Jul 18, 2005

Avian Pox



Poxvirus, several strains.


Variety of birds worldwide: upland gamebirds, songbirds, marine birds, parrot family, occasionally raptors, rarely waterfowl.


Direct contact with infected birds, ingestion of food and water contaminated by sick birds or carcasses, or contact with contaminated surfaces such as bird feeders and perches. The virus enters through abraded skin. Insects, especially mosquitoes, may act as mechanical vectors.

Clinical/Field Signs

Avian pox can occur in two forms: cutaneous pox and diphtheritic or "wet" pox. In cutaneous pox (the most common form), wartlike growths occur around the eyes, beak or any unfeathered skin. This leads to difficulty seeing, breathing, feeding, or perching. In diphtheritic pox, the growths form in the mouth, throat, trachea and lungs resulting in difficulty breathing or swallowing. Birds with either type may appear weak and emaciated.


Warty growths on unfeathered skin, sometimes in large clusters. Size and number of growths depend on the stage and severity of infection. Common sites include feet, legs, base of beak, and eye margins. Often emaciated due to inability to feed. In the diphtheritic form, there are raised, yellow plaques on the mucus membranes of the mouth and throat.

Wildlife Management Significance

The disease can be a significant mortality factor in some upland game bird (fall and winter), songbird (winter), and raptor populations. Birds can survive with supportive care, food and water, and protection from secondary infections. Warty scabs contain infectious viral material. Disease control recommendations are site specific, therefore contact the National Wildlife Health Center for assistance. Decontamination of bird feeders, birdbaths, transport cages and banding equipment with 10% bleach and water solution is recommended. In some situations, removing infected birds can be important to reduce the amount of virus available to vectors and noninfected bird populations. Vector control may be considered in affected areas.

Public Health Significance

There is no evidence of human risk.

Domestic Animal Significance

Poultry are susceptible and many are vaccinated against pox. The safety and effectiveness of this vaccine in wild birds is not currently known.

Contact the National Wildlife Health Center for additional information on this or any other wildlife health topic.

Jul 16, 2005

Not a good day

All 3 bunnies were dead this morning. Cause undetermined.
The Mockingbird passed away in the afternoon.
The only animal left is the little brown headed cowbird and he seems to be doing alright.

