Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Rehabilitating Wood Ducks--It Can Be Done!

by Catherine Greenleaf

Many avian rehabilitators refuse to take in injured or orphaned wood ducks, particularly ducklings, because the fatality rate in rehabilitation is so high. There is no question rehabilitating and raising wood ducks is extremely challenging, since they are high-stress birds and do not do well in captivity. However, there are things you can do to help the ducklings survive their time in rehabilitation.

The most important element to successfully rehabilitating wood ducks is quiet. Extreme quiet. I'm talking "only whispering allowed" type of quiet. Loud noise can result in the sudden death of a wood duckling. The birds's heart just stops beating. I'm not kidding you. If you are planning to take in wood ducklings, make sure you have a section of your facility that is closed off to the comings and goings of your staff and the public.

The other element that can cause almost certain death is when the duckling is a singleton. Wood ducklings simply do not do well when alone. One trick to use is a mirror taped onto one of the walls of the enclosure. You will have to clean the mirror every day because the duckling will have it covered with beak "kisses." The duckling will park himself in front of the mirror and eat and sleep in front of it.

Adding a stuffed animal, roughly the size of a mother wood duck can do wonders. The ideal colors would be black, brown or tan. Place the stuffed animal next to the mirror to make the duckling feel even safer. You will see the wood duck snuggle down underneath the stuffed animal to sleep at night.

Of course the ideal situation is to have several wood ducklings so they can keep each other company. Start calling around to other rehabilitators in your state and ask for wood ducklings. Be sure the gram weight is similar to your bird -- no more than five to ten grams difference. Otherwise, you will be dealing with wood ducklings ganging up on each other, and someone will end up drowned, I guarantee you.

These are just a few tips to help you. There are many more things you can do to help wood ducks in rehabilitation and these involve providing the correct temperature, fluids, substrate, and food.

Photo caption:  All of these juveniles came in to St. Francis Wild Bird Hospital this year as ducklings, averaging 10-15 grams a piece. One duckling was brought to me from a parking lot in Littleton, N.H. after a car hit and killed the mother and the 15 young were separated into different directions. Another was found sitting by a riverbank in Lebanon by some picnickers, for some reason left behind by his mother and the brood; and a third came from Claremont, which was found by the side of a road near a stream. All three were released back into the wild once they reached maturity.

Copyright 2015

Saturday, September 12, 2015

International Vulture Awareness Day

by Catherine Greenleaf

It may have an odd ring to it, but International Vulture Awareness Day was recently celebrated across the globe. The vulture, which is usually either a turkey vulture or black vulture (on the eastern side of the United States), is the great unsung hero of the bird world. The vulture is the janitor of our woodlands, cleaning up the wild areas by quickly eating roadkill along roads and highways and finishing up any leftovers after a bobcat, fox or coyote has left the scene of a kill.

For the wildlife rehabilitator, vultures are always approached with caution. The reason? The vulture has a unique defense mechanism. Puke. When out on a rescue, you can almost certainly expect the vulture you are trying to help will attempt to toss his cookies all over you. It is the most putrid, vile, disgusting smell in the entire world. The stench is enough to knock you over. They literally empty the entire contents of their stomach in an attempt to get away from predators. They will also not hesitate to hurl copious amounts of bile and vomit all over you when you enter their cage to feed them.

As you can see from the photo above, I am entering the vultures' cage slowly and with tremendous respect. Any clothes that are hit with this barf I usually just throw away since even several washings will not remove the odor. And if it hits your hair, good luck! I have had to wash my hair 4 or 5 times with Tea Tree Oil shampoo to remove the smell.

But seriously, without the vulture our woodlands and roadways would be littered with rotting roadkill. The job they do is vital and they certainly deserve to have one day each year dedicated to them. Even if they do throw up all over you.

Copyright 2015