Among the many punishing daily dangers to us all in this pandemic, DEC-licensed Bird Rehabilitators must also assume a personal risk when picking up, or having someone drop off, an injured bird. Perhaps that's why we have only one such rehabilitator listed on the Sullivan County DEC Rehabilitation website, and that licensee is only accredited for game birds. Qualifying for and obtaining a license for the care and recuperation of wild indigenous or migratory birds requires a lot more than just taking a test. Having the right equipment, expertise and a powerful personal commitment to wildlife are also musts.
We at the Sullivan County Audubon Society (SCAS) often get random requests from both local citizens and visitors to our area asking for help with everything from a baby osprey found out of its nest in the middle of a road to an injured woodpecker. The woodpecker was called in recently by one of our SCAS members who reported that it had hit his house window. Thinking it had an injured wing, he'd retrieved it, put it in a box with a towel over it and called to ask where he could take it. Unfortunately, our area in Sullivan County has no rehabilitator for wild birds unless they're raptors. We told him to put the box out of the sun in a high, safe spot where no predators could get it and then just keep watch. Within 15 minutes he called to say that the woodpecker had flown off. Oftentimes birds are just dazed and only need time to recover safely. Had the wing been injured, we would have instructed him to put the towel back on and put the box somewhere safe for the night until a rehab person could be found.
Since these kinds of minor emergencies happen quite a lot, we decided to investigate what sources of helpful advice might be available in the region and pass them along. Here are some of our notable discoveries:
Missy Runyan of the FFF Wildlife Center (http://www.fffwildlifecenter.com/) tells us that one of the first things one should do when finding a disabled bird is to take a picture of it and send it to her via text so she can better assess its condition and then guide you on how to handle the bird until you get it to the Wildlife Center. In managing your own expectations about the Center's response time to your emergency, please bear in mind that they often handle up to 300 calls a day! General advice is also available at Audubon New York's website: https://ny.audubon.org/birds-0birdsways-help/what-do-injured-or-orphaned-bird
Kathy Foley, (Home telephone: 845-331-3906 Cell: 845-430-5701) is in Ulster Park, NY (Ulster County) and is licensed to rehab all songbirds except starlings, house sparrows and pigeons. Pertinent to the woodpecker's plight, she reminds us that it's illegal in New York State to keep wildlife longer than it takes to get them to a rehabilitator.
Annie Mardiney of Wild Mountain Birds, (Cell: 845-943-8098 - best to text as voicemail is iffy) who is in Rosendale, NY (also Ulster County), adds: "Mute swans may not be rehabbed or moved to other ponds, nor can orphaned mute swan cygnets be raised up. By NYS DEC regulations, they can only be euthanized." Annie has a 17-year background in rehabbing wild birds except pigeons, starlings, house sparrows & Canada geese, and presently, "because of the storms," she has taken in 20 nestlings and fielded twice as many calls as usual. She currently has "35 birds in rehab, from raptors to passerines, and says she gets "endless calls from well meaning folks, but, unless they are willing to drive or drop the birds off at my vet in Newburgh, my arms are tied."
Lisa Weigand (845-807-8459) of Livingston Manor in Sullivan County is listed only for game birds on the DEC site. So, if you don't have a limping turkey... don't call Lisa. She has, however, given us some really good advice: "I have had people bring me animals and a baby turkey in a box with green grass for bedding, but – again the people have the very best intentions – they don't realize that green grass and weeds, etc. are very damp even on a dry day. That poor turkey was hypothermic by the time I got it. Once they get that cold they go into shock and never recover." Also, Lisa counsels that .. "Any baby bird, nestling or fledgling, should never be given water! I have taken in a lot of baby birds from people who told me they'd given them water with an eye dropper! Unfortunately, the only baby birds that can drink water are precocial species, such as ducks, turkeys, etc. Others treated that way will aspirate the water and eventually die. I have even had people tell me they fed the babies bread and milk of all things!!"
Ellen Kalish of Ravensbeard Wildlife Center in Saugerties, NY (https://ravensbeard.org) has already had over 160 birds in their care, many of these coming from the many people who are confined to their homes during the Pandemic and are spending more time in their gardens observing visiting birds.
SCAS has assembled a list of these and other rehabilitators in the surrounding area that will be posted on our website.
Here are some helpful websites to use for guidance as well: