Hoots, Howls, and Hollers – February 16, 2021
I am making a huge assumption here that most of you who read this blog and support Liberty Wildlife’s mission would feel distraught without the beauty and benefits of the birds that surround us. With that huge assumption, I am going to ask a favor of you. First, here’s a little background.
One of the most important pieces of legislation designed to protect migratory birds that are not only aesthetically important but are also environmentally and economically important, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, is under attack. A ruling in 2017 is designed to remove responsibility from entities whose actions lead to bird mortalities by not preventing hazards that could be avoided. For example, oil spills….oil spills that kill thousands and thousands of birds while destroying habitat for eons to come…no responsibility, no mitigation, no nothing…just oooops.
Fortunately, there has been an extension of the date to implement the ruling to allow time for public input. Here’s where I am asking the favor of you. Please take a minute to send a comment to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service voicing your concerns. The object is to have the powers that be roll back this new interpretation and reinstate the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to its original state. The original Migratory Bird Treaty Act is responsible for protecting over 1000 species of birds….birds that pollinate crops, that keep insect populations in balance, that provide food for other animals including humans, that are critical in keeping the balance that we all depend on. In just one human lifetime, we have lost over 3 billion birds and two thirds of all birds are at risk of extinction.
I have included my comments to the USFWS for a reference for your own comments. Imagine, if you dare, to think of a life without birds.
Liberty Wildlife is a non-profit conservation organization with over 25,000 followers, dedicated to nurturing wildlife through wildlife rehabilitation, education, conservation services and sustainable actions. We have been conducting bird conservation initiatives throughout the Southwest for over 40 years. A robust program that includes bird rescues and rehabilitation, surveys, education programs, and conservation projects that demonstrate our commitment to protecting and sustaining North American bird populations. In 2020 we took in 12,156 birds and other wildlife in need of care and rehabilitation, with the mission to return them to the wild.
On January 7, 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a final rule in the Federal Register redefining the scope of “take”, under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA). The unintentional or incidental take of birds is no longer illegal or punishable by law under this new interpretation of the MBTA. This means that businesses no longer must consider the incidental take of birds due to the design, construction or operation of their projects. They can construct and operate their projects knowing they will result in bird injury and deaths.
During the 1800s north American bird populations experienced a precipitous decline due to over harvest by market and feather hunters, some to the point of near extinction. The enactment of the MBTA at the beginning of the 20thcentury resulted in the reversal of this decline and the preservation of North American bird populations. The ability to prevent incidental take was key to the MBTAs success.
During our years in operation, we have observed and recorded an increasing number of birds that have been negatively impacted by injury, death, and loss of habitat by actions that would be considered “unintentional”, under the new definition of incidental take.
In a 2019 paper titled “Decline of the North American avifauna”, published in Science, the authors study the status of the abundance of 529 bird species over 48 years and determined that there is a net loss approaching 3 billion birds.
Now is not the time to weaken the MBTA, now is the time to enforce it as it was originally written. We strongly recommend that the January 7, 2021 version of the MBTA be rescinded and replaced with the original version.
Megan Mosby, Executive Director, Liberty Wildlife.
Comments must be submitted to http://www.regulations.gov . Do it today as time is running out. Comments will only be accepted through March 1, 2021. The rule is set to go into effect March 8, 2021 and only action now may help delay implementation of this destructive change in interpretation.
You may submit comments by one of the following methods:
(1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In
the Search box, enter FWS–HQ–MB–2018–0090, which is the docket number for the rule. Then, click on the blue “Comment Now!” button beside the rule. Please ensure you have located the correct document before submitting your comments. Again, they are accepting comments through March 1, 2021.
(2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–
HQ–MB–2018–0090, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: JAO/3W, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls
Church, VA 22041‒3803.
