Hoots, Howls, and Hollers – April 11, 2023
We care for Arizona endangered species
Over the years we have been the go-to wildlife hospital in Arizona to care for our wild population of California Condors. Currently several of these majestic birds are infected with the Highly Pathogenic Avian Flu (HPAI), and have been transferred to Liberty Wildlife for care.
This virus was probably carried into our state by migrating birds, and is a big problem for California Condors. They feed communally, which makes the “sharing” of fluids much easier. If a scavenged prey source was downed by the flu, it can be consumed by a small flock of condors, and the flu is in the door to the larger group. The incredibly competent and caring crew of biologists that monitor these birds in the Grand Canyon have worked tirelessly, relentlessly, and compassionately to come to the rescue. Some of these birds have been brought to the hospital at Liberty Wildlife.
We are honored to be able to play a part in the care of these charismatic creatures. You may be aware that we currently have two non-releasable condors in our care as education Ambassadors. You can see Marble and Millie when you next visit Liberty Wildlife. (And a great event is coming this Sunday if you haven’t already gotten your tickets!)
It is acutely important to save as many of these birds as possible, both for compassionate care of the individual birds and also, because of the vast importance of each and every one to the whole population. Diversity, gene pools, the rate of breeding and other factors all play a very important part in the recovery of the species. Lead toxicity issues, which have been the challenge to total recovery of the species, pales in light of the HPAI virus. The team effort underway to combat this new threat is remarkable.
You may have noticed some of our intake protocols have changed, and we are no longer able to house or care for ducks and geese. This flu season is just different, and the potential presence of HPAI in waterfowls is a threat to many other birds, including the endangered species we see. The loss of just one bird has a huge impact on the species recovery as a whole.
But, I want to note that it is your caring… and your action… in relation to injured animals over the years that has put us in a position to work on behalf of these precious few endangered animals today.
This is what I mean. We are able to provide this stellar service because of the hundreds of thousands of birds that you, a caring public, have brought to us over the 42 years that we have been assisting wildlife in Arizona. Practice makes perfect. And because you have trusted us over the years, we have gotten better with every animal we help.
This HPAI virus has necessitated changes – including a quarantine area where very few people are allowed to go, and only then with proper clothing and a change of clothes. We are insuring that not only the ill animals, but all animals on the property are protected. We want each of you to know how safe our hospital is because of the super protection required. Our protocols are state of the art!
I find it hard to believe that I am hoping for hot weather (Who does that in Arizona as the summer approaches?!) But the best treatment for getting rid of HPAI is hot and dry weather… so bring it on!
While it is an honor for us to be chosen to care for these endangered birds, you bird rescuers should assume some of the honor, too. For it is your faith in us over the years that has allowed The Peregrine Fund and the Condor Recovery Team to have faith in us to play a critical role in the care of these compromised animals. You may have seen this covered in the recent “Weight of a Feather” documentary film about our work with our partnering organizations! The film is still available to AzPBS subscribers through your Passport membership. And DVDs are also on sale in our gift shop. (Pick one up when you come to our Sippin’ the Spirit of the Southwest event on Sunday, April 16th!)
Trust me, we will do everything we can to succeed, and we appreciate your understanding of our necessary changes to help make it happen…fingers crossed, expertise applied!
This Week @ Liberty – April 11, 2023
Here we are, almost three and a half months into 2023 and the warm weather has decided to spring on us in a matter of moments. I’m not sure why I’m ever surprised by it; Arizona has this way of skipping seasons all together. I can’t say I mind it, either. While I’ve enjoyed the cooler temperatures we’ve had this fall, I’m ready for shorts and tank tops and hot summer days.
And, yes, I’m even ready for all the babies and busyness that come with those hot summer days (I think most of us here at Liberty are!). Though some of our policies have changed regarding the animals we can take (like Megan mentioned, we are no longer taking Geese or Ducks), we’ll still see a slew of animals at our doorstep thanks to all you out there who bring them to us.
So here’s to the summer, the sun, and everything in between. We’re certainly ready for it!
Nestling Red-Tailed Hawks
Listen, if you’ve never seen a nestling Red-Tailed Hawk, you’re in for a real treat. These little guys are crazy cute. And not just because they look like little stuffed animals, the sound they make is equally as adorable. If you haven’t checked out any of our social media lately, I highly recommend you do. Laura, our Education Coordinator and PR guru, has been posting some awesome videos of everything that happens here at Liberty Wildlife, one of them being the sounds these little nestlings make when they’re ready to eat.
