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Spring Means Baby Birds; Expert Says Public Should be Cautious

By Ben Hohenstatt, '14

Auburn, Alabama —

Spring is in the air, and so are birds. Well, most birds are, that is, and baby birds are learning.

It’s the time of the year when baby birds can be found on the ground and it’s common for a well-meaning person to think something is wrong and take the fledging to a rehabilitation center like the Southeastern Raptor Center, says Liz Crandall, assistant director of rehabilitation.

“People aren’t used to seeing birds on the ground, but they could be learning to fly or forage,” Crandall said, who with a small staff rehabilitates hundreds of birds of prey each year and returns them to their habitat. “This time of year, unfortunately, we get a ton of birds that are totally healthy.”  

Crandall said people become concerned when they see birds during this important phase of development, but do not see the birds’ parents.

“Some (bird) parents may be extremely protective,” Crandall said. “Other may be frightened and keeping an eye on their babies from a distance.”

Crandall said because it is illegal for the raptor center, a division of the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, to accept birds that are not hurt, ill or orphaned, the bird must be released back into its native habitat, optimally near to where it was found, where it can be reunited with its parent.

 “We try to place them back, and we look for signs the adult bird is present,” Crandall said.

Crandall dispelled the myth that touching a baby bird will result in it being rejected by its parents. “Even a day later, it is safe to place the bird back,” Crandall said.

If someone sees a bird they suspect may be orphaned, injured or sick, the best course of action is to call a local rehabilitation center to allow experts to determine if there is something wrong with the bird and how best to transport the bird to a rehabilitation center, Crandall recommends.

She heavily advises people against attempting to care for a bird themselves, because doing so is against federal law, and it may do serious harm to the bird. “Definitely do not attempt to feed a young bird,” Crandall said.

She said when people attempt to raise young birds it often can result in malnourishment and a poor prognosis for release.

“It could be avoided if the bird was brought to a rehabber right away,” Crandall said. 

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