Saturday, September 3, 2011

A White-Tailed Tropicbird Comes To Visit New Hampshire -- All Too Briefly

by Catherine Greenleaf

Monday, August 29 was a busy and hectic day. In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene, the telephone was ringing off the hook with pleas to rescue injured and orphaned wildlife. Many birds came into the facility cold, soaked and starving. But nothing prepared me for the phone call that came at 2 p.m. that afternoon.

"I'm going to pick up an injured bird in Charlestown," said the Animal Control Officer for the City of Claremont, N.H., on the phone. She said a family had walked out their front door to find a white bird lying on the grass of their front lawn.

"What kind of bird is it?" I asked.

"Some kind of weird-looking seagull," she answered.

"Okay," I said. "Bring the bird on over."

At 6:30 pm., I opened the cardboard box inside the bird hospital. What I saw inside amazed me. The bird was mostly white, except for black markings next to his eyes and very distinct black markings at the tips of his wings and also along the radius-ulna portion of the wings. His beak was bright orange-yellow. And his tail. His tail was white and long. I mean really long.

I had to search through three bird guidebooks and finally found his picture: He was a White-Tailed Tropicbird.

A White-Tailed Tropicbird? In New England? In New Hampshire? In inland New Hampshire?

Amazing. But true. I immediately pictured Dorothy landing in Oz.

I set to work on the bird right away. He was in really bad shape. He was battered and bruised from being trapped inside the eye of the hurricane. He weighed in at 267 grams. I rely heavily on the book: Body Weights of 686 Species of North American Birds (John Dunning, Ph.D.) However, the book had only one recorded weight for a White-Tailed Tropicbird -- 300 grams. This book is my bible, mainly because it offers a range of weights for both adults and juveniles and those numbers tell me how likely the bird is to survive and from that weight I can surmise what treatment to offer first. In this case, I was stumped. The source of 300 grams was from research done in 1968. I was skeptical, especially since the bird had very little muscle on his keel -- a sign of extreme emaciation.

Then I was fortunate enough to receive an email from David Wingate on the island of Bermuda. David Wingate is famous for rediscovering the Cahow, or Bermuda Petrel -- a bird believed extinct for 300 years. David said a healthy White-Tailed adult should weigh 400 grams. I sighed at that point because it basically meant this bird had lost close to half his body weight. However, he was in no pain or distress so I pushed on with treatment. He was sitting in that hazy zone of not needing euthanasia but not necessarily appearing to be able to pull through. I'd seen some amazing recoveries in my career, so I decided to press on, continued to administer special avian electrolyte fluids and said some prayers.

However, sadly, after 36 hours, the beautiful bird succumbed, at roughly 6:30 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011.

It was a great honor to be in the presence of such a stunningly unusual and gorgeous bird. What I've learned since then is when a bird is inside the eye of a hurricane, he cannot fly up or down to escape the vortex. Instead, the bird is forced to ride out the storm in the center until the velocity of wind weakens enough for him to escape. This bird most likely spent five days trapped inside the eye of the hurricane. He was a brave, little soul, and will never be forgotten.

Copyright 2014


Friday, August 26, 2011

Preparing for Hurricane Irene

What is it like to prepare a wild bird facility for the aftermath of a major hurricane? Pretty hectic! With the hurricane measuring at 400-500 miles wide, it is sure to sweep deeply into the Granite State, taking down trees and power lines, and possibly flooding low-lying areas.

Any time there are high winds and trees falling, there is the possibility for injuries to birds.

What do you do if you see an injured bird?

Step One: Be SAFE! There could be power lines or unstable trees just outside your door. If you see an injured bird, call me! (795-4850). If you feel it is safe, you can place the bird in a cardboard box and bring him indoors to dry off and warm up.

Step Two: Do not offer food or water to the bird. If the bird has an internal injury, feeding him or giving him water could kill him.

Step Three: Keep the bird dark, warm and quiet. Bring the bird indoors, but keep him away from the noise and stress of pets, telephone, TV and kids.

Step Four: Keep handling to a minimum. That little bird may be cute, but every time someone handles him, he is more likely not to survive.

Thank you for caring enough to help save injured birds!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Volunteer Orientation -- this Wednesday night! May 25 at the Converse Free Library from 6-6:30 p.m.

Come join us at the Converse Free Library on Wednesday night (May 25) at 6 p.m. (lower level meeting room) and find out how you can help injured wild birds at St. Francis Wild Bird Hospital in Lyme.

There are many different types of volunteer positions available this year, including a month-long internship for 
interested college students. Volunteers learn the biology and fascinating behavior of wild birds and have fun. Ideal for young people planning to study wildlife biology or wildlife veterinary science. You must be 18 years of age or older.

Hospital director Catherine Greenleaf will describe the various volunteer positions available and answer any questions you might have about rescuing and rehabilitating injured wild birds.

Program runs 
6 - 6:30 p.m.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mighty Cold Out There!

Good heavens -- it was -24 degrees last night in the Upper Valley! Brrrrrrrr!!!!

And while we can don extra layers to keep warm, the birds, unfortunately, don't have that option.

You can help the birds by keeping a sharp eye on your backyard. If you see a bird in trouble, here's what to do:

1) Put the bird in a cardboard box. Place a soft towel on the bottom and be sure the box has airholes. If the bird is a hawk or an owl and you are unsure how to pick up the bird, call me at 795-4850.

2)Bring the bird indoors where there is heat. Please do not leave the bird in a garage or on a porch. He will not survive the freezing temperatures. 

3)Do not wait until the next morning. Please call me A.S.A.P. at 795-4850.

Did you know that owls can actually dive through snow to catch mice and voles? Their hearing is so acute they can hear the sound of mice moving under snowfall. However, once a crust of ice forms on the snow, they can no longer break through to feed themselves. This is when owls get into trouble. They starve and become emaciated. Then we get hit with a week of bitterly cold weather like this week, and the owls are in danger of starving to death. If you see an owl standing on the ground or just sitting on a branch and not moving, call me! Chances are good this owl is in distress and needs rehabilitation.

Thanks and keep warm, everyone!

Copyright 2014