The Wildlife Center of Texas has ongoing relationships with homeowners that have the same issue year after year with nesting birds on their property. Usually the birds in question are those with strong site fidelity such as hawks, owls and herons.
One family has taken Red-Shouldered Hawks “under their wing”. Each year nestlings and fledglings get blown or shoved out of the nest. After the Wildlife Center of Texas checks them out and provides several good meals, the babies are renested. The first permutation was the animal kennel strapped to the tree. (Don’t forget drain holes or a heavy rain will drown the very animals you are trying to save) It isn’t beautiful, but the parents faithfully raised their babies. When predators became a problem, another kennel was placed on top of a shed. This kennel had holes in the sides that were big enough for the parent to stick in their head to feed, but too small for the predator. The parents adapted beautifully and continued to feed their offspring. Once the chicks were large enough to fend off the predator, they were moved to an open airline kennel.
So intrigued about the behavior of the hawks and to check up on the parents to make sure they were caring for their offspring, they mounted webcams. Family and friends delighted in watching the parents bring food to their chicks. They aren’t the only people we have heard of doing this. One raccoon lover set up webcams so he could keep track of his charges.
Concerned that the parents were having difficulty feeding themselves and their offspring, the family began providing supplemental food if one or more babies was in the original nest and others were renested in an animal crate. At the Wildlife Center, the raptors are fed frozen mice and rats that have been thawed. It is an old wife’s tale that raptors won’t eat prey animals that are already dead. These parents as well as all of the raptors at the Wildlife Center knew a good deal when it was presented. As long as the meat is fresh, they aren’t picky.
This year, the homeowners reported the parents were “picking on one of the babies”. This behavior is so unusual that when it fell, they were directed to bring it straight to the Wildlife Center instead of trying to renest it. While being observed, it was noted that the baby began to move its head oddly, sometimes leaning so far the head is upside down. This neurologic symptom is characteristic of West Nile virus. Days before symptoms became obvious; the parents knew there was something wrong. The Wildlife Center will continue to provide supportive care in hopes that this chick’s immune system can overcome the virus.
Renesting can and does work even in songbirds. Unless the baby is compromised in some way by insects, hypothermia or injury the first course of action is to see if placing the baby in a substitute nest will bring the parents in to feed. If there are questions or concerns, contact the Wildlife Center immediately – phones are manned 9 – 6 weekdays and 9 – 4 weekends. You can also leave a message and one of our trained volunteers will return your call.