The Wildlife Center Texas received some special help recently when volunteers from Chevron stopped by with power tools and big hearts. They built new enclosures for the different wildlife that comes into our center which will help us rescue and rehabilitate even more animals. We are always grateful to all our volunteers and supporters who help Texas Wildlife!
A little more than half of the year is over. So we decided to take stock of where we are. As of the end of July, the number of animals that have been brought to the Wildlife Center is 6715. We knew that it had been a busy baby season, but *whew*. We at the Wildlife Center cannot thank the thousands of warm hearted rescuers enough for caring enough to go above and beyond to bring the ill, injured and orphaned to the Wildlife Center. All of you are heroes. Many of you have had to re-arrange schedules, bribe your teenagers to drive to us, come from over two hours away, brave weather, traffic etc. We are grateful for you. This past month several heroes really stick out in our mind. The first was a policeman on night duty who every time we went by a certain block, he found baby ducks in the street. He would shoo them into the grass. Finally, very late at night when he was off duty he went back and sure enough there they were huddled in the street again. He gently scooped them up and brought them to the Wildlife Center the next morning. Another story involved some residents of Tiki Island and an injured pelican. A brown pelican crashed into a picnic table and fell into the water. Attempts were made to rescue the pelican but it kept getting away. Even though it had an injured wing and could not fly off, it sure could swim. A couple on Tiki Island, with the aid of their neighbor were finally able to catch the bird and bring it to the Wildlife Center. The neighbor sustained some cuts to his feet during [...]
When asked about woodpeckers most respondents identify a small black and white bird with a touch of red on its crown as a Red-headed Woodpecker. The problem is that the smaller woodpecker could be a Downy or a Hairy Woodpecker and the Red-headed Woodpecker is probably a Red-bellied Woodpecker. Some have seen the unforgettable Pileated Woodpecker, but they aren’t a common visitor to backyard feeders. Downy Woodpecker Hairy Woodpecker The Hairy Woodpecker is slightly larger than the Downy, but since size is relative it usually isn’t the determining characteristic. Instead look to the bill – the Hairy Woodpecker has a solid woodpecker profile while the Downy Woodpecker’s profile is much more delicate. An interesting fact from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, "Male and female Downy Woodpeckers divide up where they look for food in winter. Males feed more on small branches and weed stems, and females feed on larger branches and trunks. Males keep females from foraging in the more productive spots. When researchers have removed males from a woodlot, females have responded by feeding along smaller branches". Red-headed Woodpecker The Red-headed Woodpecker is a stunning bird that is primarily black and sports a magnificent solid red head and neck. While it is a year-round resident of the Gulf Coast, it is relatively rare in backyard gardens. Red-bellied Woodpecker The Red-bellied Woodpecker has a red crown and nape, but the eyes, cheeks and throat are the same off-white as the belly. The back is covered in a pattern of black and white called “ladder-back”. Red-bellied woodpeckers can often be seen doing crazy contortions trying [...]
The drought Texas is experiencing is one of the worst this state has ever seen. At the Wildlife Center, both mammals and birds are being brought in by the public in dehydrated and emaciated condition. There’s not much we can do to increase our chances of rain, but there are things we can do to help wildlife in their quest for survival during this extreme hot climate change. This article will look at what can be done to help different groups of animals. Birds Both baby and adult birds are greatly affected by the heat. The birds are either starving because their parents are struggling to find food, or the adults collapse from the traumatic heat stress they are enduring. The best way to help our native birds is to provide a water source for them to help endure these dire conditions. Generally speaking, a bird bath should be no more than 3” deep for birds. Change the water daily to avoid spreading disease. Do not chemicals to clean your birdbath. Just use a brush to scrub out any algae every few days. Weekly, you should rinse you freshly cleaned bird bath with a 10% solution of bleach and water. That’s just over 1 ½ ounces of bleach per gallon of water. Let the solution stand for a couple of minutes and rinse. This will kill parasites and bacteria. Place the birdbath near some small bushes or low cover. This makes them feel more secure and not out in the open and vulnerable to predators. It also allows them to have a place to fly to in order to preen their feathers after bathing. If possible, textured birdbaths such as concrete are preferred so birds [...]
Baby bunnies come to the Wildlife Center for many reasons. When the rains are plentiful and the grass is lush, most of the babies are kidnapped from mother rabbits by well meaning homeowners. For more information, two articles have already been written on this subject. http://wildlifecenteroftexas.org/2011/03/bunnies-bunnies-everywhere/ and http://wildlifecenteroftexas.org/2010/06/two-for-tea/ When drought occurs, more care must be taken, because it cannot be assumed that unattended young are well cared for. Call the Wildlife Center at 713-861-9453 for assistance. Baby bunnies are one of the more difficult mammals to rehabilitate since they do not nurse per se. They also nurse very slowly and take four to five times longer to feed than a squirrel or raccoon of the same age. Very young bunnies must be placed with our permitted rehabilitators and cared for at their homes since they require feeding into the night. Once the bunny can go from six p.m. until seven a.m. without feeding, it can come back to the Wildlife Center for care. Our off-site rehabilitators are our unsung heroes since they accept animals that are too sick, injured or young to thrive at the Wildlife Center. Lagomorphs superficially resemble rodents, but differ in several ways. The most obvious is the unusual arrangement of the front teeth, behind each prominent incisor is a small peg-like tooth. Like rodents, lagomorphs must constantly wear down the front teeth, otherwise they can grow to the point that the animal cannot eat. The order Lagomorpha includes the family Leporidae which include rabbits and hares and the family Ochotonidae which include pikas. Texas is home to two genera and five species of rabbits and hares. Three species can be found in the greater Houston area. Two species are limited to [...]
