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Bluebird Rescue

There will be times as a bluebird landlord when you hit a wall.  Either way you go, you may be doing the wrong thing.  Orphans present one of the tougher dilemmas.  Here’s what to do if you find bluebirds that you believe to be orphaned.

First, make sure neither parent is tending the box.  This is best done with a continuous watch from a distance. If no adult visits within four hours, you may assume there’s trouble.  However, if only one parent appears to be tending the young, it may be able to raise them unassisted.  If the male disappears, the female will be able to raise the young, for she will brood them at night.  The male bluebird, though, lacks this instinct, and though he will feed the young, he won’t brood them overnight. He’ll be able to keep them alive only if they are more than a week old, and the weather is warm.  If the chicks are warm to the touch and seemed well fed, leave well enough alone.  Take them in only if you’re sure they’re doomed otherwise.

Second, if you must intercede, warm the chicks up with a heating pad set on low, or a bottle filled with warm water.  They won’t be able to gape unless they are warm.

Third, prepare emergency rations.  Canned dog food with hard-boiled egg yolk is a good, quick meal. Mold it into small balls, and push them gently into the birds’ mouths to stimulate swallowing.  A soft whistle may encourage them to gape.

Fourth, locate a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.  It’s illegal, not to mention very difficult, to raise young birds, which need food every quarter-hour when small.  They have a much better chance to survive with someone who has experience.  To find a rehabilitator, call local veterinarians, nature centers, and even pet shops until you find someone who specializes in songbirds.  Your state’s non-game wildlife division should also keep a list of people with the proper permits for wildlife rehabilitation.

Fifth, try to locate a bluebird trail operator in your area.  Someone with a sizeable trail usually has several boxes with birds the same age as your orphans.  Fostering the nestlings to hosts’ nests is the best route of all.  Local bird clubs, nature centers, or your local state non-game wildlife division might be able to supply you the name of a trail operator in your state.  It’s worth the effort, for their best chance at a normal bluebird life is with the real bluebird parents.

 Article used by permission from Bird Watcher’s Digest

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