Just like adult birds, babies are checked over when they first arrive at VINS. We check for broken bones, eye injuries, dehydration and such, and proper medical attention is given. Nestling birds are fed from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., each and every day. When you add that to all the adult rehabilitation patients we have, plus the care of our educational raptors, well, that's a lot of work for us! We don't know how bird moms and dads in the wild do it so well, but we know we successfully feed baby birds each summer with the help of our volunteer baby bird feeders. This faithful group of children and adults come to VINS throughout the week to make sure all the little gaping mouths are well-fed. In the evenings, VINS staff members take baby birds home to continue their feedings until 8 p.m., and to begin them in the early morning.
Currently, we have a baby tree swallow and brown-headed cowbird in the incubator, where they're kept warm. Each of these birds is fed a diet of FONS every 1/2-hour. FONS is an acronym for formula for nestling songbirds. It's a mixture of high-quality kitten food, egg, yogurt and other high-protein, high-calcium ingredients. Other young birds are fed solid foods, such as soaked kitten food, mealworms, cooked egg and minced fruit. Feeding times for fledglings may range from every 1/2-hour to every 3 hours, depending on how well they are self-feeding.
In our videos you'll catch a glimpse of the incubator babes, which include a tree swallow and a cowbird; a group of fledgling yellow-bellied sapsuckers nestled against a piece of bark; and a fledgling crow. The crow, you'll see, has a bald head. Sadly, this crow was being attacked and picked upon by other crows. He has some minor deformities, which may be the cause of the attacks. Survival of the fittest, you could say, may have factored in here. Animals often try to kill off a weak member of their family or pack, so that only the strong continue on. A passer-by saw the crow being attacked, and brought him to VINS, where he is doing quite well... not to mention winning over all of our hearts.
All of the young birds here will be released when they are deemed healthy and strong enough to survive in the wild. Prior to release, most birds will be transferred from their indoor enclosures to our songbird aviary or our flight cage, where they can perfect their flying skills before tackling the great out-of-doors.