Otters? In Houston? Really? That is the universal reaction we get at the Wildlife Center when visitors to our facility or website discover that we are caring for three juvenile North American River Otters. The next statement is invariably, “Why, I’ve never even seen an otter here!” They are in good company. Researchers specializing in otters can go years without seeing a wild otter in the flesh. They have to conduct their research using scat, tracks and images caught on camera traps. The rarity in sightings should not, however, be equated with a lack of individuals. There are a number of reasons why otters are not often seen. Even in healthy river environments, the abundance of otters is never high. The best estimates of researchers, and estimates they are, put a natural population density at one individual to every 2 to 10 miles of river. By their very nature, river otters are shy and elusive. Also as river creatures, not much of them can be seen when they are in their favored habitat. While in the water, only a small portion of their heads can be seen. Trying to differentiate them from a beaver or nutria is very difficult. River otters, as a rule, are active on land only at night and remain in the water or in a den during the day. Otters belong to the weasel family, the Mustelidae. Other members include ferrets, mink, badgers and wolverines. These creatures are all noted for their boundless energy and voracious appetites. Their body plans are equally similar: long thin flexible bodies, a small head equipped with powerful jaws and short strong limbs. Also in common to all of the species is a set of large [...]
There are few birds that are any flashier or eye-catching than a Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) in flight. The Pileated Woodpecker is Texas’ largest woodpecker. The body is similar to that of a crow, but the wingspan is much greater. The coloration is predominately black, with a striking red crested head. The feathers underneath the wing are white as is the face. A black band across the eyes lends a rakish air. The beak is slate black and another band of black runs from the lower beak to the neck. Often there is a red cheek splash. Woody the Woodpecker is probably the best known example of his species. Many people believe Woody is a Red-headed Woodpecker, but his crest proudly announces he is a Pileated Woodpecker. In areas that are dominated with smaller woodpecker species, Red-headed or Red-bellied Woodpeckers are sometimes mistaken for the larger Pileated. Once spotted, they are impossible to forget or confuse with another bird. Mating begins in early spring as the male excavates a large nest with multiple entrances to attract a mate. Once mated, the pair will remain year-round protecting their territory. Juveniles and floaters are tolerated during the winter months. Both parents will sit the nest and will even retrieve fallen eggs. The ability to physically retrieve fallen eggs and by extrapolation newly hatched young is rare in birds. The nest will be utilized only once by the Pileated Woodpeckers. These abandoned cavities are a boon to many other species that utilize nest-cavities, but are unable to create them themselves. Even without seeing a Pileated Woodpecker, you can identify a pair’s territory by looking for square to rectangular holes of the nest cavity or [...]
The Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) (previously known as: Strix otus) is a species of owl which breeds in Europe, Asia, and North America. Texas lies firmly in its non-breeding or wintering grounds, but sightings are rare. In the twenty plus years that the rehabilitators of the Wildlife Center have been caring for raptors, they have only cared for two or three. Reminiscent of a Great Horned Owl, the Long-eared Owl is much smaller and is considered a medium sized owl. This species is a part of the larger grouping of owls known as typical owls, family Strigidae, which contains most species of owl. Barn Owls form the other family of owls called Tytonidae. While adult and sub-adult Screech Owls are sometimes confused as baby Great Horned Owls, the coloration and eye color is wrong. If the public had greater access to Long-eared Owls, the confusion of a grown Long-eared Owl as a baby Great Horned Owl would make more sense. Should you have the honor of seeing a Long-eared Owl in the wild, note that it is significantly smaller than the Great Horned Owl, the facial disks are orange and the ear tufts are much closer together. In parts of its range, the Long-eared Owl is considered a species at risk, or at some level of being endangered. Habitat destruction is the primary explanation for the decline of this raptor. Boreal forests are being cut down for development, land use is changing from timber to agriculture and tree farms are shifting from soft woods like pine to hard woods. Tree farm management has even impacted the Long-eared Owl’s habitat by thinning the underbrush and undesired trees. The Long-eared Owl nests usually in coniferous forests, but [...]
This medium sized plover boasts one of the most incredible migrations. While many migrating birds visit twice during the spring and fall, the American Golden Plover uses a circular migration route. Therefore it travels through the Houston area only in the spring. In the fall the plover flies offshore from the East Coast of North America nonstop to South America flying over the Atlantic and Caribbean Sea. The American Golden Plover’s wintering grounds in South America include Patagonia, Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina. They have one of the longest migration journeys which covers 25,000 miles. It is amazing that about 2,500 miles of this is over open seas where the plover has no chance to drink or eat. When these migrating flocks were timed, they ranged in speed from 60-70 m.p.h. In the spring, the northbound birds pass through Central United States stopping to stage in large numbers before their final push up into the northern arctic tundra regions of Alaska and Canada where they will nest and raise their young. The American Golden Plover’s arctic breeding grounds provide safety from humans and many predators due to the starkness of their habitat. They nest on the ground in open dry areas. As soon as they arrive on their breeding grounds, males begin their territorial display flights and pair bonds take place. The males make a nest scrape and line it with soft lichens. The females produce four eggs. There is an interesting split of incubation duties, females incubate by night and the males incubate by day. The chicks, like most ground birds, are precocial and feed themselves with a few hours of hatching. Both parents stay with the young until they are ready to fly. The [...]
Sharon Schmalz, Executive Director of The Wildlife Center of Texas and Patricia Mercer, President of the Wildlife Center of Texas Board of Directors accept a $50,000 donation from Chevron U.S.A INC. presented by Randy Curry, President, Chevron Pipe Line along with Jeff Downing. Environmental Unit Leader Chevron Pipe Line Company. This much needed donation will help to support our non-profit organization and our efforts to save Texas wildlife. We extend a grateful Thank You Chevron!