Friday, December 21, 2012

Good News for Red-Tail

Remember the red-tailed hawk we recently had in our flight cage? Well he's out of the flight cage and back in the wild!

Watch a video of the hawk's release!

While the hawk came to us with eye damage, the staff of the VINS rehabilitation department was able to get this bird back into top predatory shape. We were able to watch him fly and successfully hunt while in captivity, so we knew this bird deserved to be back in the wild. 

Last weekend, VINS intern Alia Richardson released the hawk. In our video of the release, you'll see the hawk initially takes a quick flight down to the ground before getting his bearings and flying off into the woods. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Up Close with a Raven

Checking the mouth for signs of blood and overall hydration.
Each bird that comes to VINS for care receives a full exam upon arrival. We check everything: eyes, ears, nares (nostrils), legs, wings, body, and more. 

Watch a video of this raven's exam.

Yesterday, we received an injured raven who had been seen hopping around a woman's yard for a few days, unable to fly. The woman captured the raven, boxed him up, and he was transported to VINS by a volunteer.

The first thing we noticed when we took the bird out of his crate was that his left wing was drooping, so we started the exam there. In addition to finding a fracture in that wing, we also found the bird to be quite thin. We started the bird on fluid therapy to get him hydrated, and wrapped the bird's broken wing.

Tonight, we are starting the raven on solid foods. In a week's time, we'll remove his wing wrap to see how the fracture is healing. The raven is very bright-eyed and curious; we think he'll make a full recovery.

Feeding a Screech

An eastern screech owl is receiving care at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science. The owl broke his wing and suffered head trauma after flying into a person's car.

Watch a video of staff hand-feeding this owl.

When the owl first arrived at VINS, he was not able to eat on his own. We'd leave food with him to eat overnight, but he never touched it. So we began hand-feeding the screech to be sure he did not lose too much weight, which could impede his progress. 

In time, the owl began to eat on his own -- a sure sign he is making a recovery!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Vulture Takes Bath at VINS

In the video posted below, one of VINS' turkey vultures -- a female bird who is a star in many of VINS' programs -- enjoys a bath indoors on a cold November day. 

She was originally found in South Dakota after she was struck by a car when just a young bird. She sustained a fractured wing from the accident and also suffered frostbite in several of her toes. She now resides at VINS, where she has both an outdoor and indoor enclosure, plenty of food, mealworm treats, and of course, bath play time! Enjoy our video below of our special bird.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Invasion of the Grosbeaks

Photo by Sara Eisenhauer.
Well, Vermont isn't really undergoing an "invasion" of grosbeaks, but there sure have been a lot of sightings of pine grosbeaks in the Upper Valley of Vermont -- a rare sight indeed.

Watch a video of a grosbeak in our care!  

After recently seeing some female pine grosbeaks feeding in a fruited tree in Norwich, I wasn't too surprised when we recently received a call about an injured pine grosbeak needing care.

The bird, found hopping around a woman's yard in Thetford, Vermont, was examined at VINS, and found to have a fracture in her right shoulder. Her head was also drooping -- a sign of head trauma. We immediately wrapped her wing to her body to stabilize the fracture site, and gave her medications for pain and to treat the head trauma.

Above, a female grosbeak receiving care at VINS. 
In the second photo, her wing wrap is visible.
Just one day later, the female grosbeak is showing signs of improvement. She's holding her head up high (and trying to bite our fingers when we handle her!), and is eating well (a nice sign that she's feeling better). Her wing wrap will remain on for another 4 days, at which point we'll remove the wrap and reevaluate the fracture site. 

We're honored to have you in our care, Mrs. Grosbeak!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Why so pink, barred owl?

In these photos, you will see the outstretched wing of a barred owl patient, and below that wing, the preserved wing of a barred owl who had died (wing kept for educational purposes).

Photos by Lauren DiBiccari.

Do you notice something about the wing of the live barred owl? It's pink! 

No, this is not a new subspecies of barred owl. Rather, this owl is sporting pink feathers due to his particular diet. What might one eat to make oneself pink? Around here, it's crayfish. Just like pink flamingos -- whose feathers are pink due to the high amount of shrimp in their diet -- other birds' feather color can be altered based on their diet as well.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Hello, little MODO!

This mourning dove (or "MODO", as we like to call them around here) endured a savage attack by a cat, causing tissue damage, missing feathers, and loss of blood. 

Watch a video of this MODO's care!

Luckily, the bird was brought quickly to VINS, where we could clean his wounds and bandage him up. Most importantly, we were able to start the bird on an antibiotic. There is a bacteria in cat saliva that is toxic to birds, so it is very important that birds who are attacked by cats -- no matter how small the bite! -- are brought to a rehabilitator for care.

Above, VINS staff Calah Beckwith (left) and Lauren DiBiccari administer medication to the injured mourning dove.

We are changing the dove's bandages every other day, and giving him plenty of food and water, and a warm place to bed down. We hope this lovely bird makes it!

Radical Red-tail!

This red-tailed hawk came to VINS for care October 2, and been steadily making his way toward recovery. He was found in the middle of Route 4 near Killington, Vermont, and showed up at VINS emaciated, unable to fly, and with a damaged left eye.

