Although spring-like weather has been slow in coming, recent patient admissions at the PAWS Wildlife Center suggest the bird nesting season has arrived right on schedule. Baby songbirds of a variety of species have begun to trickle in, and mallard ducklings have been arriving singly and in groups. Most of the ducklings that we’ve received were found wandering alone with no sign of their mother. Mother mallards often nest far from the nearest lake or stream. When their young hatch, they must guide them on what is often a very perilous journey over and around obstacles and across busy roads to reach the water. Mothers and young often become separated along the way. Keep your eye out for waterfowl families trying to cross the road this spring and do your best to give them a break.
Many of the songbirds that PAWS has received so far have been brought to us after being attacked by domestic cats. Baby birds that have just left the nest but are not yet capable of strong flight are especially susceptible to our feline companions. Many people put bells on their cat’s collar believing that this will give sufficient warning to birds to allow them to escape. These bells are usually ineffective at protecting adult birds, and they are definitely ineffective at protecting young birds that can’t fly away even if they hear the warning. The young American Robin (above right) and House Finch (below right) were both brought to PAWS after being attacked by cats. It is extremely important at any time of year, but especially during the bird and mammal breeding season, to keep your cat safely confined. The PAWS online resource library has information on outdoor cat enclosures and how to keep your cat happy indoors that will be useful if you would like to take this important step for the safety of both your pet and wildlife.
Some of the young songbirds we have received were orphaned for unknown reasons. The hungry Nestling Steller’s Jay, pictured here gaping for a meal, was brought to us after he was found on the ground next to two deceased siblings. The nest was still in the tree above, but there was no sign of the parent birds. So far the jay is thriving under the diligent care of PAWS staff and volunteers.
As you go about your life this spring and summer, you may encounter baby birds that you believe need help. I encourage you to print out a copy of the document, “I found a baby bird! What should I do?” to help you make an informed decision if you do have such an encounter. The document also contains the phone number for PAWS Wildlife Center which you are always welcome to call in case you need further information.