to Mexico, do they return to the same area in spring?” Yes indeed, many of them do, both adults and their offspring. Of the more than 300 hummingbird species only one, the ruby-throated, is commonly seen in New Hampshire. However, upon occasion, the Rufous hummingbird visits here.
Stacey Cole's address is 529 W. Swanzey Road, Swanzey 03446.
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