While baby bird season is beginning to wind down, we are still receiving Mockingbirds, Blue Jays and Dove. The pictured Mockingbird is a fledgling. From hatching of an altricial species to the unfurling of enough flight feathers to flutter short distances is considered the nestling stage. Babies are completely dependent on the parents at this stage for nourishment, warmth and protection. Once they fledge, the young will continue to beg for food, but will begin to search for food on their own. Within a few days they are flying well and feeding themselves. Precocial species like Killdeer, chickens and ducks are mobile and self-feeding shortly after hatching. They require mom’s protection and guidance to find good sources of food. They will hang together as a group until the young are flying well. Then the group will disperse. Raptors, especially the larger owls have an additional development phase called branchling that occurs between nestling and fledgling. Branchling babies can’t really fly yet, but they leave the nest and spread out along the nearby branches. They continue to be fed by the parents and strengthen their wings by vigorous flapping. They begin to experiment with flight by jumping and fluttering between branches.
The Wildlife Center receives many more Wood Ducks and Black Bellied Whistling Ducks than their populations in the wild would imply. Speculation about this phenomenon centers around the fact that both species perch in trees and prefer to nest in tree cavities. All ducks nest near a water source or wetland, but perching ducks have a "bird’s eye view" of water sources that ground nesting ducks wouldn’t normally notice. The problem is that the parent ducks don’t take into account that there are fences or roads between their tree and the water source. Babies sometimes slip under a fence or into a pool where parents cannot retrieve them. What to do if you find unchaperoned ducklings. First, look to see if you can spot a parent and the other ducklings. If so, scoop up the wayward duckling(s) and release them near their siblings. If it is early in the day and there are no nearby predators – give the parents a few hours to reunite. If it is late in the day or the ducklings are threatened place them in a box and bring them to the Wildlife Center. What can you do to help this situation? Both species of duck will use nest boxes. The nest box should be placed in a location that has an unimpeded path to the water. If you are interested in building a nest box, click here. Both species of duck are territorial and a touch lazy. If there are too many nest boxes, a female will "dump" her eggs into someone else's nest box. She may think she's done her duty without having to sit on the eggs, but in nest boxes with two or more clutches none [...]
VOLUNTEERS GET ‘QUACKING’ Fall 2007 The Wildlife Center had two very special patients this fall. The first was a small female Mallard mixed duck brought to a WR&E rehabilitator, Margaret Pickell. After closer examination, it was determined that a dog had attacked the Mallard. Normally, wildlife is not given a domestic animal name, but this special creature had been named Ducka by the family who brought her in. For you see, Ducka has lived in a local pond for several years and had a unique problem. She had no feet, only little stubs but had obviously adapted quite well. Margaret transported Ducka to the Wildlife Center where she was treated for scratches and a sprained wing. Following a short recovery period, she healed and is now enjoying life at a ranch pond with other ducks - and no dogs. The other memorable patient was a Peking duck mix who was admitted with the tip of her beak hanging by a thread. Yet another caring family caught her and brought her to the wildlife center for proper care. One of the Wildlife Center’s valued and long-term volunteers, Diane Cheadle, an area veterinary technician, was able to use her years of experience and expertise to reconstruct the bill. Diane cleaned the wound, and then used a special dental product , Ortho-Jet (an acrylic resin used to make dental retainers) - to reconstruct the bill. The dilemma was that the duck wasn’t going to sit still for a fitting and anesthesia is always tricky in birds. As feared, the duck’s heart stopped during the operation and Diane had to resuscitate it. Some extra oxygen and chest compressions – and everything was ducky again. After a few weeks [...]