Hoots, Howls, and Hollers – April 27, 2021
I celebrated Earth Day again this year for the 51st time. On my first Earth Day in 1970, I planted trees at the junior high school where I taught. I often wonder how they have done over the years. Since then I have celebrated annually and did so this year with a wonderful event at Liberty Wildlife. We hosted almost 100 people of all ages at a celebration planned and carried off by our college interns and teen volunteers. It was hugely successful.
We brought back our Wish Tree where everyone wrote a wish and hung it on the tree to send a message of hope and good intent to whomever is listening. We had displays, activities, and opportunities to see close up our educational ambassadors and handlers. The event culminated with three lucky kids getting to release three different rehabilitated birds.
The first release was a grackle who bolted from the box with never a look back….happy to be free to grace the skies again. The second was an Abert’s towhee who chirped in anticipation and easily took wing chirping all of the way to the safety of a tree around the wetland. The third release was a rehabilitated hummingbird. In a surprise fashion, it exited its container and sat on the edge posing for photos and getting its bearings. In its own time, it gracefully lifted into the air…buzzed for a second and headed straight for a feeder on the other side of the tree from the release site. There it bumped into what might have been an old friend as they flew off together to another spot of safety and were seen “hanging out” together the rest of the afternoon.
When we think of releases and that “oh wow” effect we often think in terms of the big guys…hawks, owls, eagles…but that just isn’t always the case. This audience of 100 people clapped and cheered and followed with their eyes and cameras until the winged wonders were well out of sight. They were applauding the successful rehabilitation of their back yard buddies…the guys they take food and water to…the guys that return every spring to nest and raise families…the guys that cheer them up in the mornings and evenings…the guys that are neighbors.
I love Earth Day. I love the attention that comes with every recognition and appreciation of all that surrounds us, that we depend on, that supports our very being. Despite all of the negatives we are inundated with, Earth Day always gives me reason to hope.
I think Earth Day should be every day! However, if you need an excuse to support our Mother Earth right now, consider a sponsorship for our Orphan Care Program in honor of YOUR mother.
This Week @ Liberty – April 27, 2021
The windy conditions that prevailed for the past few days can only mean increased activity at the Intake window. Currently, we are approximately 110 ahead of last year at this time and the biggest factor affecting the numbers is the weather. As always, the largest amount of animals that come to us in the springtime are orphans. They seem to come in waves, with different species at the crest of each wave. Hummingbirds are the first, followed by sparrows, finches, starlings, grackles, and mockingbirds. And among these little songbird orphans are the great horned owls, barn owls, kestrels, and red tails that for whatever reasons become separated from their parents. The passerines are cared for by the volunteers in Orphan Care while the raptors are placed with foster parents of the same species as soon as they are large enough to be outside. Some of our resident birds will raise dozens of foster babies in a season and the fledglings produced this way are fine examples of birds that will succeed after release. “Whatever is best for the birds” is always our driving thought. This post will mostly be an “Orphan Extravaganza”…
Of course, some animals still arrive with injuries and these require special treatment as any additional handling during this phase of their lives can sometimes inadvertently imprint the raptors on humans. Our volunteers are trained on how to minimize exposure of baby owls and hawks to human contact, sometimes complicating medical intervention. The young raven and the great horned owl above are thankfully past the imprinting phase so are not in danger of this. The vets and vet techs can work on their wings without wearing camouflage garb to prevent accidental imprinting.
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The little great horned owl’s beak is broken at the tip and will most likely heal and grow back without a great amount of hands-on work. Beaks are like finger or toenails and as long as the break doesn’t interfere with the bird’s ability to eat or breathe, it will most likely survive less serious breaks. This little guy is already in an outside enclosure with foster parents.
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Here we present a variety of the baby birds currently in our Orphan Care ward. As usual, we have a lot of tiny baby doves of all types – mourning, white wing, Inca, and collared. We also have several little baby verdins, house finches, and quite a few newly hatched starlings. The baby Gila woodpeckers are an uncommon addition to the list of orphans in OC. On the other end of the size scale, we have a number of orphan baby ravens which require a lot of work due to their large dimensions (bigger birds need more food!) The killdeer are one of the “precocial” types of baby birds we get in. Unlike the usual hatchlings with bulbous closed eyes and a body devoid of feathers, precocial birds like killdeer, mallard ducklings, and gamble’s quail come out of the egg looking like miniature versions of the adults. They are generally not fed by parents and must fend for themselves except for protection from predators.
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Since we started placing orphaned great horned owls with foster parents several years ago, our success rate with them has been really high. Not only do we have several pairs of dedicated foster parent non-releasable adults, but some of our education owls are eager to fill in when the orphans start dropping in. We have had several legendary foster parents who have raised hundreds of baby great horned owls – Hogan and Igor in their time probably raised over 1,000 orphaned owls between them. It’s really touching to see the immediate reaction of the foster “moms” as they feed, cover, and protect their new babies when the orphans are placed in their care.
Great horned owl babies are about as cute as raptors get. It’s difficult to believe that they are apex predators and in a few months, they will be capable of wreaking terrific carnage on the rodent world.
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Posted by Terry Stevens
Liberty Wildlife Volunteer