Thursday, April 28, 2011

Give a Hoot; Rescue a Wild Bird Injured or Orphaned by the Storms

Guidelines on How to Help
In the aftermath of storms and tornadoes, it is common to find wild birds that have been injured or babies that may have been orphaned or separated from their family. These birds can possibly perish if they do not receive care as soon as possible.

The nonprofit Alabama Wildlife Center’s mission is to rehabilitate injured and orphaned wild birds with the goal of returning them to the wild. AWC also operates a Help Line to give advice and referrals regarding wildlife. The following guidelines should be followed when a bird that appears to need assistance is found.

Assess the Situation
The first thing to do is to determine the type of injuries and the condition of the bird. Observe it carefully and notice if it can move, if it’s limping or making sounds, does it have feathers or is it covered in down, what colors are the feathers, notice the shape of the beak, etc. It is also very important to note the exact location where the bird is found. Look around to see if you can identify the bird’s nest or any sign of the parent birds in the area.

Call for Help
The next step is to call the Alabama Wildlife Center’s Wildlife Help Line at (205) 663-7930, extension 2 and leave a brief message that includes name and telephone number with area code. A trained specialist monitors the line from 8:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. every day, and returns calls within the hour to give advice on what to do next.

Callers should be prepared to spend a few minutes answering questions and taking advice. Depending on what kind of bird is injured and what condition it is in, callers may be asked to return the bird to where it was found, place it in its nest (if it can be located or in a substitute nest), or to bring it to AWC or the nearest licensed rehabber for help.

Provide a Sheltering Box
If asked to bring the bird to AWC, the first step is to provide a sheltering box. Find a roomy (relative to the size of the bird) cardboard box with no holes and with four flaps on top that can be closed. Make certain that the bottom of the box is securely taped on the outside to prevent the bird from falling through when the box is lifted. Line the bottom of the box with pine straw or a soft clean cloth. Get a towel or blanket large enough to cover the box and a towel for capture.

Next, put a towel over the entire bird, including its head, and pick it up very gently so as not to damage its feathers. Put the bird in the cardboard box (removing the towel) and close the top. There is no need to cut air holes. Drape a towel or blanket over the box to help make it as dark as possible, which has a calming effect on the bird. Resist the temptation to open the top and peer in at the bird or to touch it. This causes stress and reduces their chance of recovery. Birds view people as predators, not as kind-hearted helpers. Do not offer food or water to the bird. Improper nutrition can do great harm.

Transport the Patient to AWC
Transport the bird if requested, assuring that the box doesn’t slide around in the vehicle and maintain a quiet and smoke-free environment. AWC is located inside Oak Mountain State Park at 100 Terrace Drive in Pelham, Alabama and is open for admissions from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. every day. If it is after hours, put the covered box containing the bird in a warm, dry, quiet and dark location, keep pets and curious children away from it, and transport it to AWC as soon as possible.

Protect Yourself
Birds of prey, such as owls and hawks, have powerful talons and beaks that are designed to rip and tear flesh. Therefore, if an injured bird of prey is found, the specialist that calls from AWC will give special instructions on careful handling of these birds (such as using leather gloves and wearing a heavy, long-sleeved jacket when handling them). For those that are not comfortable handling a bird of prey, AWC has volunteers throughout the state (subject to availability) that have been trained to capture and transport injured birds of prey to AWC.

The Law
It is illegal (subject to fines and imprisonment) for anyone but a licensed wildlife rehabilitator to possess any native bird species and even rehabbers cannot keep them for any reason other than to nurse them back to health or for educational purposes. It is, however, legal to rescue an injured bird and transport it to a rehabber; transporters are safe under a "good Samaritan" clause in the law.

Donations to Help
AWC receives no state or federal funds and relies primarily on community members for donations. Donations can be made online at, or by telephone Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. at (205) 663-7930, extension 8. There is also a Wish List of needed items available on the website, and those items can be delivered every day from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.

