Sunday, August 12, 2012

Taking care of birds is so much work, let me tell you.  Right now most of the inside birds are being fed every 2 hours with the exception of the chimney swifts and the ones that are self feeding.  We got in an egret with a badly broken leg which is infected and not healing.  The vet would not even take him in because his chances of recovering are slim.

Monday at the county fair AWC had a table set up where we informed fair guests about the center and explained the stories of the birds that we brought with us.  We had the one legged red bellied woodpecker and a screech owl on display for people to see and they really were interested in their personal stories and how they ended up at AWC.  Giselle's son helped kids make bird binoculars out of toilet paper rolls and I tried to get kids involved in searching through owl pellets (the bones and fur of the animals that owls eat cannot be digested and are coughed up as a pellet).  Most were somewhat grossed out but there were quite a few that got very excited about finding bones and trying to figure out what part of the rat they found from the labeled bone chart we had.  Most people automatically thought that the pellets were feces but were surprised to find out that it was not, although a hunk of fur and bone puke did not make them any more interested.  It was only the second day of the fair so it was very crowded.

Tuesday, I met Giselle to the farm I used to work at before college and released 5 barn swallows.  They needed to be released where there were other swallows because they do not eat well on their own in captivity.  So, they go from us hand feeding them to being free and having to learn how to catch insects from watching other birds.  They quickly joined the flock that was flying around at the time so they should do well there.

We have gotten in several hawks that have been hit by cars or are young and injured.  I got to work with the red tails quite a bit last week by holding them and trying to get the new hawks to eat from us by hand feeding them.  They can be quite intimidating with the way that they stare at you.  They are quite a large hawk and since they are so common here, we have many.  We have 3 inside, and 11 outside in flight cages.

The robins that I brought are doing well, and are in the ICU incubator with 2 nestling mocking birds, one of which has a scissor beak.  This is where the top and bottom of the beak does not line up so it can be difficult for the bird to eat.  It's appetite is good so we will see how it does when it's older.

I only have a week left of interning at AWC unfortunately, but it has been an interesting experience considering I am used to working with mammals, which is very different.  The summer is coming to an end but there are still quite a bit of birds being brought to AWC.  The life of a rehabber is not an easy one.  You never know what is going to be brought in or to what extent the injured is going to be because most of the time people exaggerate how bad the injury is.  Rehabbing if definitely not boring!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

It has been so busy at AWC. All of the chimney swifts we have are taking up a lot of Giselle's time and I am feeding the birds that are not in the nursery, and are being fed every 2 hours.  In between feedings I am working on cleaning, checking the ducklings outside, checking the geese outside to make sure they are not bleeding or having other issues, and bathing the goose we have with a broken back.  We have a wooden...I don't even know what to call it. I guess it is kinda of like a wheelchair for a goose.  It holds the goose up to relieve pressure from its back because it cannot stand and tends to flop over on its side when able to.  This is why we have to supervise bathing in its tub because the poor thing just falls over to its side and cannot get up.  It was found on a lake upside down trying to keep its head above water.  It is thought to have been purposely hit by a boat.

Saturday Giselle was at a meeting so I went to AWC to feed all of the birds for the day. First I had to call back 2 people that had injured birds, but one already died and the other was closer to another avian rehab center. Giselle took the swifts, but the other birds in the nursery are mostly fed every 2 hours with the exception of the barn swallows which are every hour.  The nursery includes many robins, 3 cedar waxwings, blue jay, 2 mallards, the one legged red bellied woodpecker, non-releasable hummingbird, hummingbird that hit a window, mockingbird, and 3 catbirds.  The downstairs birds are 2 non-releasable bluebirds, 4 robins, 2 cedar waxwings with a young bluebird, 3 barn swallows, the broken backed goose, 2 injured mourning doves, and 3 house sparrows. There are also several screech owls, a kestrel, 2 cooper's hawks, a broad winged
hawk, and an egret.  The 4 red bellied woodpeckers outside were released yesterday, and 2 crows were released last week.  The robins that were in with the red bellieds had a fecal done today and they have coccidia.  So along with the other 2 robins in the outside aviary, these are now going to have to get treated water to get rid of the coccidia parasites. All of the small circles all over the slide in that picture are the coccidia.  There are also 2 cages of house sparrows, an aviary with a tufted titmouse/2 phoebes/2 barn swallows, the blue jays and mourning doves, 10 ducklings, 2 geese, and all of the owls and hawks that are only fed in the morning or at night.