Jul 15, 2005

West Nile Virus Information

Frequently Asked Questions - West Nile Virus

Below are answers to frequently asked questions about the West Nile virus received by the Texas Department of Health (TDH). Answers to more than 50 frequently asked questions received by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/q&a.htm
Q. Can dogs, cats and other pets get the West Nile virus?
A. Yes. But they rarely, if ever, get sick. No cases of West Nile disease have been confirmed in dogs and cats. The virus can infect many species of animals, but few actually get the disease. Most infections have been identified in birds, but West Nile virus has been shown to infect dogs, cats, horses, and domestic rabbits, as well as bats, chipmunks, skunks, and squirrels.
Q. Is there a vaccine for dogs and cats?
A. No.
Q. How many human cases have there been in the United States? How many deaths?
A. In 1999, 62 cases of severe disease, including 7 deaths, occurred in the New York area. In 2000, 21 cases were reported, including 2 deaths in the New York City area. In 2001, there were 66 human cases of severe disease and 9 deaths. No reliable estimates are available for the number of cases worldwide of West Nile encephalitis, the disease caused by the West Nile virus.
For the latest up-to-date information, go to http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/surv&control04Maps.htm.
Q. How many human cases have there been in Texas? How many deaths?
A. The first human death in Texas occurred on August 16th, 2002. For the latest up-to-date information on human cases in Texas, see the TDH West Nile Virus home page at http://www.tdh.state.tx.us/zoonosis/diseases/arboviral/westnile
More information about West Nile virus in Texas can be found at http://www.tdh.state.tx.us/zoonosis/diseases/arboviral/westnile.
Q. What is the risk of someone becoming infected with West Nile?
A. The risk is very low. Even in areas where the virus is circulating, very few mosquitoes are infected with the virus. Even if the mosquito is infected, less than 1% of people who get bitten and become infected will get severely ill. The chances you will become severely ill from any one mosquito bite are extremely small.
Q. Where in Texas has the virus been found?
A. For the most up-to-date information, go to http://www.tdh.state.tx.us/zoonosis/diseases/arboviral/westNile.
Q. Where does the virus live? Do birds or mosquitoes get it first?
A. Birds get it first. The virus is in their bloodstream. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds. The infected mosquitoes can then transmit West Nile virus to humans and animals while biting to take blood. The virus is located in their salivary glands and, during blood feeding, the virus can be injected into the animal or human, where it can multiply, possibly causing illness in the animal or human.
Q. Is TDH doing spraying around the state to kill mosquitoes?
A. No. Vector control is up to the Mosquito Control Districts and local health departments.
Q. In addition to being infected by the West Nile virus, what else can cause bird "die-offs"?
A. Chemical spills, pesticides, drought, severe weather, and other diseases.
Q. What's an arbovirus?
A. Any of various RNA viruses which are the causative agents of encephalitis, yellow fever, and dengue and which are transmitted chiefly by arthropods, such as insects.
Q. What kind of laboratory tests are done to identify the West Nile virus?
A. Various tests can be done. The type of test will vary among mosquitoes, chickens, humans, and horses. The type of test also depends on the kind of samples available (blood serum, cerebrospinal fluid, brain tissue, etc.). Samples may be tested to find antibodies to West Nile virus, or there may be an attempt to isolate virus particles from the sample. Tests that can be done include Hemagglutination-Inhibition, IgM-Capture, Plaque-Reduction Neutralization, virus isolation, and PCR. More details are available in the Response Guide at http://www.tdh.state.tx.us/zoonosis/diseases/arboviral/westnile.
Q. Is there a human vaccine?
A. No, but several companies are working towards developing a vaccine.
Q. Can a human get the virus twice?
A. We don't think so. It is assumed that a person would develop a natural immunity to future infection by the virus, and that this immunity would be lifelong. However, this immunity may wane in later years.
Q. I've heard of " suspect cases," " positive cases," " confirmed cases," and " probable cases." What does it all mean?
A. Infections with West Nile virus may, or may not, produce illness. A few people who get ill may seek medical care. Those with severe enough disease that has the appearance of West Nile and similar viruses may have blood or spinal fluid sampled for testing.
Testing of samples has two main components:
  • Samples may be tested for antibodies to West Nile and other viruses. A positive result indicates that the patient may have been exposed to the virus, but does not prove that the virus is still in the patient.
  • Samples may also be tested to find the actual virus. This type of test is more difficult, takes much longer, and may not be successful. A negative test does not prove that the virus did not cause the illness.
Here are definitions of the terms you asked about:
Suspect: A patient with symptoms similar to West Nile might be considered a suspect by their physician. Since they would also be suspect for a multitude of others diseases with similar signs, they are not counted or reported by Texas.
Positive case: Many laboratories can test for West Nile and may find positive results. These results are often cross-reactions with other conditions and may not represent a true West Nile positive. Only those results that meet the case definitions for "Confirmed" or "Probable" will be reported as "cases."
Confirmed: A febrile illness associated with neurologic manifestations ranging from headache to aseptic meningitis or encephalitis, plus at least one of the following:
  • Isolation of WN virus from or demonstration of WN antigen or genomic sequences in tissue, blood, cerebrospinal fluid, or other body fluid;
  • Demonstration of IgM antibody to WN virus in cerebrospinal fluid by IgM-capture enzyme-linked immunoassay (EIA);
  • A > 4-fold serial change in plaque-reduction neutralizing test (PRNT) antibody titer to WN virus in paired, appropriately timed serum or cerebrospinal fluid samples;
  • Demonstration of both WN virus-specific IgM (by EIA) and IgG (screened by EIA or HI and confirmed by PRNT) antibody in a single serum specimen.
Probable case: Symptoms identical to that for a confirmed case plus one or more of the following:
  • Demonstration of serum IgM antibody against WN virus (by EIA);
  • Demonstration of an elevated titer of WN virus-specific IgG antibody in convalescent-phase serum (screened by EIA or hemagglutination inhibition (HI) and confirmed by PRNT).

Health Risks Associated with Wildlife as Pets

Many people have contact with wild animals and, especially if the animals are young, are tempted to take them home as pets. Baby animals are often cute, cuddly and responsive to attention. The temptation to remove them from their natural environment can be very strong, but before you try to make a pet out of a wild animal, please consider the following:

Most wild animals will not live very long in our normal household surroundings. Baby animals that do survive will undergo a drastic behavioral change as they become adults. They often become very aggressive and continually try to escape back to the out-of-doors. A tailor-made pet does not result from declawing, descenting, neutering or removing fangs from a wild animal. In addition, attempting to return such animals to the wild when their behavior becomes intolerable is actually a death sentence.

The dietary requirements of most wild animals are different from domestic pets. An improper diet can result in serious nutritional deficiencies such as rickets and other crippling conditions.

Most wild animals are normally most active at night. This perfectly normal behavior can be very disruptive to persons trying to sleep and attempts to change it may be very frustrating to the animal itself.

Many diseases which affect people can be carried even by healthy-looking wild animals. Rabies is one such disease and others include leptospirosis, tularemia and plague. Preventive vaccines against these diseases are not approved for use in wildlife.

Most wild animals are protected by various federal and state laws and permission from the proper authorities must be obtained before keeping a wild animal.

When you are tempted to take home a wild animal for a pet, ask yourself these questions:

* Is what I am doing legal?
* Am I willing to risk the health, and possibly the life, of myself and my family?
* Am I willing to risk destroying the animal?
* Am I willing to change my lifestyle to conform to the animal's natural and unalterable behavior?

If you cannot truthfully answer "yes" to each question, do not attempt to keep a wild animal as a pet.


The 2 unidentified birds are Brown-headed cowbirds.
One is not doing well, nor is the Mockingbird.
The other Chimney Swift died late yesterday afternoon.
Suspecting West Nile according to the symptoms.

Jul 14, 2005

Released today:

Released the 4 Sparrows and the Inca Dove this morning.

The 2 Chimney Swifts are not doing well, they stopped chattering and taking food.

1 of the 3 unidentified birds passed away 10 minutes ago. Metabolic bone disease.

Noon update: 1 of the Chimney swifts didn't make it, the other one is still refusing to eat...

Jul 12, 2005

New Arrivals and Updates

Received 3 cottontails, about 2 weeks old, good shape.