Watch a video of this hawk flying and being handled by VINS staff for weighing!

We suspect the hawk was struck by a car and lingered for days along the road, unable to hunt and fend for himself. In our care, the bird has put on healthy weight, can fly beautifully, and has regained some vision in his injured eye. We will live prey test the hawk to see if he can successfully hunt live mice, and if so, he will be released back to the wild!

See photos below of the red-tail coming in for a landing in his enclosure where we feed him. And don't forget to watch our video!


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fixin' Falcon Feet

A peregrine falcon is temporarily receiving care at VINS after staff noticed early signs of bumblefoot in both of her feet. 

Watch a video of this bird's wound care.

Bumblefoot, which can have a number of causes, is an infection and inflammation in birds' feet that can be fatal if not treated. 

The bird, who was successfully treated by another Vermont rehabilitator for a fractured wing, is receiving regular wound care on both of her feet, which entails cleaning her feet with a special solution and bandaging them up. While the falcon doesn't love her wound care, she is taking it all in stride -- eating her meals right after treatment and flapping about in her enclosure.

This falcon's feet are wrapped in green bandages as her feet heal from bumblefoot.
Once this gal's feet are fully healed, we'll move her into our large raptor flight cage where we can watch her fly and be sure her previous wing injury won't affect her flight. Peregrines are the fastest animals on earth, and their wings must be in top condition for them to fly and stoop at the speeds they do in the wild, for it is in flight that peregrines catch their prey.

We have a good feeling this beautiful raptor will make a full recovery -- thanks to the good work of another rehabilitator, the expert care of VINS staff, and the bird's will to live.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Not-so-happy Ending for Nuthatch

A red-breasted nuthatch. Watch a video of this bird's exam.
A red-breasted nuthatch was brought to VINS Friday for treatment after the little bird flew into a bird feeder and sustained injuries. The bird, according to the person who brought him in, got caught in part of the feeder.

Watch a video of this bird's exam.

The nuthatch showed signs of head trauma, with one eye closed shut and a slight shaking of his head, known as ataxia. While we were relieved to find the bird had no fractures or external bleeding, his head trauma grew increasingly apparent after we gave him medication and left him to rest in his enclosure. His breathing was labored and his stance looked a bit weak and unstable. 

Unfortunately, this morning we came to work to find the nuthatch had died overnight. While head trauma in wild birds is often successfully treated, this bird's injuries were too great for a recovery.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Pining for Pipits

By Sara Eisenhauer
Wildlife Services Manager

When we think of migrating songbirds, the more common species may come to mind: American robin, Baltimore oriole, red-winged blackbird. When I think of migratory songbirds, I long to see the American pipit.

An American pipit. Photo by Jacob C. Spendelow (

The American Pipit is a small, slender bird of the open country. Pipits breed in the Arctic and alpine tundra, and over-winter in the southernmost parts of the United States into Mexico. In order for some of these birds to reach their summer and winter habitats, they must pass through Vermont. Spring and fall are the times of year to see them.

Here at VINS, I have seen my fair share of wild bird species, but -- until yesterday -- I had never before seen pipits visit the center. As I was walking around the grounds Thursday, I heard a familiar sound coming from our recently plowed meadow. My heart skipped a beat when I realized it was the tell-tale “pip-it” call of the American pipit. During migration, these birds prefer to visit coastal beaches, shorelines, and recently plowed fields searching for insects and seeds. I quickly grabbed my binoculars and a few other fellow bird-nerds, and we watched our rare migratory visitors.

Even though fall will soon turn into winter, it is still a wonderful time of year to see the not-so-common northern birds as they pass through on their journey south. But don’t worry, if you don’t get your pipit fix this fall, they will be on their way back through in spring.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Time for Lunch, Little Owl

This barred owl is not feeling so great. He was found standing in the middle of a road last week, unable to fly. We treated the bird for head trauma (we are pretty sure he was struck by a car), but he's still a little dopey. 

Watch a video of this owl being fed!

When the owl first arrived into our care, he was a bit dehydrated, so we gave him fluids orally for several days. But now the owl must eat on his own; it's important the birds in our care maintain a healthy weight. We left several mice in his enclosure the past few nights, but he has been unwilling to eat on his own. So we're helping him out by hand-feeding him mouse meals.

In the above two photos, the owl is hand-fed small mice.
Hopefully, the owl will continue to feel better, and will begin eating on his own soon. We want to return this raptor back into the wild -- where he belongs!

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Intrepid Duck

This young mallard duck came into our care in early August after a woman found him sitting listless in the middle of a road. She brought the bird to VINS for help.

 Upon examination, we found the juvenile duck to be thin, weak, and suffering from head trauma (evident by the blood leaking from one of his ears). We suspect he was struck by a car and was unable to reunite himself with his family. 

Watch a video of this ducks' release!