We got a new goose in today that was kept in someones garage for the past year.  This goose looks to have some kind of respiratory infection and is overweight. A young screech owl came in yesterday after being found under a pallet, probably hit a window and has a broken wing.  

Most of this week was feeding the usual round of birds every 2 hours and working on cleaning out cages/aviaries that are now empty from releases or birds moved.  The outdoor crow aviary was quite a mess and it took a while to scrub down the walls to make it look halfway decent.
One of the robins downstairs has mites and is now being treated with powder.  I had the wonderful experience of finding them crawling all over me and had to figure out which robin it was coming from because there are 3 separate carriers with robins I was feeding at the time.  Of course it was the middle one, so all three were treated just in case.

Monday night I went and picked up 2 robins from a mammal rehabber that picked them up from someone that was unwilling to drive them to AWC and I brought them the next day.  They are still doing well although I was surprised how young they were because most of our robins we have are all feathered.  These are still half naked and need to be kept in the incubator.

The 10 released mallards are still hanging around the pond.

Baby cedar waxwing just fed. You can see the full crop.

About to weigh a mourning dove.

Crow just released.

Resident harris hawk.

King of the pond that chased the ducks around. Has one wing.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Canada goose with a broken back.

Outdoor duck enclosure (with injured snapping turtle bitten goose)

Two mallard ducks that were released today, along with two wood ducks.

Dove enclosure connected to the duck enclosure.

House sparrow cage in the entryway of the duck/dove enclosures.

This is how we sift seed for birds that do not eat sunflower seeds...

Sifted so that sunflower seeds are not wasted.

Not sifted.

Begging house sparrow.

House sparrows can be overfed.  You have to watch their crop (buldge on side of neck) so that they do not get too much or too little food.

Some of the outside cages. From left to right: gulls, cooper's hawk, crows, great horned owls, swan, the second to last cage has three sections: blue jays/mourning doves, red bellied woodpeckers/robins, and a goshawk. The last cage is a turkey vulture.

Trooper's enclosure with the screech owl cages to the left.

Screech cages with the harris hawk being the closest enclosure.

Inside aviary with barn swallows.

Barn swallow

Back room with hawk cages.

11 mallard ducklings

One of our released mallard ducks.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hello! AWC is still very busy and we are still admitting a few birds a day.  We have an adult great blue heron that supposedly flew into some wires or power lines (?), and appears to have some kind of head injury.  He will not eat on his own so we have to force feed him fish. We leave a tub of water in his indoor enclosure with a fish in it so that hopefully he will try to eat on his own and at the end of last week the fish was on the ground, so it looks like he may be starting to get interested in eating on his own.  He definitely does not like being held and having fish shoved into his mouth. Also, herons very commonly have leeches living in their mouths, so it is not so fun for us to try to pry his beak open and have to avoid them.

We also have several new young hawks, including a cooper's and a red shouldered.  The cooper's was doing well but the red shouldered was not looking very good at the end of last week even though he was eating well the rest of the week.

The aviary downstairs has three barn swallows in it, along with a phoebe that was moved in there from the outside enclosure with other phoebes, chickadees, and a hairy woodpecker.  There were two phoebes that still needed to be hand fed so we moved them in because the smaller one was being picked on by the adults, but unfortunately it passed away the next day. The living one is doing well with the barn swallows and will probably be moved back out eventually when it is eating more on its own.

