Does Bird Feeder = Hawk Feeder?

When it comes to bird feeders it's always something. If it isn't the squirrels eating the seed, it is the hawks eating the birds. While we all know that hawks need to eat, we just don't want them dining at OUR bird feeders. The only way to truly make a feeder hawk proof would be to build a cage around your yard that has openings big enough for the birds, but too small for the hawks. Since that is clearly impractical what are the alternatives? For the last 14 years a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks has called the land around my house their territory. There have probably been many pairs, but there is always a pair claiming our yard as their territory. They scream out their territorial challenge from the abandoned Martin house in my neighbor's yard on a daily basis. Despite this there have been less than 5 instances where a hawk or other predator has taken a bird from my back-yard. Why? Maybe I got lucky with my feeder placement, but my neighbor hasn't complained about hawks taking his birds either. What do the placement of my feeder and my neighbor's feeder have in common? Absolutely nothing - and maybe that is the point. My yard has enough cover that straight line shots are minimized. My neighbor has several large trees, but they are grouped together leaving lots of straight line shots, especially from the abandoned Martin house. My theory is that I have physically made it harder for the hawks to snatch from my yard and my neighbor has made it psychologically more difficult because prey feel exposed and jumpy. Most hawks scope out potential food sources (i.e. your birds) from a nearby perch. [...]

Lovey Dovey

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 [...]

By |May 23rd, 2010|Categories: Songbirds, Wildlife Rescue|Tags: , |1 Comment

Nests, Eggs and Babies

During the winter one of the projects undertaken by several WR&E volunteers and staff was to upgrade their incubation program.  A great deal of research went into improving the candling, heat, humidity and turning of the eggs.  It was an interesting project and the center is looking forward to implementing new procedures.  Almost all birds are protected by international treaties which are enforced by the United States Fish and Wildlife, this includes eggs. When USF&W grants permission to “take” the eggs they can be brought to the Wildlife Center. These international treaties also protect the nest as well. The most common bird egg that is brought to the Wildlife Center is the Killdeer.  Killdeer look a little like a sandpiper, but they are a grassland bird. They like both natural grasslands like plains and prairies and manmade grasslands like pastures, golf courses and suburban lawns. They are about the size of a Cardinal, but stand 9 – 11 inches tall because of long stilt-like legs. Killdeer don’t build nests, but instead lay 4 speckled eggs in a shallow depression or among gravel or small rocks.  It is best known for pretending to have a broken wing to lure predators away from the nest or young. To make sure the predator sees they are “injured” they call kill-DEE in a very loud voice. The babies are precocial, which means that soon after they hatch they are running about and foraging for themselves. They look like a miniature adult. The parents provide protection and may show the babies where good food is, but they don’t actually feed the babies. The babies are all grown up by the end of the summer. They live just about everywhere in [...]

Ending the Year – Upside Down

The end of the year brought trauma to a Barred Owl from Crosby.  The owl became trapped in a batting cage net and the more he twisted the more tangled he became.  Kind rescuers braved the cold drizzly weather to free the owl.  The net had to be cut and the owl was rushed to the Wildlife Center where an exam showed no broken bones.  The owl was given warm fluids and put under a heat lamp.  Several hours later he was standing and appeared to be in good shape.  A week or two of cage rest and some good food should have this owl up and back hunting in his Crosby neighborhood.  This owl and five other animals became the last patients of the 2009 year.  The Crosby owl was joined by an injured opossum, a pelican, two red-tailed hawks and a screech owl.  All were examined, treated and medications administered.  They as with the owl were tucked into warm cages as they ushered in the new year with a new chance at life.   Each year the Wildlife Center takes in over 7000 injured ill or orphaned wildlife.  WR&E staff and volunteers are always curious which species will be the first of the new year.  The first animal for the 2010 new year was a gorgeous adult red tailed hawk.  He was found in a yard on High Island, with an injured wing.  After a ride on the ferry to Galveston and a car trip up I-45 he arrived at the Wildlife Center.  A through exam revealed a sprained wing that probably occurred when it hit a power line or moving vehicle.  The first few days of the new year proved to be very busy [...]

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