After 36 days in our care, the duck's head trauma healed. He put on a good amount of weight, enjoyed dips in his kiddie pool, and was deemed ready to return to the wild. You'll see in this video, the young duck is a bit hesitant to take off into the water. While we couldn't reunite him with his family (as the ducks in the area of his origin were nowhere to be found), we chose a pond full of mallards. We believe a large flock of ducks is this bird's best chance for integrating himself into a group. 

And as you'll see at the end of our video, this duck swims right into a large sord of mallards! Best of luck, little duck!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Volunteers Bid Robins, Catbird Farewell

The baby bird season here at VINS -- in which we take in injured and orphaned baby birds and care for them -- is coming to a quick close. Most birds in Vermont have finished breeding and some have even hit the road south.
VINS baby bird feeders begin releasing a group of robins. Watch the video!
Last week, some of VINS' baby bird feeders -- a group of dedicated summer volunteers -- had the opportunity to release a group of American robins and one gray catbird who were raised at VINS by staff and the volunteers. The robins all came in as babies -- some attacked by cats while in the nest, some orphaned, some who sustained injuries after falling from their nest. 

All grown up and ready to go, these robins took to the skies in the flash of an eye, as you will see in our video. Though these birds had a rough start to life, they are all living in the wild now.
Our baby bird feeders release the last of the robins.
A HUGE thank you to all of our baby bird feeders for summer 2012. Your many hours of volunteerism -- feeding nestling and fledglings, cleaning up after them, and noticing when some were struggling -- have been so greatly appreciated. The Wildlife Services staff and all the happy birds living in the wild (thanks to your care) THANK YOU!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Down the Hatch

VINS interns Calah Beckwith (left) and Lauren DiBiccari tend to a robin.
This young American robin took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up under a car at a local car dealership. We believe the robin struck a window or building, sustaining damage to his central nervous system resulting in a lack of leg use. See our video of the bird receiving care.

Currently, the robin is receiving medication and is being tube-fed three times a day, as he is too unstable to eat on his own. While the going is tough for this songbird right now, we have high hopes he'll return to the wild a healthy bird.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Wildness Defined

This beautiful red-tailed hawk is currently receiving care at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science. She was found sitting in a road, not flying away when approached; we suspect she was struck by a car. 

Upon examination, we found no fractures or open wounds on the bird, but we did find she was suffering from head trauma and had severe damage to her left eye. While the bird is recovering from the head trauma, her eye has been permanently damaged in the accident, leaving her blind in that eye. Watch a video of this hawk.

Intern Calah Beckwith tube-feeds the bird a nutritious slurry, while intern Sarah Sanderson holds the bird, using welding gloves to protect herself from the raptor's talons.
The video shows the hawk receiving a liquid diet via a tube, but she is now eating solid food (yes, mice) and is stronger than ever. Red-tailed hawks are incredibly powerful, with super-strong talons, muscular wings and thighs, and sharp beaks that are quick to bite. We have to use extra care when handling this mighty lady. 

The hawk strikes a defensive pose by raising her wing.
With the blindness, it is unlikely this hawk will return to the wild. Hawks need both eyes to hunt, and without an ability to hunt, the hawk could starve to death in the wild. If we do deem her non-releasable, we will try to find her a permanent home in a nature center.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Wild Youth

Two American robins fly out of a box and into the wild.
Earlier this week, a whole crew of juvenile songbirds -- raised from nestlings to fledglings here at VINS -- were released back into the wild.

Some of the young birds had been orphaned, while others came in after being attacked by pet cats and had to receive special medication.

VINS Wildlife Services Manager Sara Eisenhauer released several American robins, songs sparrows, a chipping sparrow, and a cedar waxwing, as VINS visitors watched on. Watch our video of the birds' release, and be sure to watch for the funny flight of the chipping sparrow!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Kingfisher: All Grown Up

Remember that nestling belted kingfisher who came into our care about a month ago? Well, she's all grown up!

This kingfisher, found orphaned at the bottom of a sandpit, was raised by staff at VINS, who fed her fish (and the occasional chopped mouse), gave her a swimming pool to bathe, and made sure she maintained a healthy weight.

Now the bird is fully feathered, flying like a champ, and ready to return to the wild. The people who were kind enough to rescue the bird from the depths of the sandpit are picking the kingfisher up Monday and releasing her back into the wild. 

We wish you luck, little kingfisher!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Release of the Mallards

Two ducklings came into our care a month ago, orphaned after their mother and siblings were struck dead by a car. We raised the ducklings here at VINS, taking special care not to imprint the young waterfowl. 

The two birds were ready for release last week, and VINS intern Lauren DiBicarri sent these guys back into the wild on the Ottauquechee River.

These ducks are just a couple of the nearly 500 birds VINS treats each year. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Bye-bye, bittern!

Earlier this month, a funny-looking, long-legged bird came into our care. The baby bird was found standing alone on a busy road, with no parents around. We raised the bird here at VINS, and today, we released this fellow back into the wild.
This is an American bittern, although as a baby, some may say it looks more like one of the Muppets. Bitterns are wading birds, much like herons, so we released the bird at a nearby marsh at the edge of a pond. Check out our video! 
Below, VINS intern Sarah Sanderson releases the bittern back into the wild.