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It's Baby Bird Season

written by Park Manager Sally Lieb

Picture not original, taken from internet!

This picture is a fledgling tufted titmouse. We are in the season when birds are leaving their nests, a stage in a bird’s life known as a fledgling.  Like the 18 year old who graduates from high school and moves out of mom and dad’s house, bird fledglings are often much bolder than they should be.  They have feathers, but they don’t have skills yet in flying.  That makes them very vulnerable to danger and death, especially if they are unable to stay close to their parents.

On the morning of April 20, I heard a report that there was an injured cardinal at the canoe launch who had plastic wrapped around its wings.  The story was, it could not fly due to its injuries.  I went to the canoe launch to investigate.  At the launch, staff there had placed the bird in a cardboard box. Having seen many, it only took a glance for me to determine that this was a fledgling bird.   There was a large plastic barrel, the kind typically used for garbage, that was being used to store pieces and parts to repair kayaks and canoes.  This young bird had fallen into the barrel and was unable to get out on its own, encumbered by all the kayak pieces as well as not enough skill to fly out.  It was very lucky for the little bird that the alert staff found him/her before (s)he died from starvation from being unable to get out.  Having about 17 years experience in the zoo field, which also included rehabilitation of injured wildlife, I felt confident to make an assessment and examined the little tyke.  I delicately spread each wing, and felt the bones and joints.  Everything was intact, and the muscles pulled the wings back into place firmly when I let go of the outstretched wing.  (S)he didn’t much care for my handling, and started to chirp.  There was an immediate answer over my right shoulder.  I walked in the direction and saw the rest of the titmouse family flying about and chirping back and forth, communicating with my captured fledgling.  After a brief rest on my finger (I could feel (s)he had a perfect strong grip with both feet), the fledgling flew off my hand straight and strong, 3 feet off the ground for about 20 feet directly to the rest of the family.

So a few pointers for everyone on this situation:

  1. Don’t assume a bird is injured or unable to fly based upon a quick look.  When fleglings leave the nest, they often are clueless what they are doing, and parent birds are usually nearby, but will not approach if humans are crowding the situation.  The best thing to do for wildlife 95% of the time is to remove the immediate danger, then stay out of it and stand back and let things happen.
  2. If you touched it, that is OK.  The parent bird will still take care of their baby upon return.
  3. Let’s not have open topped barrels, buckets half full of oil, or other situations that not only often lead to mosquitoes, but are death traps for baby birds and other wildlife.  Even a galvanized fence pole with an open top can be a place where birds get stuck down in and are unable to get out.  Please don’t leave death traps for our wildlife.
  4. Just because a bird has a crest doesn’t make it a cardinal.  Other species of birds at Silver Springs that sport a crest on their heads include blue jays, titmice, blue grosbeak, cedar waxwings, great crested flycatcher to name a few.
  5. Don’t ever turn over a baby bird to be raised by fellow employees or other staff.  This is not the same as a kitten or a puppy.   All migratory birds, which pretty much includes most any bird that exists in the USA, are protected by The Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  You cannot lawfully possess one for any reason without a Federal and State  permit. 

“The Migratory Bird Treaty Act prohibits the take (including killing, capturing, selling, trading, and transport) of protected migratory bird species without prior authorization by the Department of Interior U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


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Friends of Silver Springs State Park is a Citizen Support Organization (CSO), a non-profit volunteer organization, dedicated to preserving and enhancing Silver Springs State Park. We support Silver Springs State Park by providing volunteers, educating visitors, hosting events and raising funds for specific park projects.

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