Other Wildlife
If injured or orphaned mammals (squirrels, deer, raccoons, etc.) or reptiles and amphibians (snakes, lizards, frogs, etc.) are found, contact:
  • Wild Mammal Care of Alabama at (205) 871-7803
  • Alabama Reptile Rescue Sanctuary at (205) 253-1283

Thank you for helping our wild friends!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cooking is for the Birds!

Make suet and reap the rewards! Around 20 different species will regularly feed upon suet, so make some and enjoy the beauty that our wild feathered neighbors bring. This recipe is from Martha Sargeant, who, along with her husband Bob, founded the Hummer/Bird Study Group.

Martha's Super Suet
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 2 cups quick cook oats
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 cup lard (or vegetable shortening)
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Melt peanut butter & lard over low heat in a large pot. Whisk in remaining ingredients, stir until well incorporated. Dried fruits can be added at this point as well--raisins, cranberries, blueberries or a mix. Place into a container and freeze (we like using commercial suet containers as they are the perfect size for most suet cages), or allow to cool and spoon into a gallon ziploc & seal. Once malleable, roll to 1 inch thickness with a rolling pin & freeze. Stored this way, the suet can be cut into shape & size or your choice.

Bon appetite, birds!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Meet an AWC Volunteer: Michael White

AWC volunteer Michael White introducing
a young visitor to The Colonel, a Corn Snake
We are so fortunate to have Michael White as one of the Alabama Wildlife Center's dedicated animal care volunteers. He came on board with us in the fall of 2009 and has since become a much relied upon volunteer. Michael’s warm personality and obvious love of animals has endeared him to everyone he works with.

Hard working and caring, he is one of few committed to the weekly care of our resident snakes, making sure The Colonel and Scarlet do not get overlooked in the business of regular clinic activities.

When four little orphaned ducklings arrived separately this summer, Michael went beyond the call of duty with them—from feeding and spending much needed cuddle time with them (so they didn’t suffer from loneliness) to actually getting in our duck pond with them to encourage them to swim!

Always eager to learn more about wildlife rehabilitation, Michael has recently begun training as a Shift Supervisor. We look forward offering more and more learning opportunities to Michael and feel so lucky to have him as one of our team members.

Michael is also a multi-talented volunteer. In addition to all his animal care efforts, he also takes photos for us and even baked cookies to sell at our recent Craft & Bake Sale!

Thanks, Michael, for all your hard work and for bringing many smiles to our faces!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Meet an AWC Volunteer: Scottie Jackson

Scottie began her volunteer career at the Alabama Wildlife Center after checking out a Black & White article with a list of places to volunteer free time. As a biology student at Samford intent on veterinary school, AWC fit into her schedule well and she spent at least one or two days a week volunteering a shift or even an entire day.

Scottie has expanded her interests to include anything she could do to help wildlife. Volunteering here has also influenced her career focus. Now as a graduate student in Samford’s Environmental Management Program, Scottie has plans to help wildlife and the environment. Scottie currently works with Environmental Education and Birds of Prey at the Alabama 4-H Center.

Scottie has become an invaluable volunteer. Not once but twice, Scottie served AWC during Baby Songbird season as a full-time Intern. After a spring/summer of constantly satiating open mouths, she returned as a seasoned veteran for a second summer and assisted the program by helping not only to feed the babies but also helped with songbird medical care, enclosure habitating, release preparation and planning, natural history research and training.

A volunteer with many hats, Scottie assists with not only animal care as a Clinical Technician every Sunday, but also with a variety of other tasks. Up to any challenge an injured raptor presents, she has spent many hours on the road rescuing and transporting injured birds. She is also a trained member of our warehouse rescue team and our reunite team for both songbirds and raptors. In addition to rescue, Scottie also helps recovered patients return to their homes or to find a new one at her home, which happens to be located in a bird sanctuary. Scottie volunteers at our special events and assists with pretty much anything needed whenever her school schedule allows. Bright and cheerful, she helps every month with new volunteer orientation. As one of the newest members of the Education Bird Program, you can find Scottie volunteering on Mondays with Natchez, Coosa or Ireland.

