I have re-posted this wonderful article by Olga Usova from the CapeGazette.com because, though the feature here is the Tri-State Bird Rescue, I know that all wildlife rescue organizations share these same or similar needs. We encourage you to reach out to your local rehab centers and offer a hand, if you can.
Thank you, Olga, for the following article:
Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research is looking for volunteers to transport injured birds to Newark, DE.
In 1976, following the last in a series of five oil spills in the Delaware River where thousands of animals died, Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research was founded to explore the effects of oil on wildlife and to develop research and treatment procedures.
Today, Tri-State Bird Rescue, whose facility is located in Newark, operates a federally licensed, nonprofit avian rehabilitation clinic and cares for 3,000 injured and orphaned native birds annually. The agency staffs a professional 24-hour oil spill-response management team.
“We get anywhere from 100 to 150 species of birds every year, but it can be a lot more depending on the situation,” said Lisa Smith, executive director of Tri-State Bird Rescue.
If no oil spill occurs, Tri-State’s most likely customers are baby birds. They might have an injury if they have fallen from a nest, or they might have been picked up by a cat or a dog, causing soft-tissue injuries. From the incubator, the little birds graduate to a laundry basket or a screen cage, depending on the species, and from there they go to an outside cage.
“We do what we call soft release – there’s a hatch in the cage and we just open it so that the birds can let themselves out. A couple of days and they are done with people. There’s something in their brain that kicks in and they just become wild birds,” Smith said.
Tri-State’s small professional staff is augmented by an army of volunteers who donate 30,000 hours annually to keep Tri-State’s programs running smoothly. “We could not raise those birds without our volunteers, it would not happen,” Smith said.
Some of the Tri-State’s volunteers, including Lisa Coyle, are ready to drive three hours to help, gain experience and learn. “I come from Pennsylvania, so it is about an hour-and-a-half each way, but I chose Tri-State, because they are the best in the country, and they are doing such a great job with the birds,” Coyle said.
When an oil spill occurs, Tri-State is notified if wildlife is affected. Depending on where the spill is, they bring birds back to their facility or they set up a remote location wherever they can find one.
“We bring our water heaters and all the equipment we need, which is what we did during Gulf of Mexico spill restoration,” Smith said. “We were their lead responder for wildlife in the Gulf, and we set up rehab facilities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida, where we were from April 2010 until January 2011.”
“If we need to, we will go international. We’ve already been to Estonia, South Africa and England, but definitely our main focus is on the East Coast, Mid-Atlantic,” Smith said.
Tri-State is always in need of people willing to help transport birds to or from the center, especially from Sussex and Kent counties. Some callers are unable to bring in a bird they have found, so volunteers are needed to pick them up. When a bird is farther away than one transporter wants to drive, two or more volunteers relay the bird to the clinic for care. “Last year, we received 300 birds from Kent and Sussex counties,” Smith said.
If anybody is interested in becoming a transporter to drive birds up to Newark or part way, please contact Julie Bartley, volunteer manager, at 302-737-9543 Ext. 102.
“Our transporter network is a very valuable asset for wildlife,” Smith said.
Talents are needed in a variety of areas such as bird care, oil-spill response, front desk reception, landscaping and maintenance, office support, fundraising, marketing and special events.
Top 10 things to protect wild birds
• Keep your pets under control, and keep cats indoors.
• Hang hawk silhouettes, decals, or other ornaments in windows to reduce the chance of impact injuries.
• Look before you lop! Check for nests before you trim bushes or cut down trees. Better yet, do your pruning in the winter – it is better for the plants!
• Keep your bird feeders clean.
• Drive carefully and watch the roadsides for wildlife, especially at dawn and dusk.
• Cap your chimney and install an approved clothes-dryer vent cover.
• Use natural or organic alternatives to chemical pest control or lawn care. Many birds die every year from exposure to these chemicals.
• Pick up litter, especially fishing line and plastic six-pack rings.
• Dispose of hazardous household products properly.
• Educate children to respect wild birds and not capture them.
