Migratory Songbirds

provided by CROW

It’s fall season, a time of year when many animals are on the move, typically to make their way to their winter homes. During this time, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) sees an influx of small songbird patients as they pass through the area during migration.

There are four major flyways, or migratory pathways, in North America — the Atlantic, the Mississippi, the Central, and the Pacific. Southwest Florida is located along the Atlantic flyway, which is a hotspot for many different species including swallows, tanagers, vireos, warblers, and thrushes.

Sanibel Island plays an important role in bird migration because its many acres of refuge provide an important habitat for these travelers to rest during their long trek. It is a vital land point used to build up strength before flying across large bodies of water to another continent.

Traveling such long distances is a test of physical endurance, and there are many risks that these birds may encounter during migration When weak from travel, these birds are more susceptible to being attacked by predators. Weather conditions such as tropical storms may blow birds off course, resulting in them being in an unfamiliar area often with limited access to their normal food sources.

There are risks associated with being in areas of dense human populations too. One study shows that up to one billion birds die each year in the United States when they hit glass windows, walls, and other structures, making this threat one of the costliest to bird populations. Trauma associated with window strike events, both car windows and buildings is one of the most common reasons for songbird admissions at CROW. Birds do not recognize the glass window as a barrier, since it reflects the sky around it, and inadvertently fly into it.

Sometimes, window strikes result in a “temporary stunning”, where the bird has the equivalent of a concussion and seems depressed and unable to stand or fly. Within a couple hours, the bird becomes more alert, and recovers to the point where it can fly off again. In other cases, the trauma may be more severe and result in seizures, or spinal trauma that results in paralysis.

There are simple ways you can help prevent or reduce window strikes from occurring in the first place. Special decals or tape in the form of a 4” x 2” grid pattern can help to increase the window’s visibility to the bird. There are even one-way transparent films available so that the outside of the window appears opaque, but it does not affect visibility from the inside. A single decal in the center of the window is often not an effective deterrent.

If a bird does collide with your window or home, it is best to seek help from a licensed wildlife rehabilitator such as CROW. Gently place the bird in a small cardboard box with small holes for ventilation, and place it in a quiet, dark place protected from pets and predators. Then, contact CROW at (239) 472-3644 ext. #222, or your local wildlife rehabilitator, to arrange transport for the bird to receive assessment and appropriate medical care.

Small steps can make a big difference in protecting migratory songbird species. For more ways to make your home bird-friendly, check out the American Bird Conservancy website at www.abcbirds.org.

THIS WEEK AT CROW (9/16-9/22):
There were 93 new patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital including 19 eastern gray squirrels, 14 eastern cottontails, four ovenbirds, two palm warblers, four brown pelicans, a corn snake, a limpkin and an American crow. Recent Releases include a bald eagle, a black crowned night heron, five mottled ducks, and a red-shouldered hawk. Check out a full list of CROW’s current patients and recent releases!

Wildlife doesn’t have health insurance! Your donations help cover the costs of medical and rehabilitative care for over 5,000 patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital each year!

Want to learn more about wildlife rehabilitation? Stop by CROW’s Visitor Education Center at 3883 Sanibel Captiva Road. All Florida residents receive 10% off admission with proof of residency throughout the month of September!

About Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW)
Established in 1968, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) is a teaching hospital saving the sick, injured and orphaned native and migratory wildlife of Southwest Florida and beyond.  Through state-of-the-art veterinary care, public education programs and an engaging visitor center, CROW works to improve the health of the environment, humans and our animals through wildlife medicine. For more information, or to plan your visit, go to http://www.crowclinic.org. If you find an animal that is in need of help, call (239) 472-3644 ext. #222.

Comments (1)

  1. Such an informative story about migrating birds and their daily risks. I didn’t even think of car windows being such a potential danger for them……just assumed that they can see them as easily as us!
    Kathy M

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