Injured adult doves and young are quite plentiful right now at the Wildlife Center. Most folks are familiar with the haunting call of the Mourning Dove and can pick it out at (under) the birdfeeder. But the Houston area is home to a total of four different species. All doves start life as “ugly ducklings” covered in dingy white down and a disproportionately large beak. Pigeons belong to the same family as the dove and are sometimes called Rock Doves. The most common dove in the greater Houston is the Mourning Dove, but the White Wing Dove is quickly becoming a fixture in our backyards. Rare until 5 -7 years ago, they were usually seen only when migrating to or from breeding grounds in Mexico and Central America. These days they are frequent year-round visitors. They look very similar to Mourning Doves, but they are much bigger and at rest, you can see the white band that outlines the leading edge of the wing. (Note the white feathers are already emerging on the nestling below) Eurasian Collared Doves can be distinguished from Mourning Doves because they have a thin black collar or necklace at the base of the neck. Inca Doves are the smaller of the species that make Houston home, in the bright sun there are some iridescent feathers, but the “tiled” appearance of the feathers is the most distinguishing characteristic. Doves make sloppy haphazard nests that often fall apart before the babies have fully fledged. Therefore, baby doves are one of the most common species seen at the Wildlife Center. Every effort should be make to encourage [...]
Winter brings some of our favorite visitors from the north. Flocks of American Robins, Goldfinch, and Cedar Waxwings are spending the next few months on our Gulf Coast. The Wildlife Center received its first Cedar Waxwing of the season. The patient is a gorgeous adult who flew into a window and sustained a minor head trauma as well as soft tissue damage to a wing. Medications were administered and he has been put on cage rest. The Cedar Waxwing is a finely tailored bird. Beautiful shades of tan and pale cinnamon melt into a soft yellow belly and dove gray back. The tail darkens from a soft gray to black and is banded along the tips in bright yellow. The wings sport a spot or two of bright red. He appears to be dressed for a winter ball. These birds are very gregarious during migration and it isn’t uncommon to see a cloud of them descend upon a berry producing bush and strip it bare. They can be found congregating is open areas that offer good meals of berries, insects, sap and flowers. The prognosis for the patient is good. If you find any of these special visitors laying in your yard, gently pick it up and place in a box, keep warm with a rice sock or heating pad set on low and bring it to the Wildlife Center.
Seabirds along the coasts of Washington and Oregon are mysteriously losing the waterproofing that protects their feathers. Without this waterproofing, the birds quickly develop hypothermia and have to expend much more energy to remain afloat. Unable to hunt, the birds become dehydrated and starve. There are many theories concerning the cause, but none has been proven. It seems that a contributing factor may be the foam produced when red tide algae die and decompose. It is estimated that over one thousand birds have washed up dead and almost five hundred have been collected by concerned citizens. The Coast Guard has airlifted hundreds of birds to a rehabilitation center in California for care. Could this happen here? Yes, it already has on a much smaller scale. AND there have been reports of red tide in south Texas over the last several weeks. Is WR&E prepared? You bet! The WR&E Wildlife Center has a team of State and Federally permitted and experienced wildlife rehabilitators that can care for all species of birds and mammals including endangered species during an emergency. We have the capability to set up remote facilities with the option of using the facilities available at the Wildlife Center. Each facility is capable of managing the treatment of 500 large seabirds such as pelican. The facilities can be modified to handle even greater numbers of smaller birds or mammals. Response equipment is stored in 8 “push pact” containers that can be trucked or airlifted anywhere for oiled wildlife response, hurricane response or other wildlife emergencies. The containers include over 3000 various sizes of plastic crates/kennels, 44 large cases of towels, paper towels, trash bags, feeding bowls, etc. We have free standing wooden cages equipped [...]
The Great Horned Owl Cyndi Bohannon The Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) is arguably one of the most majestic of all raptors. Solitary in nature, a group would be called a Parliament. Of the order Strigifermes and family Strigidae, the Great Horned owl is considered a “true owl”. The other owl family, Tytonidae include barn owls. Eight sub-species have been recognized. The territories of sub-species rarely overlap. The largest owl in the United States, it can stand 18 to 27 inches and have a wingspan of 48 to 60 inches! The Great Horned owl is the most widely distributed true owl in the Americas, inhabiting all ecosystems except deep desert and Arctic tundra. The overall coloration ranges from near white in the far northern portion of their range to dark chocolate brown in the southern regions. Size and weight varies geographically with the larger, heavier individuals living in colder climates. The females are larger than the males and weight ranges between two and a half and four pounds. All sub-species share the overall markings: prominent ear-tufts or “horns”, white patch at the throat, narrow bars on the front and a random mottled back. The Great Horned Owl primarily hunts at night, but sightings at dawn and dusk are not unusual. Perched high above an open area, it silently swoops down upon almost anything that moves. Its diet is extremely diverse, but small to medium mammals, birds and waterfowl are favorites. It is the only known predator of the skunk. Unlike many raptors, the Great Horned Owl will walk on the ground to gather crawfish, amphibians, reptiles or large insects. It have been known to walk into henhouses and wade into shallow water for a meal. [...]
I Made a Difference for That One! The people who bring us orphaned and injured native Texas wildlife and their stories begin to blend together after a time, but what I’ve often noticed is that saving this one animal or this one litter or clutch takes on a life of its own. One that is much bigger that the simple act of kindness in bringing an animal for care and surrendering it to a wildlife rehabilitator for treatment. Deep emotions are frequently revealed when at last someone says “Yes, I can help”. This single act could be a turning point, never to be forgotten; the discovery of an avocation; a cathartic release that even though a loved one had not been spared, the person COULD save this animal. A weight could be lifted that was much greater than most persons would ascribe to the life or death of an animal. Animals whether they are domestic or wild bring to us ways of dealing with emotions that we either didn’t know what to do with or realized that we even had. I’ve heard stories - the man who’s wife of many years died of cancer brought a fluffy yellow duckling to us to save. In some small way he was filling that empty uselessness he felt as she slipped away from him. The man who needed to be needed and in a quirk of fate, even though he wasn’t a big animal lover, began building cages great and small. The 12 year old son that watches all of this and can trot out every speech I’ve ever made, then quietly help me decide that this one can’t be saved and can’t be left to suffer. But [...]
CenterPoint once again steps in to help our feathered friends. Last year David McAden, WR&E volunteer and CenterPoint Energy employee contacted CenterPoint to help WR&E successfully re-nest two baby great horned owls the story was chronicled in the Summer 2008 newsletter. This spring, David called the Wildlife Center concerning a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus) who had drilled completely through a power pole in the Dickinson/Santa Fe area. The largest woodpecker in the area, once seen, it can not be confused with any other bird. As large as a crow, the bright red crest crowns a handsome shiny black bird with white wing linings. The top bill is black and the lower bill is a medium tan (horn) colored. The pole was seriously weakened by several excavations that fully penetrated the pole. The weight of the lines put it in danger of snapping. CenterPoint agreed to preserve the woodpecker’s home. A new concrete pole was erected and the power lines transferred. The male and female woodpeckers were last seen enjoying their home while the sturdy new pole was doing its job. It is very rewarding to see companies peacefully coexisting with our native wildlife.