Ottawa

Storm struck at a bad time for baby birds, rescue centres say

Last weekend's violent storm hit at a particularly bad time for baby birds as many local species are nesting, according to those who run bird rescue organizations in the city. 

Birds should be returned to makeshift nests if possible

Christina Huppé of Safe Wings Ottawa got a call about these baby grackles in need of help after a violent storm on May 21. (Submitted by Christina Huppé)

Last weekend's violent storm hit at a particularly bad time for baby birds as many local species are nesting, according to those who run bird rescue organizations in the city. 

The Wild Bird Care Centre said that within four days of the storm, people had already dropped off half the number of crows it usually gets in one season.

Roughly 150 birds were delivered to its temporary location on Cedarview Road last week, and most were babies, according to executive director Sandra Sawers.

Crows typically nest in the top third of evergreen trees, Sawers said, so they were particularly affected by the storm. 

"They are a bird that has strong family bonds, and it's heartbreaking for us that they're separated from their families," Sawers told CBC Radio's All In A Day

Christina Huppé with Safe Wings Ottawa said her organization also received several calls about baby birds, including one from two young boys who'd found a pair of baby crows in her neighbourhood. 

A large pine tree had fallen, and while three in the nest had died, two were still alive and one was uninjured. 

For the healthy bird, Huppé fashioned a makeshift nest and settled it back in the tree, where it's now being cared for by its mom and dad.

"It's a very common misconception that if you touch a baby bird, that the parents will reject it," Huppé said. "They don't have a very good sense of smell. And if you think about it, birds use materials to make their nests that are full of human scent." 

But that doesn't mean the parents weren't upset she took the injured bird. 

"It was about 40 crows circling above screaming," she said. 

Christina Huppé helped rescue this injured baby crow after two young boys called Safe Wings Ottawa when they discovered a fallen nest. (Submitted by Christina Huppé)

What to do if you find a bird during storm cleanup 

Crows and owls only have one clutch a year, Huppé said, and so they're more attached to their young than starlings, grackles and robins who can have two or three.

She said the first thing to do with an injured bird is make sure they're warm, as they can't regulate their own body temperature.

Huppé advises against giving them food and water, and instead asks people to call local rehab experts.

"I think it's really important for anybody who is clearing up their property to just check, to look for baby birds, to look for nests," Huppé said. 

If it's unclear if a bird is healthy or not, Sawers recommends calling the Wild Bird Care Centre. 

Once a bird is taken into their care, staff does a full exam and provides vital fluids, medication and any treatment needed for their injuries. Some are put in incubators and all are fed by hand every 20 minutes, Sawers said. 

They're raised among other birds and eventually released. 

"Don't be a birdnapper — meaning taking baby birds that are perfectly fine away from their parents," she said, adding she supports the makeshift nest approach Huppé used. 

Avian influenza could pose slight risk 

Sawers said the spread of avian influenza has made collecting birds harder this year, and cautions against touching birds with bare hands.

Instead, people should wear gloves and a mask and use a towel to pick them up. Once they're in a container, people should wash their hands well, and avoid bringing wild birds into their homes.

However, Huppé said avian influenza has been mainly found in water fowl and gloves should be adequate protection. 

"The risk of avian influenza in baby songbirds is very low," she said. "[People] shouldn't be afraid to help them."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sara Frizzell

News producer

Sara Frizzell is a reporter with CBC Ottawa. Previously, she worked as the news producer at CBC Nunavut. She's worked in radio, podcasting and longform journalism since graduating from Carleton University's journalism program in 2013. Contact her at sara.frizzell@cbc.ca

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