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!

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