A young mourning dove that we have had since it was a few days old is out with the other doves and blue jays and is getting used to not being hand fed.  Doves take food from their parent by sticking their beak up into the parents mouth to get their food so we replicated it by making a tube with a small hole at the opening and putting seed in it.  You have to put two fingers around the beak of the bird which stimulates it to open its mouth and then gently shake the tube while the bird is feeding.  The dove is eating on its own but still begs to the neighboring red bellied woodpeckers and to me when I go into its enclosure.

The rest of the week was general cleaning, changing the raptor water tubs, holding the hawks while they were being examined, holding the young goose while it had its leg bandage removed (the one that got bit by a snapping turtle), feeding the many baby birds, trying to get things done with no power in the house one day because of a severe thunder storm, sorting mealworms, trying to catch crickets that were ordered for some of the outside bird enclosures to give them some enrichment/food, scrubbing out the hawk cages in the back room for the cooper's hawk, cleaning out the enclosure outside that had an injured domestic duck in it, and various other things.

Most of my time at AWC is spent feeding or cleaning because all of the young birds in the house need to be fed at least every hour while some are every two hours.  The chimney swifts are fed every 20 minutes if they are very young or every hour depending on age.  We got in 3 more swifts last week from a man with an interesting story.  He was calling all over for 2 days trying to find a place to take care of them and most places said to just leave them because they will die (by the way, if you touch a young bird the parents will NOT reject it like some people say).  So he ended up finding out about AWC and brought them to us.  Many places do not take swifts because they are very different from other birds.  They are syringe fed, have to be in a dark place, and hang from the wall so we have a small fake chimney for them that they are in until they are ready to go into the swift aviary that we cleaned last week.  Anyway, the man was very upset about everyone telling him they were just going to die, because he was called in to the Twin Towers when the first one was hit and just got there when the second one was hit.  He said that he could not just watch something die when he had the chance to help them because of the traumatic experience he went through. He was one of the people that had to dig through everything to find people.  He was very nice, and we gave him a packet of information about swifts and told him about them and how they are becoming uncommon because they need a certain type of chimney to live in.  They build their nests in the chimney, and only older homes still have the chimneys that are not smooth inside so that the nests can be built against the rough stone or whatever the chimney is made of.  They also have to be released where there is a flock of other swifts, where they will be taught by the other birds to feed on insects rather than being hand fed.  It is a huge step for the birds to change from being syringe fed to then have to figure out how to eat on their own in the wild.

Kestrel falcon that is used in presentations because he cannot be released.

Harris hawk that was a falconry bird being flown in a city, where she was hit by a car and the owner did not want to pay for getting her injuries treated.  Harris hawks are not found on the east coast, and are only found in the western states.  They are actually very interesting birds and will work in teams to corner prey in the wild, unlike any other raptor that hunts alone.  She is very flighty and is being worked with to eventually become a bird that will go along to presentations.

Resident barred owls. I LOVE these guys.

Resident blue jay.

Several of the 10 ducklings that were released a few weeks ago. Yes, they are all still here at the pond in Giselle's backyard.  The other two mallards that we have will be released soon as well.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Hello everyone, unfortunately the grosbeak we had died a few days after my last post. The 10 ducklings that were released are still hanging around in the pond and the swan is still trying to regain reign over the pond that he thinks belongs totally to him.  The last batch of mealworms that were ordered were not very good.  Most of them died quickly so I had to clean most of the dead ones out of the 20,000 mealworms that were ordered. Oh yes that was lovely...Many of the birds are eating on their own so all we have to do now is put fresh food in with them a few times a day although, we are now getting chimney swifts which need to be fed every hour.  We also have robins and sparrows that are still being fed in the nursery room.
An ACO (animal control officer) brought us a young crow that had to be force fed and only had talons on one of his feet.  A flicker was released last week that was in with the blue jays and mourning doves.
Okay, that was just a general idea of what has been going on recently.  I unfortunately have not been to Avian Wildlife Rescue since Monday because I sprained my ankle pretty bad but I will be going back this Monday and resuming my normal schedule.