Received a juvenile skunk with obvious signs of rabies; referred to animal control.

4 sparrows will need another 3 - 5 days before release; all are doing fine.

Mockingbird juvenile finally opened beak for me to feed after 2 days of forcefeeding.

The 3 not identified birds are filling in feathers: black with brown tips and streaks, spotted belly, naked face, no yellow on beak, red legs.

2 Chimney Swifts are opening their eyes; 7 days old.

2 opossums are outside in the new screen room. Since they can't climb, the largest place I had was a plastic dog pool. Filled with sheets and top of dog crate for den, covered with deer netting; they seem to love it.

Jul 9, 2005


Helping some of Mother Nature's most frequently orphaned baby birds
With spring comes baby birds, and for many a few short weeks is a long life. Predators raid the nest, storms blow the nest out of trees, too active babies fall from the nest, and an assortment of other tragedies take lives. Sometimes humans can and do make a big difference in whether or not a baby bird survives.

Why bother? Because it makes a difference of life and death to the little one in trouble; because songbirds are on the decline nationwide and saving one of any species seems to be important, and in this violent world of ours, saving something more fragile than ourselves brings out the best in us. Of that, we cannot get or have enough!

It is against the law in most states to pick-up a baby bird and keep it for more than 24 hours. Unless you are a licensed rehabilitator, you may not have the knowledge and expertise to raise a baby bird, and you probably do not have the time. Baby birds require almost constant attention, feeding, and cleaning from sun-up to sun-down for a minimum of two weeks and usually longer. Finding a rehabilitator is as close as your closest nature center, natural museum, humane society or animal control.

There are various techniques that have proven successful in raising orphaned baby birds of different species. If you are sincerely interested in raising even a few songbirds each season, volunteer to help a local rehabilitator who is overrun at this time every year with hungry mouths, get a rehabilitation license and enroll in a course of two to learn the basics so you can make a real difference in the wildlife in your backyard. Check with continuing education course offerings at your local community college or university, or nature center. Work with an experienced wildlife rehabilitator and or veterinarian who treats injured and orphaned wild creatures or better yet work with both of them to get "hands-on" experience.

Formulas are not listed in order of effectiveness. All have been used, tested, and proven successful.

These are by no means the only nutritionally sound feeding formulas. These are just some of those that the North American Wildlife's Health Care Center's rehabilitation network have used repeatedly.

Baby mourning dove feeding formula
North American Wildlife Health Care Center's dove formula

Wild doves nest up to five and six times yearly. During each nesting period, babies blow out of nests during storms, perch perilously on the nest's edge, and fall to the ground before their wings will carry them into flight.

If the young dove is too young to eat grass seeds and grain off the ground, it will have to have human help to survive.

A successful feeding formula includes

1/2 cup soaked chicken starter or turkey starter, or wild game bird starter and grower,
1/4 cup Hi-Protein baby cereal
1 tsp. Brewers' yeast (supplies Vitamin-B complex)
1 tsp. Vionate (vitamins)
1 jar baby egg yolk or 4 oz. egg yolk (hard-boiled)
1 tsp unflavored gelatin
1/4 tsp. wheat germ flakes
1/4 tsp. powder
1 tsp. dyne (stat) balances electrolytes, and supplies needed vitamins and minerals. Check with your "vet". Many refer to the product as STAT.

Baby doves need to be fed no more than five to six times in a 24 hour period. They have a large crop that stores food.

Warm only what is to be fed each feeding, and keep the remaining refrigerated.

Feed until the crop feels like a soft balloon inflated. Do not feed until the crop feels stretched and tight.

Baby dove feeding formula #2
The Brukner Nature Center Primer of Wildlife Care and Rehabilitation by Patti L. Raley 2nd edition.

1 cup High Protein dog food softened in water
1/2 cup turkey starter
2 hard-boiled eggs, crumbled
2/3 cooked Roman Meal cereal
1 teaspoon dolomite vitamin/mineral mix berries
Combine ingredients thoroughly. Separate into individual portions and freeze until needed. Thawed mix will keep up to three days in refrigerator. Moisten with water or fruit juice to feed with a syringe. Give small amounts of water after each feeding.

Baby dove feeding formula #3
From Wild Animal Care and Rehabilitation, Kalamazoo Nature Center, Fourth edition.

2 tbs. fine ground 8-in-1 Mynah Bird Food
1 tbs high protein baby cereal
1 tbs. wheat germ
1 tbs. corn meal
1 teaspoon hard-boiled or baby food egg yolk
2 to 3 drops balanced avian vitamins.
Grind 8-in-1 Mynah Bird Food or you may use unmedicated chick started in a blender. Combine this with high protein baby cereal, wheat germ, corn meal, egg yolk and vitamins. Mix with water until mixture is thick and soupy. As baby matures add sees such as millet or parakeet seeds. Doves need to be fed only four to five times during daylight hours. Do not overfeed. The crop need to have some food in it always. The crop deflates at night.

MacLeod baby dove feeding formula #4
Leslie MacLeod is the wildlife coordinator for the North American Wildlife Health Care Center, a state and federally licensed wildlife rehabilitator with some 10 years experience.

