HELOISE Raising wild baby birds can be rewarding, tricky

Dear Readers: A while back, we printed a request for readers to send in their experiences raising wild baby birds and then releasing them successfully. We received hundreds of responses from readers and wildlife organizations. The following are excerpts from just a few of those letters:
ULaura C. of Pleasanton, Texas, sent a photo of an abandoned baby screech owl that she found. Visit www.Heloise.com and click on This Week's Pet to see a photo of this little owl she named Hoot Whoo. He was a few days old, the size of a golf ball and looked like a fluffy ball of dryer lint. Laura was successful in raising Hoot Whoo. At 2 weeks old, he started flapping his wings, and within four months he was ready to be set free.
UBrian of Terre Haute, Ind., said his neighbors would give him baby birds to care for since he had experience with birds. He has no idea of the number of wild birds he has hand-fed and released.
UDeb S., via e-mail, said she rescued blue jays and pigeons, and never had a bird that didn't adjust to the wild. She fed the birds in her yard, so she got to see how they were adjusting. Deb put the blue jays outside in a high bush and left food for them. Other jays acquainted themselves with the little birds, and eventually the hand-raised birds joined them.
Dear Readers: It is important to note that according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, "all native migratory birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and captive rearing without authorization is a violation of federal law and in many cases of state law as well." Be on the safe side and know the laws of your state by checking with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, your state's natural-resource agency, a local animal-control office or a zoological society before you decide to hand-raise a baby bird. These sources can also give you or direct you to a list of wildlife rehabilitators in your area.
Vicki Andersen of Fountain Valley, Calif., is a wildlife rehabilitator and has permits to rehabilitate songbirds. She turns her home into a bird nursery during spring and summer months, and also educates the community about the laws pertaining to wild birds. Vicki has a 78 percent release rate for successfully raising, caring for and releasing birds without their bonding to humans, thereby preserving their "natural wild state."
The following could be helpful if you come upon an uninjured baby bird:
UIf the baby bird has no feathers, locate its nest and, if possible, return it. It's best to wear gloves, but if they are not handy, please know that touching the bird does not mean the parents will reject it! If you cannot find the nest, place the baby bird in a small, cloth-lined container and put it in the nearest tree.
UFor older baby birds that have feathers, please leave them to find their way back to the nest, unless they are in danger. If a baby bird has landed in a dangerous area, place the fledgling in the nearest tree or bush, but quickly walk away from the area -- this is especially important if you think the parents are nearby. Heloise
XSend a money-saving or timesaving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, TX 78279-5000, or you can fax it to (210) HELOISE or e-mail it to Heloise@Heloise.com.
King Features Syndicate

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