By: Nora Noble-Christoff
As the Summer months roll in and the weather warms up, the Austin Wildlife Rescue (AWR) begins to feel the heat as wildlife intake significantly increases. As the only wildlife rescue center in the area, the demand for AWR’s services is high because it not only serves the city of Austin, but eight neighboring counties. So, it comes as no surprise that the rescue received a total of 7,700 animals last year. During the peak months -April through August- AWR takes in hundreds of animals and nearly half of them are birds. Now that June has arrived, the rescue is in the thick of baby bird season and as a bird lover, I was curious to see how it operates.
It was a balmy June morning when I entered the AWR. As the door opened to the facility, I was immediately greeted with a cacophony of sounds ranging from the gregarious Grackle calls to the cute chirps of the Killdeer. I ventured past the various cages filled with songbirds, doves, and waterbirds to meet with the AWR director Hayley Hudnall.
During our conversation, I was overwhelmed by the description of the daily dedication that goes into maintaining a rescue of this size. From cleaning, to feeding, to diet preparation, the small but energetic staff of the AWR have their hands full. Hudnall pointed out that hatchlings and nestlings are on a strict schedule; from 8:00 in the morning to 8:30 at night, all baby birds are fed every 20 minutes to ensure they meet their daily caloric intake.
But it’s not just all hard work. As the nestlings develop into fledglings, the feedings slow down and soon they’re able to fend for themselves. When the time is right, the birds are released on site to ensure that they have plenty of food and water while they learn to thrive in their natural habitat. A victorious sight for the staff at AWR!
As I peered into a cage full of adorable White-winged Doves, I noticed a few with minor injuries. Although I had my suspicions of why birds came to the AWR, I knew there were other reasons besides injury that brought them there. Among injury, birds are brought in due to kidnapping and becoming orphans. Hudnall defined an orphan as when a baby bird no longer has a home (such as when a tree is cut down) while a kidnapped bird is when a person takes the baby bird assuming that is was orphaned even though the mother may still be taking care of it.
During the height of baby bird season, it’s not unusual for Austinites to come across hatchlings, nestlings, or fledglings. So, what action, if any, should a responsible wildlife lover take during such an encounter? Try to observe if the bird is still being fed by its mother. If the baby bird is alert and standing most likely it’s healthy but if it looks lethargic or has its eyes are closed, consider taking a picture and emailing it to the AWR for assessment.
The AWR is a dedicated rescue staffed with hard-working passionate professionals devoted to the safety and healthy development of all wildlife, not just birds. I learned first-hand from Hudnall that Austin wildlife is truly a precious gift and I’m grateful for the AWR and the services they provide. If you love Austin and our unique native birds, reptiles, and mammals, then please consider making a donation to the AWR: https://www.austinwildliferescue.org/supportus