For more information on these topics, please visit www.tristatebird.org
So, what are you feeding your Goldfinches? To be honest, it’s sort of a trick question. When we think of “thistle” as a flower, we usually picture the thistle which is considered the national flower of Scotland (Onopordum acanthium). This thistle has a pink to purple colored flower on a prickly head. If you garden, you may think of the noxious and common thistle weed (Sonchus oleraceus L.) which is also prickly, but invasive with a smallish yellow flower that isn’t all that attractive.
What adds to the confusion, is that Goldfinch actually will eat thistle seeds in the wild, if you have them growing nearby (see photo).
The truth is, though, when you feed your precious Goldfinches the seed you purchase at your independent wild bird retail store, you are not actually feeding them “thistle” as we know it at all. Though some may commonly call it “thistle”, it’s biological name is Guizotia abyssinica and it is not related to the two varieties mentioned above at all. In fact, this little black seed as developed some serious identity problems because of “name calling”.
The actually common name of Guizotia abyssinica is niger (pronounced ni-jer). Several years ago, due to confusion and offensive mispronunciation, the official name Nyjer® was developed and trademarked by the Wild Bird Feeding Industry. Nyjer® is primarily an oil seed crop that is grown in parts of India and Africa. It is also the only major wild bird feed ingredient that is imported from overseas. It is commonly irradiated prior to being allowed into the United States by law, but this does not effect its bird attractiveness, as anyone who feeds the birds will tell you. It also prevents most instances of reseeding in your garden, although I have had some tell me that they have had it grow.
It is a seed that spoils easily, however. It’s usually recommended that you purchase only the amount of seed that you can use in about a month or two. You may not recognize the smell of fresh seed. However, if it is rancid, you can smell it. It has the same stale smell as any other nuts might have if left too long in your cupboard.
Yes, they are picky. If the seed isn’t fresh, they won’t come around. If it’s on the ground, and not in a feeder, they aren’t attracted to it. If the feeder is dirty, they won’t come to it. If the feeder isn’t the right kind, they might not be able to get the seed out easily. If the seed gets wet… well, you get the picture!
Since we love having these little sparks of yellow, we put up with it though, don’t we?
Since Nyjer® is so small, it is prone to caking when it gets wet. Even the smallest amount of dampness can cause it to cake up. This causes clumping in the feeder, and the birds may find it difficult to get the seed out.
We recommend a good Nyjer® feeder that is made especially for this seed. If you are using a regular feeder desinged for larger seeds, fine Nyjer® seed may blow out on windy days. I like a mesh feeder. Yes, more rain will get on the seed if it is rainy. The other argument, however, is that moisture can more easily wick away from the seed because of all the holes, and you might get more birds because they can easily cling to the entire surface, not just on pre-positioned perches. The diamond mesh of the model pictured here is perfect for serving up Nyjer® to your friends.
The feeder has to be kept clean as well. If you have one with ports, be sure that the seed moves easily in the tube and that the ports aren’t clogged with dampened and caked seed. If it needs cleaning, I recommend cleaning it at the end of the day. Use soapy water and rinse it well. Leave it to dry thoroughly overnight.
The best thing about Nyjer®: squirrels don’t usually go for it! So you don’t have to have special squirrel-proof gadgets and slinky contraptions to keep the varmints at bay.
As usual, however, I recommend you get a good sturdy feeder at your independent wild bird retail store. They’ll help you pick one out that won’t need to be replaced every year. Several manufacturers make models that have a lifetime guarantee. This is a case in which money spent for a good feeder from a reliable retailer makes sense. Your independent retailer is your friend and will be there if you have additional questions or problems.
By Meera Subramanian for Nature.com
Despite a ban on toxic bullets, the carcasses left by US hunters are poisoning this majestic carrion feeder.
After more than three decades on the brink of extinction, the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) — the largest and most threatened wild bird species in the United States — is making a modest recovery, thanks to intensive captive breeding and medical intervention. But troubling data reported this week suggest that unless hunters change their practices, the condor will require extensive support in perpetuity if it is to survive in the wild.
The cause of the problem is that the condors ingest lead when they feed on the carcasses of animals that hunters have shot. A multidisciplinary study published on 26 June (M. Finkelstein et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1203141109; 2012) shows that chronic lead poisoning persists among condors, despite a 2008 California ban on the use of lead shot in regions where the birds are being reintroduced.