1 jar baby beef (baby food)
1 tbs. finely (yellow or white)
1 hard-boiled eggs, crumbled (white and yolk),
1/4 tsp. wheat germ flakes, 1/4 tsp. brewers yeast (supplies B-complex vitamins)
1/2 inch ribbon of nutrical squeezed from tube.
Mix with pedialyte until mixture is a medium consistency syrup.
When the baby is at least half feathered, add just a pinch of fine grit to formula to keep the crop working well.

By the time the baby is about 10 days old, feathers are beginning to unfurl in the wings, the diet should be about 80 percent of the above formula with 20 percent made up of very small polished finch seed.

Feed at room temperature. Stores well in freezer for individual portions. Thaw one feeding at a time.

Feed baby no more than five to six times in a 24 hour period. Pigeons and doves beg even when not hungry.

Jul 8, 2005

New Screen room for flight practice Posted by Picasa

New Arrivals

Daily Chart:

4 sparrows, 1 week old
2 chimney swifts, 2 days old
3 crow size birds, about 1 week, brownish/orange skin, feet
same color, wing feathers black/blue/brown, insect eaters, long legs.
1 cottontail, opened eyes today
2 opossums, 5 months, not releasable, crippled


Opossums Rescue and Rehabilitation

Opossum Babies
Most opossum babies end up orphaned, because their mother was hit by a car (their only real defense is to play dead...) or killed by dogs.

So PLEASE, if you care and you happen to hit an opossum with your car - accidents happen - take a minute and make sure that there are no babies on the animal, because they usually survive a lot within momma's pouch. After all, they are America's only Marsupials.

April 13, 5 new arrivals, 6 weeks old (571 KB, mpg) April 17, licking milk from eyedropper (1.3 MB, mpg) April 17, licking milk from eyedropper (1.3 MB, mpg)
April 22, eating out of bowl first time (1.3 MB, mpg) April 23, release of 4 months old (1.9 MB, flash) May 4th, outside enclosure
(1.3 MB, mpg)

Opossum Juvenile

Rainbow Wildlife Rescue, Texas

Opossum Facts

  • North America's only marsupial (female has a pouch) mammal. The female carries and nurses her young in her marsupium until they are about 2 to 3 months old; then they are carried on her back another 1 to 2 months whenever they are away from the den.
  • Size of a cat; grey to black fur; black eyes; pink nose, feet and tail; black ears; and pointed nose.
  • Solitary and nocturnal: usually slow moving; when frightened and unable to flee may fall into an involuntary shock-like state, "playing 'possum".
  • Hiss or growl and show their 50 sharp teeth when frightened; but, in reality, they are gentle and placid— they prefer to avoid all confrontations and wish to be left alone.
  • Omnivorous: eats insects, snails, rodents, berries, over-ripe fruit, grasses, leaves, and carrion; occasionally will eat snakes, ground eggs, corn or other vegetables.
  • Adaptable; able to live wherever water, food, and shelter exist. At home in trees; uses its prehensile tail to help stabilize position when climbing— it does not, however, hang by its tail.
  • Few live beyond the age of 1 year in the environment; rare reports of living 5 to 10 years in captivity. Killed by many predators: humans (and cars), dogs, cats, owls, and larger wildlife.
  • Opossums are solitary nocturnal animals, but may become diurnal in cold weather. They build the nests in tree hollows and spend most of their time there. Opossums don't hibernate, but remain inactive during severe frosts. Without nests Opossums are unable to survive.
Rainbow Wildlife Rescue, Texas
Opossum feeding
Sometimes they choose garages and attics as their temporary quarters because they are pushed out of their natural habitat and forced into closer proximity to people. In the wild Opossums have many predators: dogs, cats, owls, foxes, and other larger wildlife, but mostly Opossums suffer from humans and cars. In danger Opossums can feign death or drool heavily for a predator to think the Opossum is sick and unappetizing. Or they hiss and growl, showing sharp teeth, but it's only a bluff. These gentle and placid animals prefer to avoid confrontations.
Rainbow Wildlife Rescue, Texas

Opossums have several ways of picking things up. Their back feet have opposable toes like the man's thumb. They can wrap the tail around things or hang on the tail, like monkeys do. They can also use their front feet for picking up things although they don't have opposable thumbs. Opossums don't have their own territory, but they are always on the move in search for food. Females stay in smaller areas while they can care for the youth. Opossums make clicking sounds during mating season or hiss and growl if threatened.

Opossums resting

Opossum habitat
Opossums - Habitat

Opossums inhabit the United States east of the Rocky Mountains, Central America, and Pacific coastal North America. The Virginia Opossum is the only marsupial found in the North America. In South America and Australia there are about 80 species of Opossums. Opossums lived during the era of dinosaurs - fossil remains have been found from 70 million years ago.

Rainbow Wildlife Rescue, Texas

Opossums - Reproduction

The breeding season for Opossums begins in December and may continue through October with most of the infants born between February and June. Like all marsupials, Opossum females have a well-developed pouch. They produce an average of 7 young, once or twice a year (litters of 17 kids have been reported). At birth, the infants are hairless, embryonic-looking, and weigh about 0.1 grams because the period of gestation is 12-13 days and because they are born at a very early stage in their development.

