Friday, June 20, 2008

Bird Rescue and Human Health

So far this season, we have rescued about 20 great egrets, whereas in previous years, we only found about 2-5 who needed help. One of the main reasons for this increase is that, all around the areas surrounding Dallas, rookeries are being destroyed to make way for condos. To make matters worse, the UTSW rookery lost at least 5 large cedar elms to strong wind storms in the last year. Consequently, the birds are roosting nearer to each other and to the ground, and the crowding and greater proximity to predators are probably contributing to their injuries.

Today, we rescued the first two cattle-egret fledglings. There are about 10 times as many cattle egrets in the rookery as there are great egrets. So we expect the next few weeks to be busy ones. In summer 2006, we rescued about 200 birds: mostly cattle egrets. The number might well double this year if the heat and dryness continue.

Several of you have suggested that we should try to publicize the bird's lot in local papers so as to recruit others to help us. I have not done this because currently, on paper at least, our group numbers 15. With this many on board, if everybody were to give the birds even half an hour per week, the work per person should become trivial.

Also, success is what begets success.

During the last two weeks, we often made two trips a day to Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. We do this because we see the birds as neighbors in trouble and are convinced that our well being is linked to theirs. We do not expect everyone to share this view. Whatever reason moved you to help the birds, please remember it.

Currently, we need the following:
  1. People who will collect a bird or two one day per week and bring them to us. As it happens, we are winding up making at least one trip per day to the rehabilitation center. So the price of gas is not an issue. We can administer first aid, feed the birds, and keep them warm until we are ready for an afternoon trip.
  2. One or two volunteers who will make a tour of the rookery on Saturdays or Sundays.
In case some of you are concerned about infections, I would like, once and for all, to dispell the notion that the egrets are contagious. Despite our almost daily contact with the rookery, our six pet parrots at home are all bright and bossy. The only consistent problems we have seen with the egrets are:
  • Infections of the tongue and throat with small leech-like flukes; this is almost universal.
  • Broken limbs.
  • Stab wounds.
  • Occasional infections of wounds with the larvae of flies.
  • Mites in their feathers; we see this in about 1 in 10 birds.
Yes, the birds' droppings are unsanitary, but it goes without saying that one should avoid any animal's droppings. Do not enter the woods. Collect those fledglings who are in trouble: typically the birds who are either standing still or stumbling, on the perimeter of the rookery. The best way to do this is to pick up the birds with gloved hands (protects from mites) and place them directly into a box that is lined with paper towels. Contact 'birdintrouble", and we will do the rest.