Building on earlier studies, the researchers collected feathers and blood samples from trapped birds and found no discernible difference in lead levels before and after the ban. Condors feed by scavenging; the results show that many of those sampled have dangerous levels of lead in their bodies. Lead poisoning can severely damage the birds’ nervous systems and impair liver and kidney function, among other problems, and it can be fatal. The study also found that approximately 20% of condors in the wild have lead levels that are high enough to require costly treatment with chemical agents to remove the toxic metal from their bodies.
“By any measure, the lead poisoning rates in condors are of epidemic proportions,” says Myra Finkelstein, a toxicologist at the University of California at Santa Cruz, who led the research.
The California condor population fell to an all-time low of 22 individuals in 1982, but captive-breeding and monitoring programmes have brought it back up to nearly 400 birds. Of those, half reside in captive-breeding centres, which provide a steady supply of new releases. In California, only 24 chicks have fledged in the wild. At that rate, the study shows, it would take 1,800 years for the population in California to reach 150 — the number called for in the recovery plan — without the ongoing release of birds bred in captivity.
Finkelstein’s team did an isotopic analysis of the lead in the birds and identified lead shot or bullets as the main source of contamination. Even though hunters must use copper bullets or other alternatives in condor habitat, some are apparently ignoring the ban. Condors must consume 75–150 carcasses every year to maintain a healthy weight. The study found that even if fewer than 2% of the carcasses contain lead, there is a 50% chance that a condor will eat contaminated meat (see ‘Loaded odds’).
“Kudos to the hunters who are using copper [bullets], but it isn’t going to be effective until you get all the lead out,” says Jeff Miller, conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), based in Tucson, Arizona. Lead ammunition is cheaper and popular with hunters. The American Bird Conservancy in The Plains, Virginia, which advocates for lead-free hunting, argues that publicizing the risk of lead shot to human health might persuade hunters to use alternatives.
Pedro Nava, a former member of the California State Assembly who spearheaded the lead ban, says that a lack of resources for enforcing the ban means that the condor’s future depends on the good will of hunters. He says that the California Department of Fish and Game needs more enforcement personnel. “They have 300 game wardens in the state. If they were to be consistent with other states in terms of population, they should have a thousand,” he says.
Nava says that he would like to see the ban expand beyond condor habitat, starting with state-owned uplands favoured by hunters. On 7 June, the CBD filed a lawsuit to require the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban lead ammunition, but the agency maintains that it lacks the legal authority to do so.
Despite general acceptance in the United States for the need to restrict lead in nearly all commercial products, the National Rifle Association (NRA), based in Washington DC, says that applying such rules to ammunition would infringe US gunowners’ rights. “We’d look at it as an anti-gun move,” said Susan Recce, the NRA’s director of conservation, wildlife and natural resources. The NRA is lobbying for legislation that would prevent any EPA intervention.
Finkelstein says that the problem has to be addressed somehow, or the California condors will never recover. “We’re spending an exorbitant amount of time tracking, trapping and hospitalizing these condors to manage their lead poisoning episodes,” she says. “It’s just not an effective way to go about this problem.”
The 2012-2013 Federal Junior Duck Stamp, based on a design by 17-year-old Christine Clayton of Sidney, Ohio, will go on sale June 29. The First Day of Sale event for both the Federal Duck Stamp and the Junior Duck Stamp will be held on that day at the BassPro Shops retail outlet in Hampton, Virginia. The Federal Stamp costs $15; the Junior Duck Stamp costs $5.
All environmental and bird educators should know that the proceeds for the Federal Stamp go to build wetland and grassland habitat in the Refuge System and that the proceeds for the Junior Duck Stamp go to support the program’s conservation education awards and scholarships. The Junior Duck Stamp’s intent is to create a wetland-and-waterfowl conservation interest, beginning with youth-based art.
With that goal in mind, a creative and thorough “Educator Guide” and additional “Youth Guide” for the Junior Duck Stamp were released earlier this year. These guides, designed for students grade 5-8 (with adaptations for other grades), provide lesson plans, exercises, and activities focusing on scientific principles, our natural world, an art connection, and just plain fun. They meet National Science Education Content Standards, North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) Guidelines for Learning, and National Visual Arts education standards for children in grades K-12. This is a real step forward, connecting young students with nature through science and art. To find out more and download the free guides, see here.