Opossum diet

Rainbow Wildlife Rescue, Texas
Opossum reproduction
Young Opossums have to make a long and difficult journey from the birth canal into the pouch and latch onto a teat. The mother helps by licking the hair leading into the pouch. There are only 13 teats in the pouch and not all may be functional, so the excess infants will not survive. The young open the eyes at around 60-70 days and are weaned at about 100 days of age. Then they are often carried as they cling onto the mother's back. After separation from the mother, littermates may share common dens for some time. Very few young Opossums survive to become adults.
Rainbow Wildlife Rescue, Texas

Opossums are considered to be furbearers, but they are not taken in large numbers because their pelt has little value. Opossums are nature's sanitation engineers; they eat road-kill, carrion, rotting fruits, and pests. Also Opossums are of great interest for scientists since they are the only marsupials in America, while Australian marsupials are driven to extinction by more modern mammals.

Opossum Babies

Opossum weight
Weight: 9-13 lbs (4-6 kg). Some species reach only 300 gr.
Length: 15-20 inches (38-50 cm). Some species are 10-12 inches.
Life Span: 1-2 years in the wild, up to 10 years in captivity.
Rainbow Wildlife Rescue, Texas

Opossums - Conservation

In the wild Opossums are closely linked with the ecology of the forests. Devastating fires destroy nest-sites and cause great declines in Opossums populations. Tall, straight trees favored by wild Opossums are highly valued for the production of timber. The technique of tree removing is very detrimental for all animals, including Opossums. The population crash has already begun and extinction of some species of Opossums in the South America and Australia is possible.

Opossum Juvenile

Rainbow Wildlife Rescue, Texas

Opossum Babies

Opossums - Diet

Opossums don't have any methods for storing food or energy so they need stable food sources and that's why their diet is so varied. Opossums feed mostly on carrion. Other food sources for the Opossum include garbage, grass, leaves, insects, frogs, small birds and rodents, snakes, and earthworms. Opossums like to treat themselves with berries, seeds, flowers, and fruits and their favorites are persimmons, apples, and corn.

Rainbow Wildlife Rescue, Texas
Opossum Babies
Opossum Babies
Rainbow Wildlife Rescue, Texas

Opossum Babies

Opossum Babies

Rainbow Wildlife Rescue, Texas
Opossum Young
Opossum Baby
Rainbow Wildlife Rescue, Texas
Crippled Opossum Dwarf Opossum Opossum Release
Opossum with 3 legs, birth defect Dwarf Opossum with big 3-legged sister 6 Opossums a minute before release

Jul 6, 2005

Skunk Myths

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All skunks have rabies.
Fact: Not all skunks have rabies. Only rabid skunks have rabies. All mammals are believed to be susceptible to the infection. Skunks have to be exposed to the virus to become rabid, just like any other mammal.

Myth: Skunks are the number one rabies carrier.
Fact: Actually, world wide, unvaccinated dogs are the number one transmitter of rabies. In the United States however, because of an aggressive vaccination program directed at cats, dogs, and ferrets, rabies is mainly a wildlife problem. Of the wildlife species in the US, raccoons account for the largest number of rabies cases. Humans are still at greater risk of getting rabies from a rabid dog in the US as a result of a bite from an unvaccinated dog, due to the fact that dogs are more likely to come in contact with wildlife than are humans.

Myth: If you are bitten by a rabid skunk, you will die.
Fact: If a human contracts rabies from any rabid animal, and they leave it untreated, they would die. However, there are treatments for humans who have been bitten by rabid animals which are virtually 100% effective. These treatments are not as painful or as extensive as they once were.

Myth: Skunks can carry rabies for up to two years.
Fact: There is no evidence of a true carrier state. There has not been a documented case of any skunk incubating rabies for two years.

Myth: A skunk walking around during the day is a sure sign that they have rabies.
Fact: Contrary to what many people think, skunks are not nocturnal. They are crepuscular which means they come out mostly at dawn and dusk. However, they will come out any time of the day or night if there is food available. During late summer and early fall, skunks may be seen more frequently during the day as a result of the young exploring their new world.

Myth: Skunks are in the weasel family.
Fact: Skunks WERE in the weasel family. Thanks in large part to Dr. Jerry Dragoo (Advisor to ASRR board of directors), skunks are no longer considered to be in the mustelid family, but a family of their own.

Myth: Domestic skunks are really just skunks that have been captured from the wild.
Fact: ASRR does not sanction the removal of wild skunks from the wild. Domestic skunks should be obtained from reputable breeders, some of whom have been breeding skunks for over 60 years. Removing skunks from the wild can be dangerous since there is no way to ensure that the skunk has not been exposed to rabies.

Myth: There is no rabies vaccine for skunks.
Fact: There is no approved rabies vaccine for skunks in the US. There is a vaccine used in Canada to control rabies in skunk populations. This vaccine needs further study in the US before it will be approved for use in skunks here.

Myth: All skunks are black and white.
Fact: Nearly all wild skunks are black and white. However, domestic skunks can come in a variety or colors and patterns as you can see on the pages of this web site.

Myth: Rabies can be passed from one generation to the next.
Fact: Rabies is not a heritable disease. A skunk born to a healthy, rabies free mother will be rabies free at birth. A skunk born to a rabid mother will most likely have rabies and not survive long enough to venture into the world.

