SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU FIND A BABY BIRD?
should you do if you find a baby bird on the ground? What if the bird
is a bald eagle? The short answer is "nothing." Whether it's
a tiny wren or one of the world's largest raptors, leave it where it
is. Most birds that end up on the ground unable to fly do so because
of a natural occurrence.
what to do about the plight of a baby bird has reached fever pitch at
Berry College (Ga.) where a real-time video (www.berry.edu/eaglecam/)
has 24-hour coverage of a bald eagle nest with two babies. The site
has many followers, and some viewers got concerned when the babies appeared
to be getting chilled because of an approaching cold front. The response
of the scientists running the website was right on target. "OK,
eagle friends, calm down! Eagles are wild animals used to living out
of doors. They have 7,000 feathers and a layer of down. They are not
suffering and they are not miserable."
phase in the rearing of two baby eaglets disturbed some people even
more than the threat of cold weather. One of the babies was not playing
fair. "The older and larger sibling ... is aggressively targeting
the younger [one] ... and preventing him from eating." As seen
on the webcam, the younger sibling "is looking smaller and weaker
and is unable to compete for food." It clearly is in the crosshairs
of intentional siblicide.
of nest siblicide, the killing of a brother or sister, has been documented
for several bird species. Siblicidal birds are not cannibals. They do
not eat their brothers and sisters, they just kill them, or force them
from the nest, which results in the death of the rejected bird. Siblicide
has been commonly documented in eagles.
Of no surprise
is that birds that kill one another in the nest possess the weapons
to do so. The large, hooked beak of an eagle aids in pecking one's nest-mate
to death. Also, such species are confined to an enclosed nest area,
in contrast to many other birds. For example, bobwhite quail lay their
eggs on the ground, and the young scatter soon after they hatch. Do
you suppose they heard early childhood stories about what happens to
little birds that stay around too long?
ironic reason to keep your hands off a baby bird is that you might be
keeping it alive for longer than the parents intended. A pre-fledgling
bird may be on the ground because it was deliberately pushed from the
nest by the parents or a sibling. Birds have a variety of strategies
to deal with limited food resources. One of them is to feed and raise
fewer young than the number of eggs they lay. So, in "helping"
a baby bird, you may be thwarting the preferences of the parents who
have assessed that they have too many mouths to feed. They may have
intentionally ejected the baby, or allowed a sibling to do so.
College ornithologists have created an awesome opportunity for observing
the biology of bald eagles in the wild. They have also made some important
points about wild animals. Among these are that "they are not pets"
and "we will not . . . intervene." As they further state,
"This is nature up close and personal - a rare glimpse into another
world. It can be difficult to watch." But perhaps the most important
lesson they provide is an opportunity to "see how humans, with
our ability to think through our actions and have a conscience, are
able to behave in more compassionate ways if we so choose."
Berry College for establishing a webcam that offers the public a splendid
opportunity to watch nature in action. I also appreciate their pointing
out the distinction between the behavior of wild animals and that of
humans. Well done.
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