Saturday, August 1, 2009

Incubator Potatoes

VINS Wildlife Services has gotten its second wave of babies. Bird moms and dads are busy with their second clutches of babies, and that means we're busy taking care of those that have become injured or orphaned. (Above: Two young robins asleep in the baby bird incubator; one dangling his head over the edge of the nest!)

Our incubator keeps our nestling birds -- the youngest babies -- warm and toasty. In the wild, being squeezed between brother and sister birds and cradled by the nest -- not to mention being nestled beneath mom's tush -- would keep these young birds warm. At VINS we use an incubator, set at around 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit, to provide the proper heat.
Watching nestling behavior in the incubator each summer, you get a sense of how certain kinds of birds act. There are the red-eyed vireos, who literally vibrate while you're feeding them. There are the European starlings -- perhaps the naughtiest of the bunch -- who try to hog all the food and are seemingly endless pits of hunger. The chickadees are the sweetest as nestlings -- their small stature making them a precious group of birds.

Then you have the American robins.

The other day, as I watched two robin babies sleep away the day in the incubator while other birds hopped about the incubator preening their feathers or trying out their legs, I asked my co-worker, "have you ever noticed how lazy the robin babies are? They are big oafs in that incubator, only ever moving to stretch their necks out for food."

My co-worker agreed. "They're the couch potatoes of the baby bird world. Actually, they're incubator potatoes."

And so they are. Young robins in the incubator are known for hanging their heads over the sides of the nests as they sleep. They almost look as if they've passed out from fatigue, simply unable to keep their heads upright. The fact that robins are on the larger side for baby birds only adds to their incubator-potato status.

Check out a video clip of these incubator-potato robins, as well as many other birds in the incubator at VINS' Wildlife Services. See for yourself these potatoes in action... or inaction, as is most often case.

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