Myth: Rabies is a disease that should be feared.
Fact: Rabies should not be feared; but by all means it should be respected. There is a lot of information about rabies already known and we are learning more all the time. An aggressive vaccination program can significantly reduce the number of human cases annually. Strict adherence to a vaccination schedule should be practiced for all mammalian pets. This is why a vaccine is needed for all skunks.

Jul 5, 2005

Chimney Swift

Chimney Swift
(Chaetura pelagica)
Cool fact: Chimney Swifts perform an aerial courtship display by holding their wings stiffly upward in a V, one bird gliding closely after another, their chirping calls run together as a twittering song. Occasionally a third or fourth swift joins in pursuit.

Listen to a recording of Chimney Swifts from
the Library of Natural Sounds:

Chimney Swift [169k]
200mcqchiswi.gif (11765 bytes)

As a group, swifts are highly specialized for high-speed aerial life. They have long, saberlike wings that are either extended in flight or folded back when at rest; unlike swallows, they are never held bent at the joints. Compared to swallows, swifts are less maneuverable and are less adept in flight at low speeds. Swifts forage for flying insects, sometimes quite high in the sky, and drink by dipping their bills in water while flying. Some species are even thought to sleep while flying in "aerial roosts," and it is also believed that Chimney Swifts can copulate in flight.

Chimney Swifts are widespread and common throughout North America east of the Rocky Mountains. On occasion, some have bred in Southern California and possibly in Arizona. Large flocks gather in the fall and roost in chimneys, sometimes by the hundreds or even thousands. The majority departs the breeding grounds in late August or September to begin the long migration south. Flying by day, they cross the Gulf of Mexico and travel through Central America to winter along river edges and the edges of tropical lowland forest in Amazonian Peru.

As forests with large hollow trees have disappeared, Chimney Swifts have readily taken to nesting in chimneys, and populations probably increased with the proliferation of suitable nesting sites. In recent decades, however, populations have declined at a rate of almost six percent per year. Chimneys provide upright surfaces sheltered from the weather much like hollow trees, and other sites that have been used for nesting include wells, silos, and the insides of abandoned or seldom-used buildings. The nest is a half-saucer composed of dead twigs plucked in flight with the feet, glued together and adhered to the chimney side with the swifts' hardened saliva. Chimney Swifts use their long, sharp claws to cling to the sides of chimneys.

Description: Chimney Swifts have been described as a "cigar with wings." They have streamlined bodies with stubby, blunt tails and short, wide bills. They are uniform gray-brown above; the underparts are dark brown from midbreast to the tail, and the throat is light gray gradually darkening toward the breast. The long, slender wings are black-brown, with slightly lighter flight feathers. The tail is dark gray-brown, but little of it shows except when it is spread. Each tail feather ends in a spine that extends past the web.

The similar Vaux's Swift (C. vauxi) breeds from California north to British Columbia. It is slightly smaller than the Chimney Swift and has a larger and whiter throat patch that extends into the midbreast. The colors of the lower breast and vent area are lighter than the colors on the Chimney Swift. The upperparts of a Vaux's Swift show a contrast between the dark mantle and lighter rump, unlike the more uniform dark upperparts of the Chimney Swift.

Jul 4, 2005

Basic Babybird Care

1. Bird needs to be out in the sunlight for at least 6 hours a day, windows don't count.

2. Never give a baby bird water alone as they cannot close their airway to allow it to pass into their crops. They drown easily and their air sacks are very susceptible to bacterial infections. Moisten bread for a temporary solution, pieces of fruit or mix a baby bird mash into a paste with water and place it in the crop with a 1cc syringe, without the needle. They will gape for vibration or peeping sounds. Insert the syringe in past the windpipe and inject it slowly into the crop. If any backs up into the throat, clear it with a Q-Tip. The windpipe is the hole directly behind their tongue.
3. Priority is as already mentioned a) sunlight, b) nutrition and calcium
You'll find more details about that below, but here is a basic lists of food that you can offer:

Main Food:
high protein dry kitten food soaked in following water solution:

1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon hummingbird food (electrolytes)
1/2 teaspoon dried and extremely fine powdered and siefed eggshells (pure calcium)
or rub 2 cuttlebone pieces together and sprinkle powder into the water for calcium
or you can dissolve half a calcium pill for humas as well.
2 drops of bird vitamines, they usually sell them for parokeets etc. (1 dollar at the store)

Additional Foods and Treats:

- hard boiled egg
- live mealworms, crickets, beetles, not too large (they also like to peck away ants)
- slice of apple, half a grape, any juice fruit actually just to peck on
- fried or boiled unspiced tender chicken strips (just the finest whitest parts)
- corn from the cob (not canned or dried)

The Care And Feeding Of Orphan Birds

There are 2 basic needs that must be met if your venture is to be successful.


Down-covered young birds should be kept in a cardboard box indoors away from pets and small children and out of direct sun or drafts. Keep the temperature in the box between 80 and 90 F. A lamp with a 40 or 60 watt bulb should provide enough heat, but don't put the lamp directly over the bird. This won't be necessary if the bird is fully feathered.

Cover the box to cut down on disturbance to the bird, eliminate drafts, and prevent the bird from getting out of the box. Put an artificial nest made of a margarine or similar container lined with paper towels in the box. This will support the bird. When the bird begins to get out of this "nest", provide a perch or two for it to rest on. Do not use a wire cage. Birds often will get excited and damage their feathers on wire so that they won't be able to fly properly later.


