Columns 2016

It’s baby bird season

The sun is shinning, the trees are blooming, the flowers are blossoming, so it must be baby bird season.

Baby birds are not terribly cute except in a “so ugly they’re cute” fashion. The first thing you think when you see a featherless baby bird is dinosaur. Because this is exactly what a naked little baby bird looks like.  Birds are descendants of the dinosaurs that once roamed this earth.

But given that they are so ugly they’re cute, people who find baby birds usually have the desire to pick them up and take care of them. While this is an amazingly loving and compassionate gesture, it doesn’t always work out well for the bird for a few reasons. To begin with, wild birds, even those hand raised by humans, do not make good pets. Their genes are wild and their wild genes say you are the enemy no matter how well you treat them. And if the bird imprints on a human, the outcome is rarely good.

Over at Bird TLC, baby bird season is a busy time. People cut trees down while fixing up their yard only to discover a nest has fallen with the tree. A predator might grab a baby and drop it to the ground. Cars hit mama ducks, geese and gulls with mind numbing regularity. Sometimes mom has kicked out a bird from the nest that her instincts tell her doesn’t stand a good chance at survival.

Most of these babies end up at Bird TLC. Or, at least they should. The volunteers there are trained to not interact with the babies so they don’t become imprinted on humans. This is especially important when you are talking about gulls, ducks and geese. There is no surer death sentence for a wild bird than to have it imprint on humans who then try to set it free. It doesn’t know how to be free because humans can’t teach it what its mama and poppa should have been teaching it. These poor birds will constantly go back to humans for food until some human is not amused and shoots them.

Our little songbirds are a bit easier to handle in that they don’t imprint on humans the way the gulls, geese and ducks do. This is why Bird TLC sponsors a Baby Bird Seminar every year for anyone who qualifies. The seminar teaches volunteers the ins and outs of caring for what looks like nothing more than a little dinosaur with fluff.  And as I’ve said before and I will repeat again, if you are the parents of a teenager, there is no better birth control lesson than sending your teen home with little balls of fluff that will cry out to be fed every few hours and can’t be ignored.

Of course, we don’t just let anyone take home these little ones. We need to be sure that both the parents and the kids involved are ready for this responsibility and will care for these tiny critters until they can fly free.

When it comes to waterfowl like ducks, geese and gulls, we keep them at the clinic to ensure they are raised in such a fashion as to not imprint on the humans caring for them. As soon as they are able, we bring them to water where others of their species can be found. If this is done properly, they leave us for their natural home with no unhealthy connection to humans.

As summer arrives bathing us in sunshine and warmth, be a little extra careful on the roads. Be aware of the little families that may be crossing from one side to the other. As rushed as you might feel you life is, take a deep breath and give them a moment to complete their journey to the other side of the road. If you are cutting a tree down, take the extra time to look for a nest so you know what you’re dealing with. And if you have a desire to watch a dinosaur turn into a beautiful creature that can slip the bonds of this earth in a way we can only dream about, check out Bird TLC’s seminar on baby bird care on May 21 from 11 to 1.

It could end up giving you an experience you’ll cherish for a lifetime to come.