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THE FUND FOR ANIMALS

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Learn from the Mockingbird Tragedy: Contact Local Wildlife Experts for Advice

 
FUND FOR ANIMALS WILDLIFE CENTER ©2007
Baby mockingbirds suffered after being fed an improper diet.

Although the staff at the Fund for Animals' Wildlife Center in Southern California deal mainly with predatory birds and mammals, once in a while their help is needed with songbirds and other small species.

Such was the case in mid May 2006 when a citizen called to see if she could bring in two baby birds that she had been feeding for over a week. The little birds had lost the use of their legs and were sitting in the bottom of their cage.

“What kind of birds are they?” staff asked the caller.

“Oh, I don’t know. My husband thinks they are birds that mimic sounds,” she replied.

“What were you feeding them?”

“Oh, something from the pet store.”

Though the conversation was brief, it was enough to cause some concern. Metabolic bone disease is common among birds fed an improper diet. Mockingbirds (birds who mimic sounds) are especially susceptible and need a highly specialized diet. Diets sold in pet stores that say they are suitable for all birds are not suitable for the wild population.

Sure enough the babies were beautiful little mockingbirds who had lost the use of their legs. Although heartbroken at the sight of these helpless babies, staff were determined to do their best to bring these babies back to optimal health. Calcium rich “bird grub” was fed to the babies every 2-3 hours in an effort to strengthen their calcium deprived bones. Four days passed with no sign of improvement. They still could not walk or stand.

The staff knew they needed to make a decision based on the prognosis of these youngsters. Would more time improve their chances of recovery or was it better to humanely euthanize them?

As often happens with the wild birds and mammals in rehabilitation centers, the birds made the decision themselves. Early one evening at the last feeding of the day, staffers Kim D’Amico and Christine Jensen gently lifted the young mockers from their soiled bedding to clean them up and change the bedding. As a simple test to determine their wing strength, Kim and Christine palpated the wings to note any strengths or weaknesses in them. Oddly and tragically, the gentle palpation resulted in fractures of the wings. The wing bones were incredibly soft, malformed and were not going to get any better. The babies were humanely euthanized.

Not every animal that comes to a wildlife rehabilitator can be saved. However, these youngsters and thousands like them all over the country would have likely survived had citizens not taken it upon themselves to attempt to raise orphaned wildlife with no knowledge of the species or the diet particular to that animal.

There are licensed wildlife rehabilitators all over the country, all over the world, in fact, who are trained and work tirelessly to save animals. Be prepared by knowing the local wildlife rehabilitation facility so that an animal doesn’t suffer needlessly. Below are websites of the professional organizations for rehabilitators, and links to find a rehabilitator near you. This information could save a life in the future.

California Council for Wildlife Rehabilitators (CCWR)
- CCWR's list of rehabilitators

International Wildlife Rehabilitators Council (IWRC)
- IWRC list of rehabilitators

National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA)
- NWRA’S guide to finding a rehabilitator


posted July 18, 2006