Nestlings require frequent feedings-- as much as every 30 minutes from dawn to dark. One person should take care of the bird to avoid excessive human contact. ( Don't tame the bird! ). Food should be at room temperature and of soft consistency. The bird shouldn't need water if the food is fairly moist.

Begin feeding young birds with an eyedropper. Fill the dropper so there are no air bubbles. If the bird won't open its mouth when food is presented, gently open the beak by slipping a fingernail between the upper and lower jaws and prying them apart. Put the dropper in the back of the bird's throat, behind the tongue, and slowly squeeze the dropper. Be careful not to get fluid in the breathing tube in the floor of the mouth just behind the tongue. Clean food from the beak and feathers with a moist tissue.

Later the bird will take thicker food and will eventually open the beak when it sees food or it may even squawk when it wants food. Stick the food to the end of a pointed popsicle stick or a drinking straw cut on a slant and give it to the bird. Do not use metal tweezers as they may damage the bird's tender mouth. As the bird grows it will eat more, but less frequently.

Birds have a high metabolic rate and a high energy requirement. Bread crumbs and milk are not sufficient. Most baby birds are unable to feed themselves; normally the parents feed them, so putting bird seeds or worms in the box does no good. You have to put the food into the baby. At first you may have to pry open the beak to do this, but soon the bird will realize that you are the source of food ( mama ) and will open its beak and squawk whenever it is hungry or when it hears you approach. Feed it when it asks for it. When it has enough it will collapse and sleep until it is hungry again.

A warning: be VERY CAREFUL not to get any food underneath his tongue. That is where his airway is and if food gets lodged in there he will choke. When he opens his beak, just make sure that you take your time to put the food above his tongue, preferably near the roof of his mouth. Just relax and don't worry about making a mess, because baby birds are very messy.

The majority of birds can be classified in two groups: meat eaters and seed eaters. Basic diets for these are listed below with suggestions for special foods for different species of birds. The sooner you identify the bird, the sooner you can provide the best diet. The basic foods mentioned in these diets can be classified into two groups:

MEAT: high protein dry kitten food (soaked in water), boiled chicken, live insects such as flies and mealworms.

GRAIN: high protein dry baby cereal , wheat germ, corn or oat meal that has been powdered down in a blender.

A good pinch of VET-NUTRI, a Squib vitamin/mineral supplement available at most veterinarians, should be added to each new batch of food you mix. Sprinkle over and mix in. Mix food daily; never mix more than you can use in a day's time. Otherwise it may sour.

Supplement these basic diets with frequent little goodies whenever possible. Normal diets are listed below, so use your imagination. Those occasional tidbits of natural food help. Remember that young birds eat large amounts of food and at frequent intervals. Some consume an amount equal to their own weight each day. Just leaving food in the box or feeding two or three times a day is not enough!


When the bird is eating solid food on its own, it will need water. You can drop a little water on its beak or into its mouth until it catches on or teach it to drink by gently dipping its beak into water, then releasing it immediately. Keep a small dish of water in the box. A large dish will create a hazard for the bird and likely cause a mess in the box.


The bird will eventually learn to feed on its own. Fruit- and seed-eaters will learn to feed themselves if you place a soft piece of fruit (apple or banana) on a flat surface in front of the bird and gently press the bird's beak into the fruit. Bits of fruit will stick to the beak and the bird will eat them. Repeat this procedure at each feeding until the bird feeds by itself. You may put small bird seeds in for seed-eaters to practice on
Insect-eaters can be given mealworms or other small crawling insects in a similar manner. Usually the bird quickly learns to pick up any crawling animal. If the bird is reluctant to feed on its own, wait a day or so and try again. Feeding is a matter of maturity, the instinctive behavior will not begin until the bird is old enough.


You don't have to teach the bird to fly. When it is old enough, it will fly instinctively. You may move the bird to a larger box to give it more room. Put several sticks or dowels through the box for perches. Young birds may begin to fly a week or two before they can feed themselves, so don't rush them. Don't let the bird fly freely in the house! It is likely to get trapped by furniture, windows, and cats.

Releasing the bird

Once the bird is feeding itself on its natural diet, you should release it in a familiar area where it can be protected from cats and dogs until it can fend for itself. An outside aviary is ideal for this purpose. Provide natural food and after a week leave the door open during the day and close it at night for protection. It may take several weeks for the bird to adjust to the outdoors and stop returning to the cage for food. Give the bird time and continue to provide food. Don't handle or talk to the bird during this time; you should be breaking the ties between you and the bird.
Keep in mind that a certain level of nest failure is normal in bird populations, so don't be discouraged or feel that you are a failure if you are not successful. Your best effort is all that can be expected.

Common Misconceptions

All Birds eat Worms
Although some birds do eat worms, best example the American Robin, most birds cannot handle the parasites associated with them.

Baby birds that have been touched by humans will be abandoned by their parents
As far as songbirds are concerned, they have a very poor sense of smell and will return to young as soon as we humans leave them be.

