Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Holiday Bazaar To Help The Birds A Big Success

by Catherine Greenleaf

A big THANK YOU to everyone who turned out at the Lyme Center Baptist Church to buy bird ornaments in support of St. Francis Wild Bird Hospital. Your generous purchases will enable us to pay for badly needed medicine used to treat injured wild birds that come into the hospital.

This year, volunteers donated ornaments, and some people even got crafty and made their own! We had ornaments that featured owls, penguins, cardinals and blue birds. Your handcrafted gifts are much appreciated by us -- and the birds!

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Little Hummingbird Takes A Temporary Detour

by Catherine Greenleaf

Most hummingbirds usually start to clear out of New England by the end of the summer, and migration to Central and South America can continue until mid-October. So it is always a nail-biter when someone brings me a hummingbird for rehabilitation in October. The clock is ticking, and every effort must be made to get the little guy (or in this case, girl) back outside and on her way before the major freezes start to occur.

I received a phone call on October 10 from a Lyme, N.H. resident, saying he had gone outside in the early morning to refill his hummingbird nectar feeder only to find a tiny hummingbird perched on his feeder and fast asleep! He had no trouble picking up the bird and placing her in a shoebox with a soft towel on the bottom. He drove straight over, and sure enough, an exam found the bird to be hypothermic, dehydrated and utterly exhausted.

As you can see from the photo above, the hummingbird took to her heated enclosure quite readily and spent the day cuddled up on a fleecy, warm blanket. I administered electrolyte fluids made especially for hummingbirds.

Birds, in comparison to humans, have an extremely high metabolism. The daily intake of food necessary to fly is enormous. Well, with a hummingbird the requirements are even higher, due to their diminuitive size and the speed at which they can travel. Most people believe hummingbirds subsist mainly on nectar from flowers and the nectar from feeders. However, hummingbirds spend most of their day catching tiny insects on the wing. Their need for protein-rich insects is just as high as any songbird's. In a hummingbird's case, think of nectar as a cup of coffee to help the bird stay strong inbetween insect meals.

By day's end she had perked up enough to start perching and drinking some nectar from a feeder inside her cage. By the following afternoon, she was flying and drinking nectar from a flying position. Her weight was good.

But what to do about the weather? The evenings were already teetering toward the thirties, and hummingbirds do not do well in frigid temps. I did the only thing I could do. I packed her up and drove two hours south to where New Hampshire meets the border of Massachusettts, and let her go, knowing she was now in a warmer zone and climate, and therefore able to continue her migration. The other good news is there was a warming trend building, which created safe passage as far as North Carolina.

The weather cooperated in this case. However, the carpicious weather can be a stern taskmaster, and many late migrants do not survive their journey. This particular hummingbird had most likely migrated from Canada. I am always so grateful to people like this Lyme, N.H. resident, who leave their feeders out very late into the season. In this case, he most likely saved this hummingbird's life. Hopefully, she is in Costa Rica right now, enjoying the sunshine and sipping nectar from a flower.

copyright 2014

Monday, November 3, 2014

Birds and Windows -- A Dangerous Combination

by Catherine Greenleaf

According to the Wild Bird Fund, one billion birds die each year in the United States flying into glass windows and sliding glass doors. 

When birds are flying they see only the reflection of trees and blue sky behind them, and they treat the glass as open air space. Unfortunately, this usually results in a fatality.

There is a great deal you can do to prevent this pointless suffering and death:

1. Make sure your bird feeders are at least 50 feet away from all glass windows.

2. Avoid putting bird feeders on back decks in close proximity to sliding glass doors.

3. Birds can injure themselves flying into the picture window of a home or the glass window of an office building. A bird can suffer various injuries, ranging from a mild concussion, to internal bleeding, to a hematoma on the brain, to a broken neck. If a bird knocks himself unconscious by flying into glass, it important to put him inside a shoebox or small cardboard box and keep him away from predators like cats until he regains consciousness. In the meantime, call your local wildlife rehabilitator. Even if a bird regains consciousness, he may still need medical treatment. Many birds allowed to fly off after regaining consciousness often die of internal hemorrhaging in the woods later the same day. If it is cold outside, please bring the bird indoors to warm up until he regains consciousness or the bird will die from hypothermia.

4. During spring and fall migration, millions of birds are confused by the harsh glare of city lights and become entrapped inside the dizzying array of high-rise buildings, ultimately striking a high-rise window and dying. Talk to your city or town officials about reducing night light and glare from downtown areas. You can also play a part by reducing the usage of your overall lighting at night, and making sure your outdoor lights do not create glare.

5. Another problem is male birds defending their breeding territories in the spring and early summer. This most often occurs with Cardinals, Northern Flickers, and Robins. The birds will fly into glass to fight what they think is another male bird (when it is their own reflection) and will sometimes fight to the death. The same holds true for the rear-view mirrors on your car. You can help this situation by covering your rear view mirrors, and amply covering the outside of any windows where territorial displays are being made.

6. Consider placing bird decals on your picture windows. These are black or clear plastic decals that will alert the bird they are flying near glass. Birds cannot differentiate between glass and thin air. These decals, quite literally, can make a bird swing up and away just in time to avoid serious injury. There are many bird supply catalogs, like, that sell these decals by mail.

However, decals are only effective if there are many, and they must be spaced four inches apart. Otherwise they will not be effective because songbirds can turn sideways and fly through two inches of space. Another important note about decals: they must be placed on the outside of the glass, not the inside, in order to disrupt the reflection and in order for birds to see them in time. If you have a window that seems to be a repeat offender, consider installing an awning to block the reflection of sunlight.

You can save many birds' lives by taking these easy steps!

The new brochure from St. Francis Wild Bird Hospital, "Birds And Windows -- A Dangerous Combination" will be available in January, 2015!

All illustrations by the extremely talented artist Stephanie Piro. Visit her at

Copyright 2014