Adorable-ness aside, Red-Tailed Hawks will generally nest in tall trees—or in our case, saguaro cactus—so they have a good view of the landscape and potential predators. Both parents build the nest using foliage, branches and bark strips, which means these nests can grow over six feet high and three feet wide. And while a typical clutch can be anywhere from one to five eggs, we usually see two babies grow to adulthood (although that isn’t definite and can always change).
Unfortunately for these little guys (the younger nestlings on the right and the bigger on the left), their nests were unsustainable. They were moved here for their own safety, and are being fed around the clock to build those strong, hollow bones for flight. And for those wondering about imprinting, don’t worry, we don the latest in camo fashion, and use puppets, to avoid this during this impressionable age.
Even better? Once they’re big enough they’ll be moved outside with some of our foster parents who’ll finish the job for us.
Jackrabbit vs Cottontail: What’s the Difference?
If you’ve been in Arizona long enough, chances are, you’ve seen a Desert Cottontail. They’re quick little rabbits who have that white tail who seem to be everywhere this time of year (and they are, because babies). They’re known in my neighborhood as the ‘line chompers’, because they seem to have an infinity for getting into our drip system for our plants and chewing them to oblivion.
Now, even if you have been here a long time, Jackrabbits are a whole different ballgame. To be honest, I’ve never seen one in the wild, though I’ve seen several here at Liberty Wildlife. For anyone out looking for them, there’s quite a few differences to note: Jackrabbits are quite a bit larger than Cottontails (they can be twenty four inches tall versus the cottontail’s fifteen inches). Their ears are magnificently huge compared to Cottontails, and by far their most notable trait. They can even run up to forty-five miles per hour!
The biggest difference? A Jackrabbit isn’t a rabbit at all—it’s a hare. They’re precocial, meaning they’re born fully furred, eyes open and absolutely ready to run. In all sense of the word, they’re capable of taking care of themselves at a very early age, whereas Cottontails are born without fur, eyes closed, and remain in the nest for up to three weeks.
When they’re young, though, it can take a minute to distinguish between the two. Can you tell the difference between this little Jackrabbit and Cottontails? What do you think is the most notable difference at this age? Make sure to comment so we know what you think!
We take in all kinds of animals here at Liberty Wildlife. From Round Tailed Ground Squirrels to Ferruginous Hawks to everything in between, this time of year becomes a treat in the surprises that come in.
Hence, this few weeks old California Kingsnake. His rescuer found him all knotted together and unable to right himself when flipped upside down (which they should be able to do). After taking X-rays, we found two different fractures along his spine, which are the likely cause of the issue. While he’s hanging in ICU awaiting a Vet to assess and get him on the right treatment path, he’ll receive plenty of food and rest.
A little history on California Kingsnakes; they’re widespread across the west coast of North America, and tend to enjoy woodland chaparrals, grasslands and deserts that inhabit the west. They are part of the, what I like to call, ‘day’ shift; of hunters (diurnal) but can hunt throughout the night (nocturnal) if the weather is too hot. Unlike some of our snakes here in Arizona, they are non-venomous: they kill their prey of rodents, birds and other reptiles by constriction and then swallow whole.
By far the coolest thing about these snakes is the fact they often prey on other snakes; they’re even immune to rattlesnake venom, which makes rattlesnakes a likely culprit on their meal plan!
Without further ado, here are this week’s notable mentions:
A Gopher Snake comes in and is released the same day (1 picture)
A nestling Great Horned Owl makes an appearance before being moved into foster care (1 picture)
Cheese and Quackers take a little dip in a tub (1 picture)
Teeny tiny Hummingbirds still in their nest (clothes pin reference to show how small they are) (1 picture – taken by Mel)
Nestling Barn Owls come in from a disturbed nest (1 picture)
Killdeer babies are here in full swing! (1 picture – taken by Mel)
Darwin’s babies are getting so big! (1 picture)
Our Ornate Box Turtle hangs in the cool temperature of his soil (1 picture – taken by Alex)
Remember to join us before it gets too hot for Public Hours on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10am-1pm. In the summer, our hours will change, but I’ll be sure to let you know when that happens. For now, enjoy the cool mornings while we still have them!
Of course, you’ll want to remember the Sippin’ in the Southwest this weekend, too—it’s this Sunday, April 16 from 1pm-4pm.
Until next time!
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Posted by Acacia Parker
Public Outreach Coordinator
I love this blog!
Thank you, Doris! We’re happy to hear you’re liking it 🙂
Enjoying the information in the blog. I didn’t know jackrabbits were fully furry and eyes open when born! We have Snowshoe Hares in Alaska so now I have to go investigate and learn more about them hoppers. Learning is Fun at Liberty Wildlife! I sure miss you guys but still doing the hotline.
Thanks, Anna! And thank you for your continued dedication, even in another state!