Give baby birds water so they don't get dehydrated
Never give a baby bird water alone as they cannot close their airway to allow it to pass into their crops. They drown easily and their air sacks are very susceptible to bacterial infections. Moisten bread for a temporary solution, pieces of fruit or mix a baby bird mash into a paste with water and place it in the crop with a 1cc syringe, without the needle. They will gape for vibration or peeping sounds. Insert the syringe in past the windpipe and inject it slowly into the crop. If any backs up into the throat, clear it with a Q-Tip. The windpipe is the hole directly behind their tongue.

Birds imprinted on humans should never be released
A bird that has imprinted on people is at a definite disadvantage for the first few weeks of freedom. Any that outlast these weeks have as good a chance as any other. You still have to supplement the diet of a freed bird at regular intervals through the day, they will learn to forage and will imprint on it's own kind in time.

My cat brought us a bird, but I rescued it and it is fine
Many times a bird that has suffered a cat or other animal attack appears fine at first but dies within 24 hours of the attack. This is usually due to a bacterial infection caused by the animal's saliva. Birds may be in great condition a day after an attack, only to die an hour later.

The wounds should be treated even though the bird appears to be doing OK. Internal as well as external antibiotic treatment continued for at least 3 days may work. Try Hibitane Veterinary Ointment on the wounds once a day and administer 1 drop of Chlor Palm 125 twice daily for three days and and you may save them.

A few birds you may find and what they eat

Flycatcher - Phoebe - Pewee
( normal diet is insects, some fruit ). Feed insect eater diet.
One that works is straight P/D dog food mixed with hard boiled egg yolk, dried flies, crushed mealworms and pupae (remove heads) Supplement with bits of non-citrus fruits pyracantha berries.

Grosbeak - Finch - Sparrow - Goldfinch - Towhee - Junco
( normal diet is seeds and insects. ) Feed insect eater diet
A successful mix is: one ounce GRAIN mixed with water, and one teaspoon strained beef baby food, and one thin slice of banana. Supplement diet with mealworms.

Hawk - Owl - Vulture - Eagle - Falcon
(normal diet is rodents, birds, insects, other small mammals).
Up to the age of one week, feed pink, hairless rat babies. Don't use rat heads or stomachs (the stomach will be white and full of milk). Chop up the rest of carcass into bite size pieces, probably match-head size, and feed everything to the bird. When the youngster is 2 to 3 weeks old, use older rats, but no heads or stomachs. You should skin the rats. Feed everything including bones. When the bird is 4 weeks old, it can have whole bodies of mice and some of the fur. Fur for casting material is NOT necessary.

(normal diet is nectar, aphids, small insects, spiders).
4 parts boiled water to 1 part granulated sugar, plus mockingbird food (pet stores), Esbilac (bitch's milk supplement available from pet stores), mealworm innards. Good mix is: 2 cups water, 1/2 cup sugar, 20 squeezed mealworm insides, 1 tsp mocking bird food, 1 tblsp. Esbilac, a pinch VET-NUTRI.

Jay - Magpie - Crow - Raven - Starling
(normal diet is omnivorous). Feed insect eater diet
Supplement diet with mealworms, water-soaked currents or raisins, bits of non-citrus fruits, and berries such as pyracantha. Also sun flower seeds, peanuts (without the shell). Also occasional bits of chopped rat or mouse.

(normal diet is insects and worms).
Killdeer leave the nest soon after they hatch and feed independently, under the watchful eye of the parents. Usually "rescued" killdeer are picked up on a lawn and the finder assumes they are orphaned. Best thing to do is put them back and wait for the mother to call them to her. Keep in a box with a light. Put in a shallow dish of water; drop globs of tubifex worms (get at fish stores) into the water. Killdeer will eat them voraciously. Add mealworms later.

Meadowlark - Blackbird - Oriole - Woodpecker - Shrike - Bluebird Thrush - Robin - Waxwing
(normal diet insects, fruits, seeds). Feed insect eater diet Supplement with mealworms, water-soaked currents, raisins, bits of non-citrus fruits and berries such as pyracantha. SAPSUCKERS do not do well on whole crushed mealworms. It's better to give them wax worms (check with a bee keeper), crickets, crushed mealworms. You can also supplement them with HUMMINGBIRD FORMULA.

Mockingbird - Thrasher - Nuthatch - Titmouse - Chickadee
(normal diet is insects, seeds, berries). Feed insect eater diet Suggestion: straight P/D dog food mixed with hardboiled egg yolk dried flies, crushed mealworms, and pupae (remove heads). Supplement with bits of non-citrus fruits, such as the pyracantha berry. Give extra pinch of VET-NUTRI. Prone to rickets.

Pigeon - Dove
(normal diet seeds, grains, fruits, insects).
Feed 1/3 chick starter (available at feed stores), 1/3 GRAIN, 1/3 wild bird seed (pet stores). Mix with water to make slushy gruel. If mix is put into crop dry, add water ever so often. Palpate crop to make sure it always feels slushy, otherwise if too dry it will bind up and kill the bird. Only fill crop about 1/2 full at a time.

Swift - Swallow - Vireo - Warbler - Kinglet - Wren
(normal diet insects of flying type).
Feed straight P/D dog food mixed with hardboiled egg yolk, dried flies, crushed adult mealworms and pupae (remove heads). Thin to feedable consistency. Supplement with fresh flies, spiders.

Chukar - Quail - Pheasant
(seed-eaters). Normally escapes from a captive breeding site, these birds feed independently. Give small bird seed, grit (coarse sand), and water.