Friday, May 11, 2007

Baby bird rescue and relocation

I have been enabling house finches to make a nest in my patio cover ever since we had it built a few years ago. It’s almost ideal for them, except that the nest “floor” is just flat with no means of holding the nesting material in place. So a few years ago, I stuck a basket up there, and the birds went for it right away.

It worked like a charm, but Jerry didn’t like that they pooped a whole bunch, and it got all messy and gross. So the following year, I stuck a juice carton up there, with a “backsplash” of another juice carton, cut up. It worked like a champ.

This year I used a juice carton again, and the birds made their nest. (Are they the same birds? How could I ever know?) They were already on their second clutch, the babies having hatched several days ago. This morning I found one of the babies on the patio floor, alive but weak. I also noticed a male house sparrow hanging around the nest. I had heard that sparrows can be cruel killers and take over other nests, but I had never seen it first hand.

I put the little birdie in a Kleenex-lined cup, and watched to see what was happening in the nest. I saw the parent birds go to the nest, but there was silence, and no feeding. Worried, I climbed the stepladder and carefully brought the nest box down. Inside were the other 3 birdies, all pecked and bloody! I ran and collected some supplies in the house: saline spray, neosporine ointment, q-tips. I rinsed their little bloody heads with drops of saline and dabbed a bit of the neo on them. Miraculously, they were all still alive.

Off to the information highway I went, and found this songbird rescue site. I called Vicki and explained the situation. I told her my wish was to be able to return the babies to their parents, but how to keep that evil sparrow away? After a bit of brainstorming, we came up with the idea of cutting away some of the juice carton to make the nest box less appealing to the sparrow, and moving it a little bit. She said the parents would still be able to find it, and hopefully the sparrow would not.

So I trimmed the box and replaced it a few feet away from its original location. I left the babies safely in the house while I waited and watched to see what would happen. It took almost an hour, but the parents came to investigate the nest in its new location. Now, I could put the babies back in. The parents came back! They have been feeding the babies all day, and the babies are stretching out their necks and tweeting and opening up their mouths. What a relief. And so far, the sparrow has stayed away too.

In the heat of the moment, I didn't think to take pictures of the little birds until I had already relocated them. The photo above is from this afternoon, back in the care of Mom and Dad.

I think maybe next year I won’t put up a nest box on my patio cover. Let the birdies find a better place, away from my meddling.
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