This Week @ Liberty – February 16, 2021
It’s amazing how history repeats itself. Last year in the late February TW@L posting the first sentence mentioned “lots of bunnies and hummingbirds” and in the next sentence I brought up a “fluffy yellow baby pigeon…” all of which could be cut and pasted into this year’s update. We do have several hummingbirds that have been brought in, plus the number of orphan bunnies is rising apace. Thankfully the rate of arrivals is still quite slow giving us time to gear up for this year’s heavy season which will begin in a month or so. In the meantime, I’m posting a few pictures of long-term projects that are being implemented prior to the start of “Baby Bird Season” for 2021, just to provide some of the behind-the-scenes activity now in progress…
The white pelican (last post) is still with us. Hopefully he’ll be going home soon. The brooders in the Bunny room are starting to see some life as the orphans begin to arrive, as is the hummingbird “Ward” with six recent patients admitted. And the vanguard orphan pigeon for this year is now in our care, brought in by a Halo volunteer. It was still in the process of hatching when it arrived (notice the egg in the bottom corner of the photo.)
(Look for 4 pictures.)
Bunnies, especially babies, are very small and more fragile than most people appreciate. Jan has set up the bunny room over time so that the orphans are grouped by weight which has generally improved the results of the rehabbing process. They are not the easiest animals to properly treat, so training is critical and this has also helped in raising the survival rate. Now if we could just get the public to not engage in “bunny-napping” the babies and allowing the parents to do their job, that would help everybody…
(Look for 2 pictures.)
In just a few weeks, the Orphan Care room will be one of the busiest places at Liberty with baby birds in tubs lining the walls, chirping hungrily from first light until dark. Right now it’s mostly silent except for the sounds of the volunteers and coordinators cleaning, arranging, and labeling all of the brooders and feeding equipment. For the months between March and August, it will be non-stop frenetic activity all day, every day as hundreds (if not thousands ) of baby birds will be kept warm and fed many times each day by the dedicated volunteers who perform this vital function.
(Look for 2 pictures)
One of the cutest ducks to arrive at Liberty was this little ruddy duck. He was presenting some difficulty with walking and flying, so he was examined and finally x-rayed. The radiographs showed the reason for his distress: he had been shot. Now that we know what caused his injury, he can be treated appropriately. It’s hard to think that anyone would shoot at this harmless little bird…
(Look for 4 pictures.)
One of the most common birds we see is the red tailed hawk (RTH). After the initial medical work is done and the bird passes a final check ensuring it ‘s healthy, it gets an ID band with their Liberty number stamped on it. Then it gets to go into an outside enclosure to allow it to acclimate to the ambient temps and environment, and get some exercise for it’s flight muscles. This is one of the last steps prior to being released and one of the major steps in the overall rehabilitation process. It’s always a cause for smiles when a bird that has been in our care for a protracted period gets to “go outside”!
(Look for 7 pictures.)
There are always things to be done, especially now before things get insanely busy. One project is completing the vegetable garden between the medical wing and the mod building. This will provide extra food for some of the animals that actually eat veggies. The last step in preparing this for planting is keeping it safe from marauding goats (our four-footed weed control systems). The new fence will hopefully finally keep the hoofed mowers from breaking in and eating non-target flora.
Another ongoing task is record keeping and maintenance. Last week Vanessa was hard at work going over the medical records and keeping all paperwork straight.
(Look for 2 pictures.)
This hawk came in a while ago with a fractured leg bone. Fortunately, it was what is known as a “good break” in that it was mid shaft and the alignment was also good. At the time, Dr. Lamb installed several steel pins, or “fixators” to hold the bones in place while the healing took place. The broken ends of the bone did develop a very nice callus and it was determined that the hardware could now be removed. Last Saturday, Dr. Lamb did a short surgical procedure to do just that so now the bird can soon go outside and take the next step in the road back to freedom.
(Look for 7 pictures.)
She stands on the glove
Keen eyes find the hidden prey
Her talons tighten
(I was going to ask TW@L readers to write and submit their own Haikus, but I think it’s WAY more important to follow Megan’s lead and send in comments to USFWS on the MBTA. PLEASE write a comment today and send it in! The birds can’t speak for themselves, so it’s up to us to speak for them!)
Posted by Terry Stevens
Liberty Wildlife Volunteer