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!