To celebrate the release of SKYWARD I asked a senior volunteer for the SC Center for Birds of Prey, Mary Pringle, to write a guest blog--and you'll love it. The photographs were taken by noted wildlife photographer Barbara Bergwerf. If you read my blogs or visit my website, you'll recognize these names. They're my friends on the Island Turtle Team as well.
Thank you Mary Pringle!
The Season for Baby Birds
Here in the South Carolina Lowcountry and on the Isle of Palms, it is time for baby birds to fledge from their nests. The Center for Birds of Prey in Awendaw, SC where I volunteer, is taking care of many orphaned and/or injured hawks, owls, eagles, and other birds of prey right now. Soon it will be time for the Mississippi kite orphans. These are the last group to nest here.
As an individual, I often get calls from people asking what to do when they find one on the ground. The first questions I ask are:
1. Does it have its feathers yet?
2. Are the parents around?
3. Is it injured?
Many people believe the old wives’ tale that if you touch a baby bird, then its mother will abandon it. This just isn’t true. I think mothers have told their children this for generations just to keep them from bothering baby birds. The only birds with a sense of smell are turkey vultures, kiwis, and shearwaters. Songbirds will continue to feed and care for their young as long as they can find them.
If its feathers are developed, it may just be exploring the world in a stage known as “branching.” This is when a young bird is out of the nest but not necessarily flying yet. This is a very dangerous stage where it can get eaten by a predator or hit by a car. In a case where you find a brancher, try to put it back up into a bush or tree for safety and leave it alone. Chances are it won’t stay in the nest even if you can find where it was. If you see the parent coming to it with food after you did this, then all will be well.
If the young bird’s feathers are not yet grown in, it does not belong out in the world yet, and you need to try to find the nest and return it there. If the nest has blown down or been destroyed, you can nail a basket or box with nesting material in it in the tree where the nest was. The little bird should cry for food, causing the parents to continue to feed and care for it.
Finally, if it is injured, it needs to be taken to a licensed rehabilitator in your area. You can call local veterinarians or wildlife agencies to get the location or phone number of a rehabilitator who is authorized to take care of it. This can also be done if there is no chance of returning it to its parents. But orphaned birds usually do not survive, so the best thing to do is to let them be wild and let their parents do their job.
Baby Screech Owl
Baby Loggerhead Shrikes
Photographs by Barbara Bergwerf