Thank you Scottie for all your hard work and dedication!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Meet an AWC Volunteer: Tamara Bahlke

In addition to the many extra shifts accumulated over the years, Tamara has been a loyal Sunday volunteer for the past 5 years, just recently celebrating her anniversary this September.

Specializing in Eastern Cottontail Rabbits, Tamara has fostered hundreds of baby rabbits, first for AWC and now for our friends at Wild Mammal Care of Alabama.

Tamara was also a dedicated caretaker for our educational display animals (Bob Kitty the bobcat, and Foxy and Joe the grey foxes) before they were transferred to excellent facilities.

Tamara now enjoys the comfort of sorting mealworms and sexing rodents during her regular Sunday shift in addition to helping us do pretty much anything that needs doing. As a trained clinical assistant, Tamara has even filled in on occasional as a Shift Supervisor and worked many other shifts throughtout our busy baby season. Thank you so very much, Tamara - your hard work and dedication are greatly appreciated!

Our hearfelt thanks to everyone that volunteers in support of the Alabama Wildlife Center. You are heroes every day.

Want to become an AWC volunteer? Our next new volunteer orientations are scheduled for Sunday, October 3 and Sunday, November 7 from 1-3:30pm. Schedule online at or arrive early to register in person. $10 fee if you are not an AWC member.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

One Tough Bird!

On Wednesday of this week, AWC received a message on our Wildlife Help Line concerning a hawk trapped in a warehouse in Birmingham. Before we could assemble a rescue team, a rep from the warehouse called to let us know the hawk had flown out of the building.

Initially so relieved that the bird was free and no rescue team was needed, our relief turned to concern as we learned the hawk had flown through a window to gain her freedom. We just knew the bird was somewhere hurt, possibly dying from the impact, but there was nothing we could do--she had flown away.

About an hour later our doorbell chimed, alerting us that we had a new patient needing care. AWC staffer Lee McDonald answered the bell and met with an employee from the warehouse. They had found the Cooper's Hawk on the roof of their facility lying on her back and obviously in dire need of help.

Our initial exam revealed that she was suffering from head and possibly spinal trauma from the crash through the window, unable to stand but thankfully with movement detected in the legs. It was also found that she was in great shape--a successful hunter that judging from her weight, had not missed too many meals!

Steroids were administered to reduce the inflammation from the impact, fluids were given and she was placed in a box with a supportive "donut" to alleviate the weight from her legs. By the next day, she was beginning to use her legs more and by Friday the beautiful young hawk was standing on her own! Now also eating on her own and no longer in need of hydrating fluids, the Cooper's Hawk is making a steady recovery, though still listed in guarded condition.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Meet an AWC Volunteer: Holly Whitmire

There are certain volunteers that we rely on so much, we have named the day they volunteer in their honor. Thursdays have become “Holly days,” because that is when we are so fortunate to have Holly Whitmire amongst us. Holly has been a volunteer with AWC since 1999 (wow!) and is truly a jack of all trades. A small sampling of her volunteer work includes grocery shopping, cleaning rodent bins, taking care of our resident snakes, handling raptors, feeding baby songbirds and freeing hawks trapped in warehouses. In fact, she is one of two volunteers we can count on time and again to get trapped birds out. When asked what keeps her coming back every week, Holly said “being with others of like mind,” and “seeing the birds thrive” is what motivates her. We are so thankful to Holly for her many years of dedicated service. On behalf of our patients, our heartfelt thanks go to you Holly!

You can become an AWC volunteer! New volunteer orientations are scheduled for the first Sunday of most months from 1-4pm. The next dates are: September 5, October 3 & November 7, 2010. Register online via our website or arrive a few minutes early to complete your registration in person. One-of-a-kind experiences await you!