Column: Networking for wildlifeThis June, when Karlee brought in a lone Canada gosling she’d found, we put out a call on Facebook and elsewhere, looking for Canada goose families with goslings the same size.
By: Grace Moores, For the Budgeteer News
This June, when Karlee brought in a lone Canada gosling she’d found, we put out a call on Facebook and elsewhere, looking for Canada goose families with goslings the same size.
Soon, one of our Facebook contacts told us of the perfect goose family in a nearby park. We got as close to the goose family as we could without spooking it and then released our gosling. Peeping wildly, the gosling ran to them and was soon swallowed up in a throng of fuzzy little geese.
Last summer, when Tricia brought in a nestling robin orphaned by a cat, Duluth Audubon Society members helped us find a nest of robins the same age. While the parents were briefly away from the nest, we popped in the new chick and then watched from a distance as the parents, oblivious of the new baby’s parentage, fed him along with the rest of their brood.
Wild birds have many gifts — sharp eyes, strong wings, and an amazing adaptation called feathers. Despite these physical advantages, young birds still must learn many skills in order to survive.
Though wildlife rehabilitators do our best to raise and care for orphaned wild birds, we are poor substitutes for bird parents. Therefore, when we get orphaned wild birds, we do our best to find them new bird families. And fortunately for us, though birds have many abilities, counting isn’t one of them.
Baby birds come in two general types — precocial and altricial.
Precocial birds such as ducklings and goslings hatch with their eyes open, covered in downy feathers, and are able to walk and peck at food. Though their parents do not feed them, they warm and protect them. They also teach their young by example what they should eat, flee from, etc.
Precocial birds are very social as youngsters, and present special challenges to rehabbers. Solo orphaned ducklings and other precocial birds may refuse to eat or drink if not with others of their kind, and may even die if alone. Also, young precocial birds learn survival skills from their parents, so being in a family is important.
Altricial birds, such as songbirds and raptors, hatch naked and helpless. Their parents do everything for them — feeding them, keeping them warm, and protecting them, as well as teaching them survival skills.
When seeking a foster family for an orphaned bird, we look for birds of the same species with babies of the same age.
With a precocial bird like a gosling or duckling, we may add several babies to a foster family, since the parents will not have the burden of feeding them.
With an altricial bird like a baby robin, which the parents must feed as well as warm and protect, we may add only one foster baby to the nest.
Sometimes placing an orphan into a new family is as easy as heading to the park, releasing a gosling next to a goose family with similar-sized goslings, and then watching with satisfaction as everyone waddles away happily together.
At other times, we must search farther afield to find suitable families. Over the years, Wildwoods has developed partnerships with local groups such as Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, the Duluth Audubon
Society, and local bird watchers and nature enthusiasts. These resources, as well as our friends on Facebook, often help us locate wild bird families for our orphans.
We also partner with other rehabilitators and rehabilitation centers, including the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota in Roseville, Minn., Wild and Free Wildlife Program in Garrison, Minn., and the Raptor Center of Minnesota in St. Paul.
If we are unable to find a nest or foster family for a solo orphan, we’ll check with these centers. If they have orphans of the same species who are about the same age, we’ll transfer our foundling to that center so it can be raised with others of its kind.
Like parent birds who can’t count, our community members, Internet friends, local birding societies, and other wildlife rehabilitation centers are indispensable to us, helping us fulfill our mission of successfully returning orphaned young birds to the wild.
They say it takes a village to raise a child.
Sometimes it takes two communities, human and avian, to raise a wild bird.
For more information on wildlife and how you can help, please visit our website: www.wildwoodsrehab. org or phone (218)491-3604.
Grace Moores studied at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Currently she works with Wildwoods, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation organization in Duluth.