Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Crow Allure

Apparently there are other crow-lovers out there like me -- people who love the black feather, the dark eye and the wild antics of the American Crow. Crows, with their natural curiosity and bold attitude, can be found in riotous murders by the hundreds, or quietly perched atop a tall, roadside snag observing the local goings-on.

So inspired by past crows who have been patients in our rehabilitation department, VINS volunteer Liz Ross painted one. The painting featured here is based on a photo she took of our patients from the summer of 2009.

Last month, the VINS Wildlife Services department took in a young crow after it was attacked by two pet cats on a porch. The crow is in our care, eating on his own and beginning to fly. In the video, the crow is still in his indoor enclosure, but has since been moved to a larger enclosure outdoors, where he's becoming acclimated to the weather and flying. We'll keep him with us a bit longer until he is able to take on the wild himself.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


This tufted titmouse came into care at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science after becoming orphaned. As a nestling, a bird is incapable of raising itself, so the trained staff here at VINS steps in to help out. We successfully raised this titmouse, and released him back into the wild last week. Enjoy a video of this little bird out in our songbird aviary devouring some meal worms.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

One 'Whey' Oily Owl

A great-horned owl took an unfortunate turn during a recent hunting venture. The large owl was in hot pursuit of a rat, and accidentally chased him right into a barrel of whey at a local dairy farm. Whey is a byproduct of the cheese-making process, and is extremely oily and greasy.

Watch a video of the great-horned owl's exam, and see how he looks after his first bath.
In the photos below, the owl is examined by staff upon arrival to VINS.

As you may know from the oiled gull we treated recently and from the oiled Gulf birds now in the news, oil and feathers don't mix. Oil destroys the structure of a bird's feathers, leaving the bird unable to fly. The oil must be removed (with human aid) if the bird is to survive.

Now, washing a gull with webbed feet is one thing. Washing a big, strong owl with razor-sharp talons and a dagger-like beak is a whole other ballgame. We are currently anesthetizing the owl prior to washing him, which helps us really scrub those feathers without having to restrain him. Also, having the bird asleep while we bathe him prevents what would be a very stressful situation for him if awake.

We'll continue washing him every 3 days until the oil is gone. Then we'll move the owl out into our flight cage, where he can begin flying again. Please check back here for updates on this owl as he progresses through our rehabilitation process!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Goodbye, Downy!

The young downy woodpecker admitted as a patient to the Wildlife Services department after being struck by a car was released back into the wild July 2.

Still a fledgling when she first came in, we had to hand-feed her every hour. In time, she began to eat on her own as a grown-up bird, and learned to fly in our outdoor songbird aviary. We treated her for head trauma, and the small woodpecker left our care as right as rain. See for yourself in our video of her release. Read her background story here.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Look For It Now: Plantain

Stung by a bee and want to get the stinger out? Why, you need only wander into your yard and pick some leaves off a plantain plant. Chop them up (or chew them up... but don't swallow them!), and apply directly to the sting site. Plantain will do the work of extracting the stinger. It will also relieve the itch and burn of a multitude of bug bites and stings.

You've probably seen this wild perennial plant a hundred times: in the yard, at the baseball field, growing along the road and in between cracks in the sidewalk. It's everywhere, and thrives in disturbed areas. It has a whole host of medicinal purposes and is believed to have antimicrobial properties. Plantain has oval-shaped leaves that grow in a rosette pattern of sorts, with tall, flowering green-brown stalks growing upright from the center. Head outside and look for it now!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Raven Trifecta

The three orphaned nestling ravens we took into our care back in April are now living life as nature intended: in the wild. The VINS Wildlife Services department successfully raised the three youngsters from nestling to fledgling, and the trio was released into the wild last week. In the photos below, VINS Wildlife Keeper Sara Eisenhauer releases one of the corvids into the woods of Vermont.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Look For It Now: Rose-breasted Grosbeak Couples

In the natural world, there are some odd-looking couples. Male and female rose-breasted grosbeaks are just such a pair. The two look nothing alike! The male has the tell-tale bright, rosy-red breast, white belly and white patches on black wings. The female, however, looks a lot like an over-sized sparrow.

In the photo, you can see the differences in this odd duo. Many male and female birds differ in that the female is a drab version of the male. Beside their male counterpart, female American goldfinches exemplify "drab" very well. But rose-breasted grosbeaks simply look different. You can see the female grosbeak has some striping on her chest, lots of brown feathers and a white eye stripe. There's no striping on the male, and certainly no eye stripe on that black-feathered face. The two couldn't look more mismatched. And yet, they seem to do quite well together in nature. I've got several breeding pairs (now with juveniles in tow) in the woods around my home -- look for these odd couples now. Photo by Meghan Oliver.