August 12 – This is the time of year when birds begin to migrate south for the winter and in the Keys, the Key West Wildlife Center is keeping an eye out for our fine feathered friends.
Tom Sweets, executive director of the Key West Wildlife Center, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5 FM this morning to talk about what’s happening at the center.
The wildlife center rescues sick and injured wildlife – primarily birds – and covers from Key West up to Big Pine Key.
A separate agreement with the city of Key West also allows the Key West Wildlife Center to work with the Key West chickens to rescue them when needed and find them homes.
This is the time of year when native local song birds are reaching the final phase of their nesting.
Sweets said, “I’m sure everyone has seen northern mocking birds, parents around, making a lot of noise, dive-bombing people because there’s a nest nearby or maybe in their yards.”
Common grackles, doves and some grayking birds also nest in the Keys.
By this time of the year it’s nearing the end of the season.
Sweets said, “I do want to remind everybody that if they see birds on the ground, young, what’s called fledglings, when they leave the nest, it’s perfectly normal and natural for them to be on the ground, hopping around, making a little noise.”
The parents can also be seen bringing the little ones food.
Sullivan said, “A lot of people worry that there’s something wrong or that they’ve fallen out of the nest and it’s really not the case. Generally if they’re fully feathered and alert and looking around, they’re in good shape because the parents will be nearby. We don’t really need to be grabbing them or taking them inside.”
In some situations, the little fledglings may need help. For instance, on lower Duval Street where it’s all concrete and traffic, they might need help.
Sullivan reminded, “Just because a baby bird is on the ground doesn’t mean that it needs help. There are a lot of solutions. If it’s in a bad spot, it can just be moved and there’s other things that we can go through with anybody that’s concerned about a young bird down on the ground.”
A number of specific rescues have occurred of late, one including some frigatebirds.
A charter fishing boat was in the waters off of Key West and the passengers discovered two frigatebirds that had become tangled in a line. One of them had a hook in him and the line trailing the hook had tangled another bird together with the first one.
Sullivan said, “The charter boat brought them in and we were able to meet them and we got the hook out of the one bird and we were able to remove the line from both of the birds from where they were tied together and we’ve already released one of them and the other one is getting ready to be released as well. I just want to say that we really appreciate all the people out there on boats, charter boats, pleasure craft, anybody that comes across wildlife and gets involved and brings them in, that’s a huge help to us because we don’t really have the ability to get out on a boat easily. It’s something that we can arrange if we need to, but we’re mostly tied to the land here, so we’re meeting a lot of people on boats when they bring birds in. So that is a huge help to us and boaters saved these two birds for sure because they wouldn’t have survived out there in the water for long tied up together like that.”
Another interesting rescue was with a great blue heron white morph. He had a snake around his neck at the Botanical Garden and Tropical Forest on Stock Island.
The heron was really struggling and staff was able to get to him and remove the snake.
Sullivan said, “We arrived on the scene and this bird was floating in the water and we were able to get him back to our clinic. He’s already been released. He was released the next day after that incident.”
A snake around the neck of a bird is not really a common occurrence.
Sullivan figured, “Probably the heron was hunting the snake. That does happen a lot. The herons will go after something like that, but occasionally they literally sort of bite off more than they can chew and the snake will defend itself by tightening around the neck of the bird to try to get the bird to let go.”
The Keys are beginning to see the annual migration of birds. The black-and-white warblers have been spotted already heading south for the winter. Palm and prairie warblers have also been seen.
Sometimes as the birds move through the Keys they will hit a window. There are things that residents can do to help prevent birds from running into their windows.
If you have questions about a bird on the ground or to learn more about keeping birds from hitting your windows, call the wildlife center at 305-292-1008 or click here: https://keywestwildlifecenter.org/