Friday, May 29, 2009

Got Waxwings?

UPDATE: VINS Wildlife Services was able to release this waxwing on Sunday in a Hartland neighborhood home to at least one known flock of cedar waxwings. Thank you to those who offered suggestions of locations to release the bird. We do appreciate your help!

The VINS Wildlife Services department needs your help!

We have had a cedar waxwing in our care since March 21, and he is ready to be released back into the wild. However, waxwings are flock birds, and live communally with others of their kind. Therefore, we can't release him out into the wild on his own -- we need to find a flock of cedar waxwings.

This is where you come in!

If you have observed a flock of cedar waxwings frequenting your yard, neighborhood or any place you've seen them regularly, let us know by calling us at (802) 359-5001, ext. 212. We'd like to speak with you about coordinating a release of our bird with a flock. The photos posted here are of our waxings in our Songbird Exhibit. You can find more photos to ID cedar waxwings on
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's web site.
This particular waxwing in rehab came in after a Ludlow resident found him sitting beneath an apple tree, unable to fly. We suspect he flew into a window, suffering damage to his right wing. His care at VINS has allowed him a full recovery, and he's good to go -- we just need to find him some buddies.
Please keep your eyes and ears peeled for cedar waxwings. And thank you!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Oh, They Grow So Fast

Many people have been asking about our young great horned owl, featured a few posts ago in Welcome to Vermont, Baby Owl!

Well, the owlet is now out in our flight cage where he can begin to practice flying. While it's hard to believe just a month ago this owl was a downy ball of fluff not much bigger than a grapefruit, he is now adult-sized with an impressive wingspan. He is, however, still sporting many downy feathers.

The owlet remains with his foster mom -- our great horned owl from our exhibits -- and the two can be found perching together at all times.
Take a look at the photos and compare them to the blog pictures of his earlier days here at VINS. What a difference!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Invasion of the Baby Raptors!

It all started with our baby great horned owl, featured in the blog post, Welcome to Vermont, Baby Owl! Now we've got another baby owl, but this time, a barred owl. To top it off, VINS Wildlife Services also recently received a baby red tailed hawk!

While baby birds of any sort are par for the course this time of year, last year we received zero baby owls or hawks.

The baby hawk was found in Vermont after the tree its nest was in fell during a storm. The hawk was found on the ground beside two of its deceased siblings. The owlet was found at the base of a tree, and while on many such occasions a baby raptor can be placed back in its nest, this circumstances of the owl's finding did not allow for re-nesting at this time.

Both young raptors are being fed rodent meat every 2 hours, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. We try to replicate both their diet and feeding schedule as it would be in the wild.

The trickiest part in rehabilitating such young raptors is that they can imprint quite easily. Imprinting means that the bird begins to associate humans with food and companionship, and may eventually identify itself as a human. Clearly, an owl or hawk who believes himself to be human cannot be released back into the wild, as he wouldn't survive. The goal of VINS Wildlife Services is to always return all birds back into the wild, where they belong. It's not always possible, but we make every effort to release birds back into the wild. To protect baby raptors from imprinting on us, we wear a brown pillow case over our heads. While that may seem silly, it prevents the babies from seeing a human face during feeding. We also wear a brown leather glove on our hand as we hand-feed the birds.
Below, watch a video of the baby hawk being fed! You'll notice stuffed animals in some baby bird enclosures. Having something soft the birds can lay or sit against helps mimic the comfort they would normally receive in the wild while in a nest with other siblings and their parents.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Catch & Release

There are few bird songs as haunting and distinctive as the melancholy call of the common loon. Their song evokes an ethereal wildness unrivaled by any other waterfowl.

On May 10, VINS Wildlife Services received a call from a Brandon, VT resident who found a common loon in his front lawn. Loons' legs are built for propelling themselves through and under water, and are unique in that they allow the bird to take off into flight from water. However, this special design prevents loons from being able to take flight from land -- they must be in water to take off.

This particular loon is believed to have been blown off course while in flight during a windy storm in Vermont. The loon became "grounded," meaning he landed on the ground and not on water, and therefore found himself unable to take off.

We took the loon in to check for any broken bones or internal injuries, but found that besides a few tattered feathers and slight dehydration, the loon was fine. After giving the loon a bit of time in a kiddie pool to recuperate and hydrate himself, we were able to release him later that same day. Click here to see a video of the loon's release, and hear the bird's amazing call.

If you should see a loon that has become grounded, call your local wildlife rehabilitator and seek advice. The loon may have been injured and might need medical attention. It is not uncommon for loons to crash-land into parking lots. Loons, who fly at night, may mistake a wet parking lot for a lake and try to land on it as if it were water. In such cases, the loons often scrape their chests against the pavement and need their wounds to be treated.

Loon photos by Brian Bowen. Top right, the loon in a kiddie pool during its recuperation at VINS Wildlife Services. Center left, the loon splashes into the Connecticut River. Bottom right, the loon flaps his wings before swimming away.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Love Trap

Oh, what one will do when in love. We'll make fools of ourselves trying to win over our sweetie. We'll lose sleep and our appetites when we're in love. We'll follow our love to the ends of the earth. As the song goes, when it comes to love: there "ain't no mountain high enough, ain't no valley low enough."

And for two recently admitted kestrels, there ain't no stovepipe long enough!

Last month, homeowners in Glover, VT heard a rattle in a stovepipe along the exterior of their house and, much to their surprise, found a pair of very sooty American kestrels inside.

The birds -- a male and female -- are likely mates who thought the stovepipe might make a good nesting site. These small falcons are cavity nesters, and it's possible that upon entering the opening of the stovepipe, they did not realize it would drop down so far and wind around the house. The two followed each other into the pipe and could not get out. The female kestrel's leg was caught in part of the piping, and her partner stayed by her side. Whether or not he stayed out of loyalty to his partner, or because he just couldn't get by the female to the exit, well, we're not so sure. While it's easy to let one's mind wander, we have to be careful to not anthropomorphize these birds too much.

Based on the apparent weight loss the two endured, it's likely they were caught in the pipe for days. They were both moderately dehydrated, and were completely covered in soot. We slowly began hydrating the birds, eventually moving them onto solid food.

So far the couple has received four baths to remove the soot, but they still have a grayish tinge to their feathers. The birds also received phosphorous, a homeopathic that helps treat birds who have respiratory issues. Although the birds are breathing well now, we gave them the phosphorous as they likely breathed in quite a bit of soot while in the stovepipe. The birds' weights are on the rise, and both look like great candidates for release.

Photos: Top right, the male kestrel in his rehab enclosure. Center, a video of one of the kestrel being bathed to remove soot. Bottom left, the male kestrel spreads his wings in his enclosure, while the female ducks behind the perch.