Finally, you may be interested in the new website for the Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp, whose mission is to promote, preserve, sell, and better understand the “Duck Stamp” and also to increase the popularity of the Junior Duck Stamp. Find more details on this group by clicking here.
Human-caused racket may cut baby bluebird survival
By Susan Milius, Science News Web edition : Friday, June 15th, 2012
Baby eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis) born in nests near human-made noise have lower survival rates than bluebirds born in more remote locations, a Virginia study finds. Steve Byland/Shutterstock
ALBUQUERQUE — Baby bluebirds don’t survive as well near rumbling traffic and other human din as they do amid natural lullabies.
In a Virginia study, 35 percent more chicks died in the noisiest nests than in the most remote ones. Researchers found that chicks didn’t adjust for the noise by begging louder or at different frequencies. So parents may not have gotten the right cues for nestling care, behavioral ecologist John Swaddle suggested June 12 at the annual meeting of the Animal Behavior Society.
Until recently, most research on how human-made noise discombobulates birds has focused on how adults adjust their songs (or don’t) or on what species will nest at all among the din. Research is now turning to how noise might directly affect the success of a species. One earlier study on reproductive success, in common European birds called great tits, found smaller clutches near roaring highways.
Clutch size didn’t shrink among eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis), said Swaddle, a professor at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. Birds settling in to the 43 nest boxes he and his colleagues monitored for two years all started with about the same number of eggs.
Just what made noisier nests less successful after hatching isn’t clear, but Swaddle suspects that noise kept parents from caring for their nestlings properly. Noise might have made food harder to find, or it might have masked normal parent-chick chat. Even though baby birds have become an icon of endlessly demanding maws, parents do tune their feeding effort to begging calls, and research has confirmed the importance of communication.
Microphones set up 15 meters from nest boxes revealed that local human clamor could mask part of the nestlings’ peeps. Adult birds often perch at a similar distance from their nests when checking out the local situation.
In theory, baby birds might have adjusted their cheeping to compensate for the noise. In nest boxes with real noises, though, the young bluebirds either couldn’t or just didn’t accommodate.
“Whatever the reason, it’s clear they’re not doing as well,” says Emilie Snell-Rood of the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. The 35 percent survival gap “is a really big number when factored into projections about a population’s future,” she said. She studies behavioral flexibility and points out that hopes for wildlife adapting to human menaces depend on having populations big and varied enough to make meaningful adaptations.
W.Va. group rehabilitates injured birds
By Alex Lang, Sunday Gazette Mail
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — More than 60 birds have returned to flight thanks to a new local organization.
The Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia (ACCA) has helped dozens of grounded birds take wing again through medical care and rehabilitation. It also tries to conserve wild birds through education, public outreach and scientific research.
The center operates out of the Cheat Lake Animal Hospital.
The group works with Division of Natural Resources offices and volunteers and gets tips about injured birds, said Jesse Fallon, director of veterinary medicine for the organization. It examines the bird and, depending on the extent of the injuries, does what is necessary to rehabilitate the animal.
“All birds that can be are released into the wild,” Fallon said.
However, some have injuries too severe to be returned, Fallon said.
The organization has 11 bird species right now, including owls, a belted kingfisher and a bald eagle, Fallon said.
Some of the birds are with the organization for 24 hours, others for much longer, Fallon said. For example, the kingfisher has a broken wing and will be with ACCA for an extended period.
Fallon said ACCA gets support from private donations of money and from people giving their time, such as he does. There are about 20 ACCA volunteers, vice chairwoman Erin Katzner said.
When they do release a bird, Katzner said, there is a bit of trepidation and holding of the breath until they actually see it fly. She said that moment is a huge sense of relief.
The center is looking at taking its education programs to groups of school-aged children, Katzner said. They can teach the students about protecting the birds’ wildlife through programs like recycling.
The main message was a simple one: “Birds are cool,” she said.
Find this rehabber online: http://www.accawv.org/