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 three armadillo brothers that were raised at the Wildlife Center since they were a couple of days old were taken to a remote site that already has armadillo on it for release. It was wonderful to witness these unusual mammals grow, change and learn. Watching their instinctual behavior emerge gave us confidence that these boys would have the tools they needed to survive at release. The landowner dug a trench to create an artificial den. At the uphill end of the trench, he placed a five-gallon bucket. To the cap of the bucket, he connected a “tunnel” of metal dryer vent. Then everything except the entrance was buried. A low fence was erected to guide the armadillo to the nearby pond. Back-up food was provided. The armadillo had been busy digging around the enclosure, so the fence was removed. The landowner dug up the den one week later check on the health and well-being of the brothers. He discovered that two of the three armadillo was still calling it home. It is thought that the largest of the three was probably foraging nearby or had struck out on his own. It is expected that the remaining two will eventually abandon the artificial den, but it will be there in case they need a place to hide. What a perfect release! It makes all of the work worthwhile.
Earlier in the year we told you about a Great Horned Owlet that had been blown from a damaged nest and its sibling that was still in the precarious nest. In follow-up comments we let you know that the sibling was blown down in the next storm. Neither was injured in their fall. The siblings have grown strong and their downy white baby feathers have been replaced with lovely flight feathers. WR&E is proud to report that they are now in a pre-release 50 foot flight cage. They are exercising their flight muscles and are enjoying their new digs. This past week the WR&E Wildlife Center received three more Great Horned Owlets who will stay at the Center until they are ready for a pre-release cage. One owlet arrived early in the morning from a couple who were driving through the Houston area and had heard about the Wildlife Center. Another owlet was brought to the Wildlife Center by a Texas Parks & Wildlife game warden. The owlet had a leg and wing injury. Dr. Antinoff from Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists quickly came to the Wildlife Center to exam and x-ray the baby. We are waiting for the surgeon to determine what the course of treatment will be for this little one. The third owlet is a larger baby who will be joining the first two in the pre-release cage as soon as it gains weight.
WR&E released an immature Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni) the morning of November 1, 2009. It was delivered by a caring rescuer to the Wildlife Center and presented with an injured wing. The WR&E Center cared for him for several months while the fractured bones healed. The next step of the healing process was several weeks in a large flight cage for flight conditioning. After a few weeks, it was amazing to see him maintaining flight and gliding in the flight cage. When he left the hands of the WR&E volunteer on Sunday morning all they could see were the dark flight feathers and the buffy wing linings as he soared above them. It was hard to determine who was happier - the Swainson's Hawk or the proud WR&E volunteers. Some interesting facts about the Swainson’s Hawk: They congregate in flocks numbering into the thousands for migration. Their migration begins in Canada and ends in Argentina. It is the longest of any American raptor (only tundra breeding Peregrine Falcon travel longer distances). Small pockets of Swainson’s Hawk along the Texas Gulf Coast and the Florida Coast either got lost or chose to settle in for extended periods. The immature birds are easily tracked to their wintering grounds because they stay together in groups, but it is not known exactly where the adults winter. They are a medium sized hawk with a stout body, broad rounded wings and a medium long rounded tail. Dark flight feathers provide a stark contrast to the pale inner wing, the tail is light with multiple thin dark bands; one darker and broader near the tip of the tail. The face is white with a dark crown. Sometimes confused with the Broad Winged Hawk and [...]
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 [...]
OPERATION RESCUE Hundreds of orphaned and live trapped opossums and raccoons are brought to the center by the general public and animal welfare organizations each year. With neighborhood expansions, many of these youngest opossums are found on or around dead mothers in our roadways or brought to owner’s doorsteps by family pets. Raccoons often invade attics and garages to find safe nesting sites. Mistakenly, homeowners often live trap and relocate Mom only to find a litter of helpless infants days later. Our rescue program is a growing endeavor. ‘Rewarding’ is a term used to define our ongoing work in this area, but it costs resources, money, gas, and land use. Several opportunities are available for our communities to assist. Items such as gas cards or money for supplies, transport and release would be welcomed due to the numbers and distances necessary to travel to remote sites. Ultimately, having release opportunities on private or corporate land would enable the relocated wildlife to have a fresh start in natural surroundings. ‘Letter of permission’ from the landowner will be required for land use. If you can help in Operation Rescue in any way it would be greatly appreciated. In the event you are able to assist in this endeavor, please feel free to contact the wildlife center at 713-861-9453 or email us firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.
One of the greatest joys for a wildlife animal rehabilator is the successful reunion of a mother and her babies. Lots of books have been written about living in peace with the local wildlife. Even how to foster an environment to encourage wildlife without having them wreck YOUR home and eating all of your landscaping. However, little has been written about how to get the local wildlife out of your house once they have moved in or what to do with a separated youngster. The original call came in about 8 a.m. The condensed version was: “Two raccoons, a very small one and a slightly larger one had fallen though the suspended ceiling of the “basement” and that there was at least one more still “up there”, what am I supposed to do?” They had already called Animal Control and were now afraid that the animals would be destroyed. Luckily for them AND the raccoons, Friendswood Animal Control works closely with the Wildlife Center of Texas. I told them not to worry and to accept the live trap that was on the way. Trapping and relocating an adult raccoon is a death sentence, only 10% will survive the next 6 months. If the raccoon is a female with babies, it is often a death sentence for them as well. Needless to say, relocation was not in the cards for this coon family. The next call went like this; “We caught the smaller of the two and put it in a cat carrier, now what?” Hoping that the live trap would catch the mother, who was still thought to be in the office, I sent them off to buy the supplies necessary to close up the [...]