It’s baby bird time in Key West

When animal-lovers see baby birds hopping around on the ground, many times they think they must have been abandoned.

But this is the time of year when a lot of baby birds are leaving the nest and they end up on the ground.

When bad weather hits, it can make the situation even worse by knocking nests down.

Tom Sweets, Executive Director of the Key West Wildlife Center said the center rescued between 30 and 40 baby birds with last weekend’s storms.

If you see baby birds on the ground hopping around, please remember they aren’t really orphans. They’re actually following biology and have left the nest.

Sweets said, “It’s totally normal and natural for a bird to spend part of its time on the ground. As much as we can, we try to keep them with the parents…whenever we can.”

A lot of young northern mockingbirds, grackles and even doves were included in the rescue efforts after the storm.

Sweets said, “Very busy this time of year. I think we’re getting on an average more than four calls per hour about baby bird situations and everything else. That’s just one aspect of what we’re doing right now, but boy is it keeping us busy.”

The types of birds sometimes can change, too. The spring and summer migration has occurred, so now there are less pelicans around. The ones that are here are juveniles and they migrate down for the winter.

By early spring, they’ll head back.

Some boaters will bring birds to the Wildlife Center that they’ve rescued in the water.

An American white pelican was rescued on Key Haven recently and was very weak, couldn’t even fly. That bird is staying at an aviary working toward recovery.

Key West Wildlife Center provides care to more than 1,000 native animals, mostly birds. The group also works with Fish and Wildlife and has handled manatees as well as sea turtles.

Sweets said, “We love partnering with other organizations if there’s other situations where animals need to be rescued.”

Key West chickens is another factor that the Wildlife Center works with. They will rescue them if they are sick or injured, but they don’t trap them. If someone wants to trap them to get them out of their business or residents, they can be brought to the Wildlife Center and adopt them out.

They partner with Peat Marsh Ranch, located just north of Lake Okeechobee, where the chickens can free-range on a 2,000 acre area. There’s also a 10-acre spot near Fort Myers where some of the chickens go.

Most of the injuries the center sees are leg injuries or damage from vehicles.

Sweets said, “A chicken with a limp that can do everything he needs to do, we tend to try to sort of not intervene. If it’s a bird that’s actively bleeding or at risk of infection or if it’s a fresh injury, that would be the time to call, but they’re pretty hardy and tough.”

In fact, some of the chickens around town that are limping may actually be monitored by the Wildlife Center.

Is it true that chickens will get out of the way of vehicles because they are used to dealing with cars?

Sweets said, “That may be true if you’re driving at the speed limit, but we do see a lot of them hit by vehicles every year. So definitely give them a break. I would just try to maintain your speed, slow down or stop. A lot of times we’ve got babies crossing the road right now, so just try to be a little more aware. Sometimes accidents happen and something can’t be avoided because someone just doesn’t see a bird down below the car. Yes, accidents happen, but they can be mitigated if people are just using common sense and driving reasonable.”

The Wildlife Center is always looking for volunteers, but because they’re so busy with rescue calls, the easiest way to sign up is to use the email on the website.

If you have any questions about birds, log onto or call the Wildlife Center at 305-292-1008. Rescue calls are taken 24/7.