Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ April 2019

Nurturing Nature

Spring Wildlife 101:  Encounters

By Jennifer McGuire Cox

With spring comes increased chances to encounter wildlife.  What do you do if you have a run-in?  Here are some tips!

There’s a Baby Bird on the Ground

Young birds on the ground can be completely healthy and are not necessarily orphans.  Young birds leave the nest before they are able to fly, pushed out by their parents to try and learn “the ropes” for themselves.  Parents are often nearby watching them and providing food until they are old enough to take care of themselves.  These “fledglings” have feathers and are almost fully developed, although they can hop around as if injured.

Other baby birds that have no feathers are considered “nestlings.”  Often much smaller than fledglings, nestlings cannot survive outside of the nest and will likely die without intervention.  If you know where the nestling came from, you can attempt to put the bird back in that nest.  You can also create a substitute nest off the ground as close to the suspected nest as possible.  A great substitute nest is one that is eight to 10 inches in diameter, at least six inches deep, and has drainage holes, such as a hanging basket.  Line it to the top with dry grasses or straw, then press down the center of the lining with your fist to make a small bowl-like depression to hold the baby.  Ideally, place it away from the trunk of the tree and six to eight feet off the ground, sheltered by leaves.  If after two hours you do not observe a parent return, or return with food, call a wildlife rehabilitator.  At no point should you give the baby bird any food or water.

I Think I’ve Found a Baby Squirrel

A baby squirrel on the ground may be completely healthy and not need intervention.  Does the squirrel have a fluffed-out tail and is the body bigger than six inches?  These juvenile squirrels are independent at about 10–12 weeks and do not need intervention unless it is obviously injured or crying non-stop.  Infant squirrels, on the other hand, have a thin tail, may not have any fur yet at all, and cannot survive on their own.

If you think you have an infant squirrel, its best chance to survive is to be reunited with its mother.  While waiting to be reunited with its mother, the squirrel has to stay warm.  Placing uncooked rice in a sock and warming it in the microwave for 30 seconds will do the trick.  Wrap the sock in a towel and place it with the baby squirrel in a small box or basket.  Do not attempt to give the baby water or food.  Return the squirrel, in the box, to the tree you suspect has the nest in it, usually the tree closest to where the squirrel was found.  You can secure the container with a bungee cord or rope.  Watch the baby squirrel from afar for the next six to eight hours, reheating the rice bag every two hours to keep the squirrel warm.  If the mother has not retrieved the baby by this time, call a wildlife rehabilitator.

A Bird Has Hit My Window

Birds don’t understand the concept of reflection.  What looks like glass to us just look like landscape to birds.  Strikes often occur when birds are fleeing predators or other sudden threats.  While most strikes often prove fatal, some birds can recover.  How to prevent strikes in the future?  Break up the reflection using decals or stickers that are at least six inches in diameter.  Some decals will even reflect ultraviolet light for added warning.  If you have bird feeders, think of repositioning them to decrease the risk of strikes.  Birds flying from feeders that are only two or three feet away from the glass can usually not pick up enough speed to kill themselves.  Likewise, a feeder placed more than 30 feet away from a picture window helps to cut down on bird strikes.

In the meantime, if a bird does strike your window and is still alive, use a towel to try and cover and catch the bird and place it in a covered cardboard box with air holes.  Keep the bird in a quiet, warm, and dark place, checking on the bird every 30 minutes.  Do not try and feed or provide water to the bird.  If the bird seems to have recovered, take the bird outside and remove the cover of the box.  Back up and stay quiet to see if the bird flies away.  If it does not, take the bird back inside and wait to see if it further recovers.  If its condition doesn’t change in a few hours, but it is still breathing, reach out to a wildlife rehabilitator.

There’s a Bird Attacking My Window/Car Mirror

In the spring, male birds will sometimes scratch and peck at windows and mirrors.  Males at this time of year are very territorial and thinking it’s another male bird (and not their reflection), they will attack.  Like with bird strikes, it’s recommended to help break up or eliminate the reflection.  One measure might be to put tinting film on your window or cover your car mirror temporarily until the bird stops.

There’s a Bird Pecking on My House

In spring, woodpeckers will “drum” on houses.  These male birds aren’t trying to cause damage but, rather, are attempting to mark their territory and attract a mate.  The louder the noise, the better!  This drumming pattern is often temporary.  Woodpeckers, however, have been known to drill into houses searching for insects and nesting cavities, but this activity usually occurs in the fall.

There’s a Baby Deer Laying in the Grass Alone

White-tailed deer mothers leave their fawns alone during the day to go off to feed and to avoid leading predators to their young.  Fawns are usually left in an area with tall grass and bushes, including yards.  If it does not look injured or in distress, leave it be.  A fawn has the best chance of surviving if it’s left alone to be cared for by its mother.

There’s a Turtle in My Yard

It is quite common to run into turtles in the spring.  Turtles that are looking to lay eggs often wander into yards, especially those near ponds and rivers.  Other turtles, such as box turtles, live in the woods and might just be looking for food or shelter.  These animals, if not obviously injured, should not be disturbed and can be observed from a distance until they move on.

It is tempting to possibly take a wild turtle as a pet.  Not only does it reduce local populations but turtles can live a long time (box turtles can live to be 100 years old!).  Once a pet, it may not survive if released back into the wild.  Turtles can also carry salmonella, which can easily be transmitted to children and adults.  If you’re looking for a pet, many organizations provide turtle adoptions instead!

There’s a Turtle in the Road

In the spring and summer, female turtles will cross roads looking for habitat for nest sites.  If the turtle is in danger of being hit by cars, you can attempt to move the turtle in the direction it is moving.  Never try to handle a snapping turtle however, as they are very fast and their long necks can easily whip around and bite down on you.  Crossing roads is normal behavior and does not mean something is wrong with the turtle.  Do not attempt to move it to a water source, take it home, or take it somewhere “safer” to release it.  Once it is clear of cars, leave it alone.

General Wildlife Tips

[Cox is a naturalist at Brookside Nature Center, Maydale Conservation Park, and Croydon Creek Nature Center.  She is also a certified Maryland Master Naturalist.  She lives on Belton Road.]    ■

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