Last weekend we acquired two baby cooper's hawks and wow are they round fluffy little things.  All they really have are their wing feathers coming in and the rest of them is fluffy down feathers.  Thursday I dropped off some black berries, blueberries, and grapes for the birds that I got from a mammal rehab center that had extra.  The birds, especially the robins go through a lot of fruit daily and with about 200 birds at the center at the moment, fruit vanishes before we even realize we are out.  I really have no idea how Giselle does it.  Now that her husband is retired he is helping out more, but feeding birds every hour and then by that time you have to start over every day of the week from 8am to about 1am is crazy.  I have trouble keeping up with all the birds and who is who and who is where because birds are shifted and moved often.

The hairy woodpecker is also still hanging around but not seen as often.  We leave some soaked puppy show on the roof of the vulture cage so that wild birds can eat and learn to find food on their own.  So the hairy has been yelling at us when the bowl runs out.

Last week I had my own bird rescue adventure when my grandparents neighbor called me to say that their other neighbor had baby birds fall out of the nest and they did not know what to do.  So I drove over there and brought back 2 phoebes to AWC.  Phoebes nest twice in the summer, and this time of year is their second batch of babies.  Unfortunately, the majority of the time the second batch is usually infested with mites and these two were no exception.  One died soon after I brought it from being anemic, and the other died later on that day from the same reason.  We got the one eating a little bit but it was even too weak to swallow correctly.

Monday the 9th I helped out Giselle with a summer program at a church.  We brought along Trooper, a kestrel, a robin nestling, a sparrow, the one legged red bellied woodpecker, and the chimney swifts because they had to be fed several times while we were there.  I fed the robin, walked around with the sparrow and mealworms for the kids to look at, calmed the kestrel down when he kept getting twisted up on his perch, and just helped out organizing everything for the presentation.  It went well but the kids were very talkative so it made things kind of difficult.

Everything was slowing down with birds until the swifts started coming in.  Most of the robins are quite grown up and we have one young blue jay that is doing well.  Now the baby swifts are being admitted like crazy and they have to be fed with a syringe because of the way they shake their heads when feeding.  I have not fed them yet but soon they will have taken over the entire nursery (Giselle said that this time of year we start getting TONS of swifts).

