Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Something to Crow About

by Brittany Redelico
Wildlife Services Intern

photo by Sara Eisenhauer
Remember the nestling American Crow we had in our care earlier this summer? Well, I am happy to report that this (not so) little crow has moved on to bigger and better things.

When admitting a young crow (or corvid or raptor) at a rehabilitation facility like VINS, we are extra careful not to imprint the little one. Certain species of birds are susceptible to human imprinting, and extra precautions are taken to limit this possibility. We must wear masks over our faces and gloves on our hands so that these super-smart birds do not associate themselves with humans. We also provide imprintable birds with mirrors so they will feel as though they aren’t alone and will begin to identify with the species they see in the mirror. For the few weeks this crow was in our rehab facility, we did our best to help the little crow develop a crow-like identity.
photo by Brittany Redelico
Our one concern with this crow was that he was not learning to eat on his own. For his age of five weeks, he should have been able to find, pick up, and eat his own food. Even after leaving a fresh dish of food for him several days in a row, he did not pick up on a self eating habit. This made us question his ability to survive and thrive in the wild.

We needed to come up with a better solution.

photo by Brittany Redelico
Here at VINS, we work closely with rehabbers and veterinarians throughout the state, and we called around to find out if any other rehabbers were caring for a crow of the same age. Crows are social birds, and it is more natural for them to live in groups rather than alone. Our hope was that if we provided our crow with a social group, he would learn by example and begin to eat on his own – and it would gain him entry into his own “murder” (or “flock” of crows). After many efforts to find a "friend" for this crow, we found a rehabber in Addison, VT with not only one, but two juvenile crows. These crows were approximately the same age and had been eating on their own for a good while. So we said our goodbyes, and off he went to live with his new flock.
We kept our fingers crossed for the well-being of our little crow. Apparently, all he needed was a bit of companionship with fellow crows, because he was eating on his own within 24 hours of meeting his new friends. We were ecstatic to hear that our plan had worked! We are so happy for this crow, and thrilled to see him succeed. He’s still in Addison, practicing flying and developing strong bonds with his new family. Soon he’ll be wild and free, and we have every hope that he’ll live a long, healthy life in the wilds of Vermont.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Bye-bye, Bittern

by Alyssa Womer
Wildlife Services Intern

What did you do this past fourth of July? Have a barbeque with friends and family? Set off some fireworks? Whatever you did, I’m sure you enjoyed your holiday more than the American Bittern recently released from our care here at VINS. 

On July 6th, a member of the public found a fledgling bittern wandering around in his yard in Putney, VT. This might not be unusual, as most fledgling birds spend a lot of time on the ground exploring how their wings work and figuring out how to eat without the help of their parents. However, the American Bittern inhabits freshwater wetlands populated by dense reeds, and our bittern was discovered over a mile from the nearest body of water! 

Upon arrival at VINS, we discovered that the bird was thin, likely because he was orphaned. We tube-fed the bittern a rehydrating solution and some fish slurry (a blended mixture of small fish, high-protein dog food, and vitamins), and he perked up in no time! By his second day in our care, the bittern was ready to eat whole dead fish, which we fed to him via tweezers. After a few days, we began leaving live minnows in a small pool in his enclosure. We continued to feed him a mixture of live and dead fish as well as small dead mice. 

After two and a half weeks at VINS, the bittern’s weight had almost doubled, putting him in the healthy range. The bittern became reluctant to accept hand-fed fish and mice, and we recognized that as a sign that he was ready return to the wild! Soon after, we transported the bittern to the banks of the Ottauquechee River, just off the VINS Nature Trail. We found a spot thick with reeds and cattails, where the bittern could utilize his vertically-striped camouflage plumage, and set him down facing the water. He made a speedy exit, and it was clear our bittern was ready to take care of himself. We were happy to see him return to the wild, and he was feisty to the bitter(n) end!