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Last week Giselle and her family went down to south Jersey to do osprey banding so the volunteers were in charge of taking care of all the birds and the resident cats in the house for a week.  Everything was prepared before they left, such as making extra bird burger and moving birds to outside cages so that it would be easier to keep track of everyone.  Many more birds were admitted (many died unfortunately, most that came in were cat caught or just not looking good when they got to AWC).  Most of last week consisted of feeding and cleaning cages and not many extra tasks because once the birds were fed, it was usually time to start feeding again.
This week has been fixing things that got mixed up or misplaced during last week, moving birds to outside cages, and releases.  Yesterday the 10 ducklings were released (pictures to come because they are all still hanging out in the pond in Giselle's backyard. SUCH a good feeling because they looked so happy splashing around in that pond when they got released.) The sparrows that were in carriers were moved into a large netted enclosure in the doorway of the duck/dove outside cage.
Today Joey Bee stopped by this morning to film some footage for this website/show. He is a friend of Giselle's and goes around the world capturing nature in videos and pictures.  That took up a lot of the morning, so I fed all of the nursery birds and then helped out with some feeding birds for his show and filming the red tailed hawk release while keeping track when to feed the nursery birds again.  He films all summer and then starts editing and putting up his shows on his site in September.  He already has some previous videos from AWC at
which has Trooper in it and there are also videos on chimney swifts and robins.
After the crazy morning of filming, which I was not aware that I was actually going to be in it, I attempted to wash the rose breasted grosbeak that we have.  She is in terrible shape, and basically has no feet.  They are just the tendons sticking out the bottom of her legs, or at least that is what it looks like.  She cannot walk, so she just crawls around and gets feces all over her so she has to be gently scrubbed clean often.  Her box that she is in needs to be cleaned out constantly so that she does not get it caked all over her.  This picture is right before I cleaned her box so it is still dirty.
Also, this morning I noticed that the water in the goose's outdoor cage was bright red.  I assumed that it was medicated but it wasn' was blood.  So, before moving one of the geese that we used to have (one of the three that were together got attacked by a snapping turtle and has a broken leg) we had to re-bandage the adult goose's wing and bandage up the back because the goose was picking/preening at it and it was very bloody.  This poor goose also has lice, so odds are not looking good for him or the grosbeak that is fighting for survival.
I also had the lovely opportunity to cut up a defrosted mouse for the baby screech owls.  And honestly that kind of thing does not really bother me but OH MY GOSH THE SMELL was discussing.  It was worse than the regular smell of dead thing.  I don't know why, but it was pretty gross. The owls enjoyed it though.
Hope everyone has a good 4th of July.  I will be changing the raptor water dishes in the outdoor cages like I do every Wednesday, feeding the babies, and doing whatever it takes to keep any new arrivals alive and well.  So much changes each day so it is really hard to write all of it down.  We probably have about 200 birds at the moment and more are being brought in every day while others are always being moved around, put outside, or put together with other birds.  It really is an exhausting non profit job.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hello! It has been a very busy week at Avian Wildlife Center.  More and more birds are being admitted lately, especially woodpeckers. The four red bellied woodpeckers that came in after being found on a logging truck when their nest was cut down went into a newly cleaned outdoor cage today which used to have the three robins and hairy woodpecker in it.  They were released and are still hanging around the area.  Food is left out in a bowl on top of the vulture cage so that newly released birds have food until they figure out how to be a true wild bird.  And you know when they run out of that food because the hairy woodpecker starts calling and following you around outside until you refill the bowl.  He is very independent, but is still getting used to finding food on his own.

The red shouldered hawks that were in the kitchen were put back up in their nest on Thursday night.  They were banded before being brought back up to the nest that was about 50ft up in a tree in the nearby state forest.  They are doing well, although we now have a problem with a park in southern NJ that cut down a tree with a nest of woodpeckers in it.  The man that saved the section of tree with the nest has it but refuses to drive them anywhere to a place that will care for them.  The latest news is that the parents were feeding them in the tree section, so at least they are not starving. Hopefully something can be figured out so that they end up thriving, whether it is in the wild or temporarily brought into captivity so that they survive.

Along with the abundance of woodpeckers at the time, we also have many ducks.  Two of which had to be separated from each other because they one was picking at the other and he was losing feathers.  The cage attached to the outdoor duck cage has pigeons which we also have had a problem with.  For the past few days squirrels have been chewing through the wooden slates and getting onto the cage with the doves.  The hole that was chewed was big enough for the doves to escape, so that had to be blocked, and when they still were chewing around it, had to be completely covered with wire.  It looked promising, although the squirrels then chewed a hole in the bottom of the back of the duck cage, and made their way through there and once again, chewed their way into the dove cage.  Now that that is covered, hopefully they will find somewhere else to find food.

Yesterday we shifted screech owls into the cage next to it because the empty cage owls were released.  Today was mostly cleaning cages and moving birds outside because Giselle and her family will be gone for the last week this month so she's relying on volunteers to take care of all the birds and it will be much easier to keep track of if most are outside.  I also learned how to make dove pellets, which is egg yolk mixed with corn meal so that it can be molded into small pellets by hand that can be fed to the dove chicks that are transitioning food from bird burger to seeds. Tomorrow we will be making another batch of bird burger along with cleaning out and re-netting a cage for the house sparrows that are in a cat carrier at the moment. The grackle I have been feeding will be going outside this week in a small cage inside the songbird cage that houses blue jays and mourning doves at the moment.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hello! I have been volunteering at Avian Wildlife Center in Wantage, NJ.  I am liking working with birds, although they are very different to take care of than mammals, which is what I am used to.  While baby mammals need attention and constant touching something, birds are very hands-off.  Many species imprint on people easily which would cause them to not be releasable.  The majority of the birds at the center will be released but there are some residents that are used for presentations and educating school groups or other groups of people.  Resident birds include a red tailed hawk, harris hawk (native to the west-falconry bird used in a city that was hit by a car and the owner did not want her anymore), two barred owls, 2 screech owls, a great horned owl, red bellied woodpecker (has one leg), hummingbird, and a cowbird (was not released because they are parasitic egg layers. They lay their eggs in other birds nests and they hatch first so they survive and the host bird's chicks die.)  The hawk and owls could not be released for a variety of reasons including imprinting, and eye, leg, or wing injuries.  Owls are often hit by cars and our resident red tail was hit by a truck, losing his right eye and therefore he would not be able to successfully hunt in the wild because of his lack of depth perception.

The resident birds reside in large outdoor cages so that they are able to fly and have as decent of a life they can in captivity.  There are also other cages outside that house adult birds that are being prepared for release.  Some birds are released on the property of Giselle's (my supervisor) house while others are released at release sites found by Giselle or the biologists that she works with.      For the most part, songbirds and waterfowl are released on the property and raptors are released elsewhere.  There is a large pond in the backyard that wood ducks, mallards, and a one winged mute swan call home.

Inside the house, there is one room upstairs that is dedicated to the bird nursery.  All of these birds are fed every half hour, hour, or every two hours depending on the age and species of the bird. We feed them a mixture we call bird burger.  It includes ground beef, wheat germ, dog food, cat food, hard boiled eggs, and a few other high protein ingredients.  We also add grapes and mealworms to the bird burger depending on age and species.  Bird burger is made about every 10 days and is frozen until needed.  When defrosted, there is also a vitamin mixture that is put into the food so the birds remain healthy.

So far during my internship I have cleaned a red tailed hawk cage after the bird was released.  This was my first day and I had to first pick up the rat leftovers, clean the feces off the floor, and scrub the walls so that it was clean for the great blue heron to move in.  The hawk decorated the tree that was in its cage with feces and rat parts...we were joking that it was his Christmas tree.  I have also made a batch of bird burger, fed MANY baby birds (mostly robins, starlings, grackles, house finches, and a hairy woodpecker).  We have three Canada goslings that constantly need to be checked to make sure they have food and water, along with 11 mallard ducklings outside that need the same.  All waterfowl get a large clump of grass in their cage that volunteers pick from the yard or other cages.  The red tail that was hit by a truck and is in the picture above had overgrown grass in his cage that was used for the waterfowl.

I have also unpacked the shipment of frozen rodents, cleaned the floor of the outdoor blue jay and mourning dove cage, cleaned the floor of one of the dove cages, sifted the sand in the cages to keep the sand in and the seed and droppings out, sifted the sunflowers out of the mixed seed for the doves since they do not eat sunflower seeds, cleaned out the raptor water tubs once a week in the outdoor cages, helped admit new birds, helped with a mini tour of the outdoor cages, held a mourning dove while its fractured leg was being splinted, and much more!

So much goes on and changes from day to day that it is hard to keep up with who needs to be fed when and what needs to be done.  Most of the work that is done is cleaning cages with birds or cleaning and bleaching cages for future use.  Today I got the job of sifting through the mealworms that are raised here to feed the birds, picking all the dead ones out and sifting out the droppings.

So far my favorite birds are the grackle and Trooper.  Each bird really have an individual personality that you can't help but notice and get somewhat attached to.  Talking is limited while around the birds so that they do not become imprinted.  I have already learned so much from working here that I can use in the future.  I started out doing basic cleaning and caring for birds and am slowly working my way up to doing more tasks (including taking fecal samples and learning to identify parasites). This is definitely going to be an interesting summer. Stay tuned!